March 15, 2000
Coconut oils if one of the few vegetable fats that are saturated. The vast majority of nutritionists and doctors advise that saturated fats raise cholesterol levels and should be avoided in the diet.
Recently, promoters of coconut oil have touted it as a weight loss miracle despite the fact that no large scale dietary studies support this.
The Golden hamster has been used in many studies to observe the development of atherosclerosis and study the effects of various type so fats. In a recent study by Mangiapane et al at the University of Nottingham, Loughborough, UK, hamsters were fed a diet high in cholesterol and either coconut oil or olive oil. The hamsters in the olive oil group had less atherosclerosis. In a second study the researchers stopped the high cholesterol diet but continued either coconut or olive oil. Atherosclerosis lesions in the large arteries actually continued to increase in size in the coconut oil group but stabilized or shrank in the olive oil group. Studies have not yet been designed to see if olive oil would shrink atherosclerosis and "cure" heart and vascular disease in humans.