Posts Tagged ‘fat’

All Fat Is Not Created Equal

September 29, 2018

Andrew Siegel MD  9/29/2018

www.maxpixel.net-Obesity-Weight-Obese-Fat-Heavy-Overweight-3313923

Thank you, Max Pixel for image above

My next few entries concern weight and diet. Clearly, obesity is unhealthy on many levels and I do not encourage anyone to carry excess pounds. However, fat can be advantageous under certain circumstances: see below 12 Benefits to Being Overweight (to be taken tongue in cheek).  Next week’s entry (to be taken seriously) will discuss a healthy eating style that  effectively can improve your shape and shred excess pounds that I am excited to share with you.

Some fat is good, but not too much

Having some fat on our bodies is actually a good thing, as long as it is not excessive. Fat serves a number of useful purposes: it cushions internal organs; it provides insulation to conserve heat; it is a means of storing energy and fat-soluble vitamins; it is part of the structure of the brain and cell membranes; and is used in the manufacture of certain hormones.

All fat is not created equal

Not all fat is the same. It is important to distinguish between visceral fat and subcutaneous fat.  Visceral fat–also referred to as a “pot belly” or “beer belly”– is  fat deep within the abdominal cavity that surrounds the internal organs.  Subcutaneous fat–also known as “love handles,” “spare tires” or “muffin top”– is present between the skin and the abdominal wall. In addition to the physical distribution of the fat being different, so is the nature of the fat. Although neither type is particularly attractive, visceral fat is much more of a health hazard than is subcutaneous fat since its presence increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and metabolic disturbances.  This is as opposed to subcutaneous fat, which is inactive and relatively harmless and generally does not contribute to health problems.

 

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Thank you Pixabay, for above image of visceral obesity (“beer belly”)–NOT GOOD FOR ONE’S HEALTH

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Image above, subcutaneous fat (“muffin top”), Attribution: Colin Rose from Montreal, Canada–MIGHT NOT BE THAT ATTRACTIVE, BUT GENERALLY NOT A HEALTH ISSUE

 

A beer belly is called a beer belly for good reason. One of the real culprits in the formation of visceral fat is drinking liquid carbs, whether sweetened beverages including sodas, iced tea, lemonade, sports drinks, etc., fruit juices such as orange, grapefruit, cranberry, etc., and alcoholic beverages.  Liquid carbs have no fiber and are essentially pre-digested, stimulating a massive insulin surge and rapid storage as fat. It is much healthier to eat the real fruit rather than drink the juice, since the product in its original form is loaded with fiber that fills you up and slows the absorption process and also contains abundant phytonutrients.  You would have to eat 3 oranges to get the same sugar and calorie load as drinking a glass of OJ, and it is hardly possible to do that.

Visceral fat is a metabolically active endocrine “organ” that does way more than just create an unsightly appearance. It produces numerous hormones and other chemical mediators that have many detrimental effects on all systems of our body.  So, fat is not just fat. Visceral fat ought to have a specific name, as do other endocrine organs (thyroid gland, adrenal gland, etc.). This name should convey the dangerous nature of this “gland.”  I suggest “die-roid” gland because of its dire metabolic consequences, including risk of metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease and premature death.

The good news about visceral fat is that it is metabolically active so that with the appropriate lifestyle modifications it can readily melt away, as opposed to subcutaneous fat, which is tenacious and can be extremely difficult to lose.

12 benefits to being overweight

  1. Less prominent crow’s feet, wrinkles and nasal-labial folds
  2. More comfort in the cold winter months because of more insulation
  3. More likely to survive hypothermia if your ship should sink in icy waters or your plane goes down on a snow-laden mountaintop
  4. Better buoyancy in the water
  5. Better survival when stranded on a desert island because of the fat (stored energy) that will keep you sustained and alive long after the thin people have perished
  6. Less osteoporosis (bone thinning) because of the weight-bearing that keeps bones mineralized
  7. Strength because of all that weight-bearing—think NFL offensive linemen
  8. Built-in airbag for better survival of traumatic motor vehicle crashes and other forms of trauma
  9. More comfortable when sitting on tailbone or lying on vertebra because of better padding
  10. More stable footing under conditions of gale-force winds
  11. Curvier, more voluptuous bodies
  12. Cuddlier, like a teddy bear!

