Coconut Oil: Debunking the Myths and Understanding the Facts

The video discusses the ongoing debate about whether MCT oil and coconut oil are healthy or harmful. It mentions how the perception of coconut oil has changed over time, from being a staple in many cultures to being considered harmful due to its saturated fat content. The video criticizes a news report that implies coconut oil is bad based on the fact that a study focused on MCT oil, not coconut oil. It also highlights the stability and nutritional benefits of saturated fats and challenges the belief that saturated fat is universally bad for health. The video concludes by criticizing the potential plans to put warning labels on foods based on their saturated fat content.

Author Icon

Our Summaries are written by our own AI Infrastructure, to save you time on your Health Journey!

How does this happen?

Key Insights:

  • The perception of MCT oil and coconut oil has changed over the years, going from being a staple food to being considered unhealthy due to its saturated fat content.
  • The Canadian CBC News report highlights the supposed dangers of coconut oil, but fails to provide a balanced perspective.
  • MCT oil is a subcomponent of coconut oil, and a 2003 study showed potential benefits for weight loss, but it did not specifically study coconut oil.
  • The report focuses on the saturated fat content of coconut oil, implying that it is unhealthy. However, it fails to mention that saturated fats can be beneficial and that coconut oil is only 86% saturated, while MCT oil is 100% saturated.
  • The comparison of coconut oil to other fats, such as butter and lard, overlooks the fact that all of these fats have their own benefits and uses.
  • The report cites the recommendations of Health Canada and the US USDA to limit saturated fat intake, despite the lack of positive results in following these guidelines.
  • The proposed plan to put warning labels on foods high in saturated fat is seen as misguided by many, as it fails to consider the benefits of certain saturated fats.
  • Understanding the different types of fats and their properties is crucial in making informed food choices and avoiding misinformation.


MCT oil and coconut oil. Are they health food or are they poison? Well, it kind of depends on when you’re talking about because for thousands of years it was just food and many cultures did extremely well. They used coconut cream and whole coconut and coconut oil and it was just a staple, but then about fifty years ago when fat, especially saturated fat, got blamed for heart disease, now everything took a turn. So now coconut oil was the worst of the worst, and then a few years ago, it made a comeback and became a health food, and then people started using it for all sorts of health reasons. Ever since then, it’s kind of bounced around. Every year it goes from poison to health food and back and forth and back and forth. So, I guess it’s this time of year because this month, Canadian CBC News had another report out where they talked about the truth of coconut oil. So today, we’re going to take a look at that video and comment on some of those rather absurd claims that were made. Coming right up!

Hey, I’m Dr. Ekberg. I’m a holistic doctor and a former Olympic decathlete. And if you want to truly master health by understanding how the body really works, make sure you subscribe and hit that notification bell so you don’t miss anything. We’re setting up shop to talk to shoppers about a big health trend. Coconut oil. What kind of cooking oil do you use? I do often shop for olive oil and coconut oil. At home, I use a lot of coconut oil. As a matter of fact, I’m from the Caribbean, so we use a lot of coconut oil. Yeah, so this would look familiar to you. Very much so.

The coconut oil industry has exploded, raking in over 650 million dollars last year alone. It sounds like these consumers are relatively well-informed, favoring natural oils like olive oil and coconut oil. And then we have this news team come in, and the reporter sets up shop to teach these shoppers about coconut oil. And the first thing we hear is that they’re raking it in six hundred and fifty million dollars, which sounds like a really, really big number, but how big is it really? Well, let’s compare it with margarine. Margarine is a food that everyone pretty much agrees that it’s the worst of the worst. I mean, you might as well eat plastic. It’s up there with lead poisoning in terms of nutritional value. And even though it has been declining, it is still selling four times as much margarine as coconut oil in the world. So, it’s not an enormous amount. And if we compare it to something like soft drinks, there’s 600 times more sugary drinks sold than coconut oil. So if we’re gonna focus our attention on something, then let’s focus our attention on putting warning labels and explaining what margarine and soft drinks do. But as always in journalism, words are chosen very carefully to invoke feelings. So they’re inferring that these are mega companies that are making claims and taking advantage of people. So I just wanted to put that in perspective.

MCT oil. That’s medium-chain triglycerides, the wonders of MCT oil and the coconut oil craze are linked, and it all goes back to this 2003 study. Makes you wonder. Is there anything to all these health claims? To find out, we tracked down the author of the study that set off the craze. Hi Marie-Pierre, hi, nice to meet you. This is the shop, all right. Would you like a coffee? Sure, all right, two black coffees with coconut oil, please. Lots of people put coconut oil in their coffee, but this is a first for her.

