As the myth around coconut oil benefits collapses, the food industry needs to change its recipes, says GlobalData

The once acclaimed superfood ‘coconut oil’ has been exposed as a health myth, observes GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Once claimed to induce weight loss, boost your metabolism and provide energy, lower cholesterol and even treat digestive system diseases, coconut oil has been discovered to be harmful. The fact that coconut oil is comprised of 80 to 90% of saturated fat, which is responsible for bad cholesterol and cardiovascular diseases, has been overlooked by consumers.

According to GlobalData’s 2017 Q1 survey, 53% of consumers globally cited coconut oil as an ingredient with a positive impact on their health; this is down from the 58% of consumers in a 2015 survey. As consumers become more informed about the real impact of coconut oil on their health, this number is expected to decline significantly.

IMAGE FOR PUBLICATION: Please click here for chart: Do you think coconut oil will have a positive or negative impact on your health?

A 2017 survey of the American Heart Association (AHA) found that 72% of the American consumers labelled coconut oil as a ‘healthy food’, compared with 37% of nutritionists, demonstrating how marketing efforts have separated public opinion, with health expert’s view.

Notably, a tablespoon of coconut oil contains 11.2g of saturated fat and 120 calories, having even higher fat content than butter (approximately 64% saturated fat).

The rumor behind the health benefits of coconut oil revolves around a saturated fat called lauric acid. This fatty acid belongs to the category of medium-chain triglycerides, which according to studies, are metabolized more quickly than other fats, boosting energy instead of being accumulated as fat, and also appearing to increase good cholesterol.

However, evidence of this are only robust in-vitro and the impact on weight-loss and good cholesterol observed in people consuming coconut oil against other oils, has not been assessed in the long-term. Aside from this, the processing or refinement of coconut oil by food processors can destroy these potentially beneficial elements.

In 2017, the American Heart Association officially recommended consumers stop using coconut oil for cooking. The British Nutrition Foundation had earlier suggested a limited and infrequent intake. The next step could be regulatory restrictions on its use by the food industry.

In any case, as the myth around coconut oil collapses, the food industry is expected to shift to less costly alternatives such as rapeseed oil and palm oil.


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