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted weekly. To receive a free subscription with delivery to your email inbox visit the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a physician and urological surgeon who is board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community.

Dr. Siegel has authored the following books that are available on Amazon, iBooks, Nook and Kobo:

PROMISCUOUS EATING: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health

THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health 

 

Cover

These books are written for educated and discerning men and women who care about health, well-being, fitness and nutrition and enjoy feeling confident and strong.

Dr. Siegel is co-creator of the male pelvic floor exercise instructional DVD (female version is in the works): PelvicRx

New video on female pelvic floor exercises:  Learn about your pelvic floor

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On Beer Bellies, Heart Disease And Sexual Function

July 30, 2016

Andrew Siegel MD  7/30/16

fat

 

A bit of fat is good…but not too much

Having some fat on our bodies is not a bad thing, as long as it is not excessive. Fat serves a number of useful purposes: it cushions internal organs; it provides insulation to conserve heat; it is a means of storing energy and fat-soluble vitamins; it is part of the structure of the brain and cell membranes; and it is used in the manufacturing process of several hormones.

All fat is not created equal…It’s all about location, location, location.

Not all fat is the same. It is important to distinguish between visceral fat and subcutaneous fat. Visceral fat–also referred to as a “pot belly” or “beer belly”– is internal fat located deep within the abdominal cavity. Subcutaneous fat–also known as “love handles,” “spare tires,” “muffin top,” or “middle-age spread”–is superficial fat located between the skin and the abdominal wall. In addition to the physical distribution of the fat being different, so is the nature of the fat. Although neither type is particularly attractive, visceral fat is much more hazardous to one’s health than subcutaneous fat since it increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and metabolic disturbances. Subcutaneous fat is inactive and relatively harmless and generally does not contribute to health problems.

Factoid: A beer belly is called a beer belly for good reason. One of the real culprits in cultivating visceral fat is drinking liquid carbs, whether they are sweetened beverages (sodas, iced tea, lemonade, sports drinks, etc.), fruit juices such as orange, grapefruit, grape, cranberry, etc., or alcoholic beverages. These liquid carbs have no fiber and are essentially pre-digested, stimulating an insulin surge and rapid storage as fat. It is always better to eat the fruit rather than drink the juice, since the fruit is loaded with fiber that fills you up and slows the absorption process and contains abundant phytonutrients. You would have to eat 3 oranges to get the same sugar and calorie load as drinking a glass of OJ, and it is hardly possible to do that.

Visceral fat essentially is a metabolically active endocrine “organ” that does way more than just create an unsightly protrusion from our abdomens. It produces numerous hormones and other chemical mediators that have many detrimental effects on all systems of our body. So, fat is not just fat. Visceral fat ought to have a specific name, as do other endocrine organs (thyroid gland, adrenal gland, thymus gland, etc.). This name should convey the dangerous nature of this “gland.” I suggest “die-roid” gland because of its dire metabolic consequences, including risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, low testosterone, erectile dysfunction (ED) and premature death.

When a patient walks into the office and the first thing I observe is a protuberant and bulging belly, a siren goes off screaming “metabolic syndrome, metabolic syndrome, metabolic syndrome.”

Factoid: Anybody with a big belly is pre-diabetic, if not diabetic already.

“Metabolic syndrome” is a cluster of risk factors that are dangerous to one’s health. These include visceral obesity as defined by waist circumference (men > 40 inches; women > 35 inches), elevated blood sugar (> 100 mg/dL), high blood pressure (> 130/85 mm), elevated triglycerides (>150 mg/dL) and low HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol): (men < 40 mg/dL; women < 50 mg/dL).

