If you don’t live under a rock, you’re bound to have heard of the many miracles coconut oil is capable of. I remember the exact moment I thought, well, that coconut oil was going to take over the world. It suddenly felt like I couldn’t read a celebrity interview or beauty-related story without seeing someone waxing lyrical about the said oil. The articles were advising me to eat it, put it on my skin and hair, gargle with it, have my coffee with it. Use it as a skin moisturizer, deodorant, hair tamer, sunscreen, massage oil, toothpaste. Marie Claire even noted how Angelina Jolie takes a spoonful of coconut oil every night and Emma Stone uses it as a makeup remover and Gwyneth Paltrow is just an overall fan. Dubai based beauty blogger, Huda Kattan uses it to set her highlighter. The oil was not only being consumed for health purposes but also for beautification – it was everywhere!
In addition to rampant celebrity endorsements, coconut oil owed its rise in popularity largely to its unique fatty profile. It seemed like there was nothing the magic of coconut oil couldn’t cure but like everything else that goes up, it was also destined to come down. Last week the Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease: A Presidential Advisory from the American Heart Association was released. This was an extensive study on fats and how they relate to cardiovascular health, wherein it officially advised against the consumption of coconut oil, saying it puts people at risk for cardiovascular disease. The AHA reported that 72 percent of Americans regard coconut oil as a “healthy food,” compared with only 37 percent of nutritionists. In other words, we should approach coconut oil as we would any other “treat” — fine in small amounts, but by no means a “health food”.
There was a major blowback from the health community who (rightly) claimed we’ve been told repeatedly that this thing was good for us, and some of us have built our eating habits around that information. Now, we’re learning that we’ve been living a dietary lie. But the truth is that the $20 billion wellness industry whose members are bent on protecting their revenue and reputations can manage to twist and oversimplify science as it makes its way to the consumer. One overarching trend in the health food sector has been to demonize whole categories of nutrients, known to scientists as “macromolecules.” First, the trend was to shun fats in favour of a high-carb diet; then, as research came out showing that refined carbohydrates were probably contributing to the obesity epidemic, industry players pivoted to shun sugar and carbs in favour of certain fats — like, coconut oil. Who knows – proteins could be next.
AHAs research claims it is “not recommended”, not that one should never have it again. It’s true that guzzling coconut oil is probably not great for you but that can be said about butter too – both of these things are just fine in moderation. “Huge and excessive quantities” is the crux of the issue and what happened with coconut oil is a good example of what seems to happen frequently in the wellness industry. An alleged health trend trickles into the zeitgeist and explodes to the point of being considered godsend beyond what’s actually been consistently medically proven. The same thing happened with turmeric – in fact it’s still overpriced and sold in countries abroad. One should not take fad diets and newfound researches that seriously but rather listen to their doctors and body more religiously!