Myths about Coconut and MCT Oils

Patient Expert

**One type of saturated fat is especially valuable for those of us who have diabetes. Oils like coconut and MCT are the easiest for us to use, as I have written in my last four posts here, including "The Best Saturated Fats.

But too many people avoid these great fats because they believe myths about them. When I interviewed Ron Rosedale, M.D., recently, he addressed these concerns.

Dr. Rosedale is one of my most trusted experts on what to eat. His website is "The Rosedale Program," and he also wrote one of the best weight-loss guides, The Rosedale Diet.

I asked him about the concern that some people have that coconut oil raises our LDL cholesterol level. "But, I noted, "this may be a question of small dense versus big fluffy LDL."**


"Exactly," Dr. Rosedale replied. "That's what it is. It has nothing to do with coconut oil per se. Lowering carbohydrates and increasing fats is going to increase the size of the LDL particles. This is a good thing, and if you are only measuring the total quantity of LDL, it will probably increase that too -- but that is also a good thing."

He agreed with my observation that this is a question of the size of the different LDL particles. But he disagreed with me that we measured only total LDL because it's easier to do.

"No," Dr. Rosedale responded. "We measure what the pharmaceutical companies want us to measure. They are telling all the doctors to measure LDL, so they do, because statin drugs can lower it.

He told me that it has nothing whatever to do with health, and even less to do with diet. Rather, "It has everything to do with marketing and making money for large corporations." It bothers him a lot.

"And it is not difficult to measure LDL particle size. It is actually relatively easy. And if it were done on a more routine basis, it would be relatively cheap. And this is what I tell people about measuring it: The best thing to do is to not. If there is relevance, it is going to have to do with particle size and number. The only time I recommend doing it is as a tool to get their primary care physician off of their back."

One of the otherwise most accurate encyclopedias, Wikipedia, perpetuates a different myth about coconut and MCT oils. Wikipedia notes correctly in "Medium-chain triglycerides" that coconut oil is about two-thirds medium-chain triglycerides, which "are generally considered a good biologically inert source of energy."

But then it goes off the rails. MCT "may be contraindicated in some situations due to their tendency to induce ketogenesis and metabolic acidosis. Their use is not recommended for diabetics unless under supervised medical treatment and those with liver problems due to the added stress they may put on the organ."

Then, this Wikipedia entry quotes Shawn M. Talbott and Kerry Hughes, The Health Professional's Guide to Dietary Supplements (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2007), p. 62, as its source. I checked it out, and Wikipedia followed it almost verbatim.

Concerned, I then asked Dr. Rosedale how would medium-chain triglycerides put added stress on the liver?

"It doesn't," he forcefully replied. "That's a misconception in the medical community, and a lot of that has come from the so-called high fat studies. If you look at them, about 99 percent of them might have 30 percent fat and still keep 50 percent carbohydrate. It's high in fat and even higher in carbohydrate. And when you give a high fat diet along with a high carbohydrate diet, you can't burn the fat. And then it can accumulate in the liver and elsewhere, and it gives the impression that high fat is bad.

"They are calling it high fat and so the title of the study will be that 'high fat causes liver disease' or 'high fat causes diabetes.' But it doesn't.

"The worst diet that you can be on is a high fat and high carbohydrate diet, because then the carbohydrates prevent you from burning the fat, and then it just sits around where it happens to be and gets stored."

Dr. Rosedale set my mind at ease about using coconut and MCT oil. I now use these oils exclusively in my salads and elsewhere where I don't need high heat. As I wrote in "The Best Saturated Fats," I fry with another oil, ghee, because of its very high smoke point, although it is somewhat lower in medium-chain trigycerides.

Maybe these myths have kept you from making good use of these excellent cooking oils. If so, I hope that my sharing of Dr. Rosedale's insights will relieve your concerns.**