Sexual dysfunction

Beer belly and metabolic syndrome are highly associated with low testosterone and poor erection and ejaculation function. The fatty tissue present in obese abdomens contains abundant amounts of the enzyme aromatase, which converts testosterone to estrogen—literally emasculating obese men. So, visceral fat can steal away our masculinity, male athletic form and body composition, mojo, strength, as well as the ability to obtain and maintain a good quality erection.

ED serves as a good proxy for cardiac and general health. The presence of ED is as much of a predictor of heart disease as is a strong family history, tobacco smoking, or elevated cholesterol. The British cardiologist Graham Jackson expanded the initials ED to mean: Endothelial Dysfunction (endothelial cells being the type of cells that line the insides of arteries); Early Detection (of heart disease); and Early Death (if missed).

Factoid: The penis can function as a “canary in the trousers.” Since the penile arteries are generally rather small (diameter of 1- 2 mm) and the coronary (heart) arteries larger (4 mm), it stands to reason that if vascular disease is affecting the tiny penile arteries and causing ED, it may affect the larger coronary arteries as well—if not now, then at some time in the future. In other words, the fatty plaque that compromises blood flow to the smaller vessels of the penis may also do so to the larger vessels of the heart and thus ED may be considered a genital “stress test.”

“Fatal retraction”

While the penis can genuinely shrink for a variety of reasons, most of the time it is a mere illusion—a sleight of penis. Obesity causes a generous pubic fat pad that will make the penis appear shorter. However, penile length is usually intact, with the penis merely hiding or buried behind the fat pad, the “turtle effect.” Lose the fat and presto…the penis reappears. Yet another reason to remain lean!

Trivia: It is estimated that for every 35 lbs. of weight gain, there is a one-inch loss in apparent penile length.

What does this all mean?

  • Visceral fat is a bad, metabolically-active form of fat that is highly correlated with metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease and sexual dysfunction.
  • ED often occurs in the presence of “silent” heart disease (no symptoms) and serves as a marker for increased risk for heart disease (as well as stroke, peripheral artery disease and death) often occurring 3-5 years before heart disease manifests. Early detection of ED provides an opportunity to decrease the risk of heart disease and the other forms of blood vessel disease.  ED has a similar or greater predictive value for heart disease as do traditional factors including family history, prior heart attack, tobacco use and elevated cholesterol. The greater the severity of the ED, the greater the risk and extent of heart disease and blood vessel disease.
  • Intensive lifestyle intervention has the potential for reversing visceral obesity, metabolic syndrome and sexual dysfunction. This lifestyle intervention involves achieving a healthy weight, losing the belly fat, healthy eating, regular exercise, smoking cessation, moderation of alcohol intake, stress management, etc.
  • The good news about visceral fat is that it is so metabolically active that with the appropriate lifestyle measures it can readily melt away, as opposed to subcutaneous fat, which is tenacious and can be virtually impossible to lose.

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

http://www.AndrewSiegelMD.com

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Author of THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health– and MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health available on Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, B&N Nook and Kobo; paperback edition available at TheKegelFix.com

Author page on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Andrew-Siegel/e/B004W7IM48

Apple iBook: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-kegel-fix/id1105198755?mt=11

Trailer for The Kegel Fix: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHZxoiQb1Cc  

Co-creator of Private Gym and PelvicRx: comprehensive, interactive, FDA-registered follow-along male pelvic floor muscle training programs. Built upon the foundational work of Dr. Kegel, these programs empower men to increase pelvic floor muscle strength, tone, power, and endurance: www.PrivateGym.com or Amazon.  In the works is the female PelvicRx pelvic floor muscle training DVD. 

Pelvic Rx can be obtained at http://www.UrologyHealthStore.com, an online store home to quality urology products for men and women. Use promo code “UROLOGY10” at checkout for 10% discount. 

Fat: Location, Location, Location Matters

September 14, 2012

Andrew Siegel, M.D.     Blog #74

 

We all have body fat; even elite athletes have a body composition that is a svelte 5-10% fat—this translates into roughly 10-20 pounds of fat for a 180-pound athlete.  What is important is that all fat is not created equal—where the fat accumulates in our bodies dramatically effects how that fat behaves.  So, the very location where your fat takes up residence has a tremendous influence on your health.

Fat on our body surface is much less problematic than fat deep within our body. Humans have two basic types of fat: subcutaneous fat and visceral fat. Subcutaneous fat—also known as “love handles,” “spare tires,” “muffin tops,” or “middle-age spread”—is present between the skin and the abdominal wall. When present in normal amounts, it gives us nice contours and makes us look less bony and skeletal and more smooth and curvy. When present in excessive amounts, it makes us look plump, roly-poly and pear-shaped. A moderate amount of subcutaneous fat is of little danger to our health and, in fact, provides us numerous advantages including padding and insulation to conserve heat and help with temperature regulation, a means of storage of fat-soluble vitamins, and a ready source of energy. Visceral fat—also referred to as a “pot belly,” “beer belly,” or “Buddha belly”—is internal fat deep within the abdominal cavity that can make us apple-shaped.  It wraps around our internal organs including our liver, kidneys, and pancreas. Visceral fat is always unhealthy fat that can have dire metabolic consequences. In general, waist circumference is a reasonably good measure of visceral fat. (Of course, morbid obesity due to either type of fat can prove extremely  dangerous to one’s health.)

It’s kind of like real estate, the value of which is predicated on location, location, location. Think of visceral fat as prime, expensive beachfront property on the gold coast with a short walk to the ocean, the ocean of metabolic disasters.  Think of subcutaneous fat as less expensive, inland property, quite removed from this ocean of metabolic disasters.  Clearly, visceral fat is fat that behaves badly and fat that is strongly desirable to avoid.

In many ways, the distinction between subcutaneous and visceral fat parallels the distinction between good fats and bad fats in our diet.    The not unhealthy one or two inches of subcutaneous fat that you can pinch around your waistline can be thought of as a good fat such as the fat in olive oil, avocados, or nuts.   On the other hand, the unhealthy visceral fat that causes a man to have a big protuberant abdomen—creating an appearance not unlike a very pregnant female—can be thought of as bad fats such as the partially hydrogenated fats present in vegetable shortening that are commonly used in fast foods and other processed baked goods.

Visceral fat storage is not static but dynamic, meaning that there is continuous mobilization of our fat (as fatty acids) and storage (as triglycerides).  Lipolysis is the chemical reaction in which the fat is broken down into fatty acids that the body can use as energy. This can occur very readily in visceral fat. Likewise, accumulation of visceral fat can occur in a very rapid fashion. Excessive intake of calories will be rapidly stored as visceral fat, whereas under circumstances of a reduced calorie intake, the visceral fat is broken down to provide fuel for our bodies’ metabolic processes, particularly muscle contraction.

Visceral fat is not just a bland collection of fatty tissue sitting inertly within your belly causing an oversized appearance to your abdomen.  It is an extremely metabolically active endocrine organ with a life of its own.  Fat is the largest endocrine organ in our bodies and it releases a myriad of pro-inflammatory factors, hormones and immune cells that can affect metabolism and other bodily functions. Fat has an abundance of the hormone aromatase, which converts testosterone to the female hormone estrogen.  One consequence of too much fat in men is excessive conversion of testosterone to estrogen. Men with plentiful visceral fat often will bear the consequences of lower testosterone and higher estrogen levels, including sexual issues and breast development as well as numerous other negative consequences of insufficient levels of testosterone.

Visceral fat is intimately connected to the inflammatory process and can result in insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease and an entire array of negative health ramifications, including chronic diseases such as arthritis and cancer.  This is in contradistinction to subcutaneous fat, which produces far less inflammatory chemicals. Since men have a tendency towards visceral fat collection whereas women have a tendency towards subcutaneous fat collection, this might explain why women are less susceptible to cardiovascular disease then men are.

Insulin is the principal regulator of fat metabolism. After a sugar and carbohydrate load, insulin is released to get the fuel into our cells. When we go without food, as happens when we sleep, insulin levels decrease and fat is released to be used as fuel.  Insulin levels are determined primarily in response to our carbohydrate intake in order to keep our blood sugar regulated. Insulin has much to do with the way our bodies store or burn fat. You can think of insulin as our fat hormone—when insulin levels are elevated, we accumulate fat; when levels are low, we burn fat for fuel.  So if you have a substantial collection of visceral fat, it becomes highly desirable to reduce sugar and refined carbohydrate intake to decrease insulin and burn away that bad, pro-inflammatory fat as fuel. The good news is that by losing abdominal fat, the potentially bad health repercussions can be reversed. The dangerous visceral fat submits relatively easily to diet and exercise whereas the less harmful subcutaneous fat at the waist is more stubborn and resistant to reversal measures.

How To Burn Fat:

  • Eat in accordance with nature’s design—meaning whole foods.  Avoid processed foods.  The best diet is an “anti-processed-atarian” diet.
  • Avoid “naked” calories (stripped of fiber), so restrict sugar, simple white carbohydrates, and liquid calories. Specifically avoidsugared drinks, white pasta, white rice, white bread, doughnuts, bagels, potatoes, etc.  Aggressively steer clear of high fructose corn syrup.
  •  Eat high-quality, whole-grain, high-fiber carbohydrates (whole grain pasta, brown rice, whole grain breads, legumes, whole fruits and vegetables), lean protein sources (easy on meat and dairy) and healthy fats (vegetable and seafood-origin).
  • Avoid giant meals in which the caloric load will be stored as fat; substitute with multiple smaller meals in which the calories will be used for immediate energy.
  • Limit after dinner snacking since unnecessary calories at a time of minimal physical activity will be stored as fat.
  • You must incorporate exercise into your lifestyle, achieving balance between aerobic, resistance and core workouts.  Aerobic exercise has great potential in burning fat for fuel and interval training seems to really rev up our fat-burning capabilities.
  • Portion control is the name of the game: in order to burn fat, energy intake must be less than energy output.  Even if you eat only the healthiest of foods, if calories in exceed calories out, you will not burn fat for fuel.
  • Minimize stress; if you can’t eliminate it, work to manage it.
  • Get adequate amounts of quality sleep.  See my previous blog entitled “Sleep To Slim” to find details: https://healthdoc13.wordpress.com/2012/07/20/sleep-to-slim/

The bottom line is that while body fat in any excessive amount is unhealthy and unattractive, it becomes a potentially life-threatening issue depending on its location in our bodies.  An enormously protuberant belly can lead to processes that result in disease—and even death.

Andrew Siegel, M.D.

Author of Promiscuous Eating: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

www.PromiscuousEating.com

Now available on Amazon Kindle

 

Coconut Oil: Friend or Foe?

June 23, 2012

Andrew Siegel, M.D.   Blog # 63

 

I previously expressed my opinion regarding coconut oil and other tropical oils in my book Promiscuous Eating: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship With Food as well as in a few videos I have posted on YouTube:

“Even though they are not animal fats, tropical oils such as coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil are so saturated that they behave like animal fats. Clearly, they are too saturated for our good health and are better suited for use in sun block and skin moisturizing lotions, which they are!  Beware of consuming any chemicals that are also products in moisturizers and cosmetics!”

I received a great deal of flack from the devout coconut worshipers, who are of the opinion that coconut and other tropical oils are nectar from heaven, super foods that have remarkable properties.  After all, Dr. Oz told his television audience that coconut oil has “superpowers.”  Internet guru Joseph Mercola stated that its benefits are “nearly miraculous,” and he aggressively promotes coconut oil on his website, where it is on sale for $65/gallon.

The strangest thing—the biggest paradox—is that coconut oil is beloved by the processed food industry, but at the same time is the lovechild of many members of the super-health conscious, organic community.   When it comes to coconut oil, these polar extreme factions—usually at odds with each other—share a great degree of admiration, esteem and regard for the same product. When a product is lauded by both the corporate powers that control our food industry as well as by individuals who are very health conscious, it begs the question: is this an amazing and overwhelming substance with wonderful medicinal properties and a miraculous panacea for a myriad of diseases or is it underwhelming rubbish, just another tropical oil laden with saturated fats?

So what is the real deal with coconut oil?  For many reasons—shelf life, heat stability, solid status at room temperature, etc.—it is a favorite of Big Food. It is also beloved by the cosmetics industry as coconut oil is a key ingredient commonly used in hair and skin products. Many food purists worship it as a sort of magical elixir. There are an abundance of Internet sites that extol the medical virtues of coconut oil, for example: www.coconutresearchcenter.org.  Extensive lists of purported medicinal benefits make it seem to be the holy grail of nutrition.  For example, the following is a bullet list of just the first 15 benefits (copied verbatim off the aforementioned website):

  • Kills viruses that cause influenza, herpes, measles, hepatitis C, SARS, AIDS, and other illnesses.
  • Kills bacteria that cause ulcers, throat infections, urinary tract infections, gum disease and cavities, pneumonia, and gonorrhea, and other diseases.
  • Kills fungi and yeasts that cause candidiasis, ringworm, athlete’s foot, thrush, diaper rash, and other infections.
  • Expels or kills tapeworms, lice, giardia, and other parasites.
  • Provides a nutritional source of quick energy.
  • Boosts energy and endurance, enhancing physical and athletic performance.
  • Improves digestion and absorption of other nutrients including vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
  • Improves insulin secretion and utilization of blood glucose.
  • Relieves stress on pancreas and enzyme systems of the body.
  • Reduces symptoms associated with pancreatitis.
  • Helps relieve symptoms and reduce health risks associated with diabetes.
  • Reduces problems associated with malabsorption syndrome and cystic fibrosis.
  • Improves calcium and magnesium absorption and supports the development of strong bones and teeth.
  • Helps protect against osteoporosis.
  • Helps relieve symptoms associated with gallbladder disease.

Is this truth, fiction or somewhere in between?  As a physician, I have to conclude that many of these claims are simply not proven, and to scientifically demonstrate many of the claimed benefits would require long-term, highly complex studies that would be expensive and difficult, if not impossible to carry out.  Coconut oil just might be the greatest thing since the iPhone, but we do not have that information.  The jury is out and I do not believe they will be in for some time.

The coconut palm tree grows and bears coconuts all year round, producing a fruit that is potable, palatable, and portable. This fruit is a dietary staple for residents of tropical seashores like the Pacific islands where the coconut palm is native and plentiful. Coconut oil is edible oil extracted from the “meat” of mature coconuts.

Extracting the oil from the coconut involves a variety of physical methods including heating, milling, grating, pressing, centrifuging and expelling, and chemical methods such as hexane and enzymatic breakdown.  The product is ultimately refined to remove impurities.  Refined, bleached and deodorized coconut oil has the taste and scent of coconuts removed and is used for home cooking, commercial food processing, and for manufacturing by the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries.

When refined and deodorized, coconut oil mixed with nonfat milk is often used as a substitute for whole milk. Other uses include imitation dairy products such as coffee creamers, soft-serve and frozen desserts, whipped toppings, milk shake mixes, chocolate milk, movie theatre popcorn oil, baked goods and snack foods.  Since coconut oil is solid, it can be used as a butter substitute for vegans. In addition to its use for nutritional purposes, coconut oil can be utilized as an unguent for the hair, an emollient for the body, a rust inhibitor for iron, and a fuel for lamps. Its first industrial use in Europe was as a lubricant in textile mills.

So what is truth and what is fiction with this oil derived from the coconut fruit?

The following are facts about coconut oil:

  • More than 90% of its fat is saturated fat as opposed to canola oil (7% saturated); olive oil (13% saturated); beef tallow (48% saturated); lard (43% saturated).  Saturated fats have all of their carbons “saturated” with hydrogen as opposed to unsaturated fats in which the carbons have double bonds.  The double bonds confer a bend to the molecule whereas the saturated fats tend to be straight.  The significance of this is that the saturated fats tend to be more densely packed together, making them solid at room temperature and raising the melting point.  Saturated fat is not considered healthy since it tends to promote fatty plaque accumulation in our arteries.
  • It is solid at room temperature—an oddity for a fat derived from a plant source—on the basis of the very high levels of saturated fat.
  • It is a durable product that is resistant to going rancid, a desirable feature for manufacturers of processed foods that want to prolong the shelf life of the product in question (also on the basis of the very high levels of saturated fat).
  • It is very heat-stable, making it very suitable for frying.
  • It is easily digested and is absorbed because of the low molecular weight of the fatty acids. The fatty acids in coconut oil are lauric, myristic, palmitic, oleic, caprylic, capric and stearic.
  • Coconut oil is unusual because it contains a high percentage of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), whereas most oils consist entirely of long-chain triglycerides (LCTs). Coconut oil is 40% LCTs AND 60% MCTS. MCTs are composed of carbon chains of 6-10 links vs. LCTs, which are composed of 12-18 carbons. The shorter chains are more rapidly absorbed and readily metabolized as fuel as opposed to being stored as fat. That stated, no study has ever proven that coconut oil promotes weight loss.
  • Pure MCT oil that is specially formulated by extraction from coconut oil has been shown to result in increased weight loss in dieters as compared to liquid vegetable oil.
  • In Polynesia, where residents consume most of their fat as coconut fat from fresh coconuts, there does not appear to be an increased incidence of heart disease, despite the saturated fat content of coconuts.  That stated, Polynesia does not seem to be lacking in overweight individuals.  In fact, in the top ten countries that celebrate female obesity are the following: Tonga islands, the Fiji islands, Samoa, Tahiti, and Nauru.
  • As with dairy and meats, the following organizations recommend limiting consumption of significant amounts of coconut oil due to its high levels of saturated fat: USFDA; WHO; International College of Nutrition; ADA; AHA; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; British National Health Service; Dieticians of Canada.

 Bottom Line:

Coconut oil is a natural product that is very high in saturated fat content, generally not such a good thing.  The high MCT content of coconut oil confers a nutritional and metabolic benefit. These effects seem to balance each other out.

Until studies prove otherwise (and I am not sure they ever will), I do not believe that coconut oil has magical and mystical properties that will cure or prevent the scourges of mankind.  I am a huge advocate of plant-origin fats—olives, avocados, nuts, etc.—as opposed to animal fats, but because of the high saturated fat content of tropical oils, I think it prudent to be moderate with intake of coconut oil, despite the predominance of MCTs.  As is the case with anything imputed with extraordinary powers and claims, it simply remains to be demonstrated.  Time usually will bear out truths and untruths, and I retain a healthy skepticism regarding anything that sounds too good to be true.  Coconut oil is probably neither friend nor foe, but just is.

Andrew Siegel, M.D.

Author of Promiscuous Eating: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

www.PromiscuousEating.com

Available on Amazon Kindle

“The Internet is a treasure trove of information and misinformation.

Everything with a grain of salt…no, a salt shaker.”

References:

The Cambridge   World History of Food

Essentials of Food Science