We did research to look at the influence of MCT oil on energy expenditure and body composition. Wait, what? You weren’t testing coconut oil? Not at all. We were testing MCT oil, it’s a very purified form. MCT is a subcomponent of coconut oil, and only 15 percent of coconut oil is MCT. What her research did find was a small improvement in weight loss for overweight people who consumed MCT oil, but Zippo on coconut oil. In 2003, there was a study on MCT oil and energy metabolism, and the study showed that there was some effect that MCT oil could be beneficial for weight loss. And then the reporter sits down and talks with the author of that study, Marie-Pierre St. Onge, and in the middle of that, she goes, „What? The study was about MCT oil and not coconut oil,“ and then the lady says, „Yes, that we studied MCT oil and they’re not the same thing.“ Well, no news there. But what the reporter is inferring with her surprise and her disdain is that because the study showed MCT oil was good, but it didn’t show that coconut oil was good, then coconut oil must be bad, right? The study didn’t say anything about coconut oil. They are related. They are not the same. MCT oil is made from coconut oil, but we can’t draw any conclusions from that study. All it showed was that MCT oil is good. So if they’re closely related, then maybe there are some benefits to coconut oil as well, but they never even get into that. They’re just sort of inferring that, „Well, then coconut oil must be bad.“

Many experts are concerned that coconut oil is high in saturated fat. What if I told you, though, that one tablespoon of coconut oil has 13 grams of saturated fat? Yuck. That’s more than two-thirds of your daily saturated fat limit. That’s the opposite of healthy. When we hear something over and over, it becomes a truth, whether it has any substance to it or not. And we’ve heard about fat and saturated fat for about 50 years. I remember growing up, and I thought that fat was yuck, exactly like the guy in the video. You just have to hold out a spoon and say „saturated fat,“ and people go yuck. And then she added, „Well, that’s the opposite of healthy.“ This same person who had, for good reasons, been purchasing coconut oil in his diet, all he has to do is meet someone who holds out something that says „saturated fat,“ and it’s like this triggered, queued response. We need to understand a little bit more about the foods because otherwise, we’ll just be like a leaf in the wind. We’ll go wherever the wind blows, and this week it’s something, and next week it’s going to be something else. So we need to start understanding these things. So let’s just spend a few minutes looking at what is coconut oil and what is saturated fat. I’m going to explain that in some more detail as we go.

So fatty acids, they’re chains of carbons. They’re carbon by carbon by carbon linked in a chain, and then on the sides, they have hydrogen atoms. And if they have one hydrogen atom on each side, then they’re called saturated because there’s not room for anymore. They’re saturated with hydrogen. But if something is unsaturated, that means that in some places, these carbons are linked together with what’s called a double bond. Two of the links are used up to unite the carbons, and then they only have one bond left over for a hydrogen. So these carbons only have one hydrogen instead of two, and then they’re called unsaturated. So this bond, this double bond, could react with an enzyme or with heat or with oxygen, and it could be oxidized. It could have a chemical reaction. So that’s why unsaturated fats are more sensitive to oxygen and heat and light. And the reason medium-chain and short-chain triglycerides are such a big deal, the reason they studied them, is that they behave a little bit different depending on how long the chain is. Caproic acid has six carbons; it’s called a short chain, so it’s not usually included. Some MCT oils have about 1% of that in there because they didn’t bother taking it out. But medium-chain, strictly speaking, are eight-carbon chains or ten-carbon chains. The shorter they are, the faster they can be metabolized. And there’s two reasons for this. First of all, the shorter they are, the quicker the enzymes can chop them up. There’s fewer chops to make. But the second reason has to do with our digestion. There are two primary ways that food can be absorbed from your gut. And the first is through the lymph system, and the second is straight into the blood. And if it’s absorbed straight into the blood, then it goes through a system called the portal vein, and it has to be really, really tiny to get straight into the bloodstream. If it’s larger, the larger it is, the more it is similar to foreign substances like viruses and bacteria. And then we need to give our immune system a chance to work at it. And the cutoff is right between ten and twelve carbons long. So the smaller molecules can go straight into the blood; the larger ones have to get into the lymph system first. So the reason MCTs are studied and so popular is they save you a couple of hours. MCTs can be chopped up and used for energy within minutes, whereas the longer ones are gonna take a few hours. So it’s not good or bad; it just depends on what you’re looking for. But if people are trying to get fat adapted, if they’re carb-dependent, then it can be tremendously beneficial to have a faster source of energy, and that’s why people use those. So coconut oil has about 1% of the six-carbon chain, eight percent of the eight-carbon chain, and about six percent of the ten-carbon chain. So it has about 15% of medium-chain triglycerides or shorter. Those are the ones that qualify that go straight into the bloodstream. Anything longer is not going to go straight in. Lauric acid is kind of in between. Lauric acid, about 25% of lauric acid goes straight into the bloodstream, so it also qualifies really as an MCT. But 75% of it gets absorbed into the lymph, and that’s why lauric acid is not considered a medium-chain triglyceride. Anything longer is going to take longer to be absorbed. It doesn’t make them bad; it’s just not a medium-chain triglyceride anymore. So carbons can get even longer, but there are very, very few beyond 18 carbons, and this is called stearic acid. And this is the way that animals store most of their fat. So humans store stearic acid on their bodies, and animals that we eat store it mostly as stearic acid. But coconut oil also contains a couple more things. It has 6% of something called oleic acid, which is 18 carbons long, and it has one place where there’s a double bond. So it is monounsaturated, and of course, oleic comes from olive oil. So six percent of the fat in coconut oil is actually the same as the dominant fat in olive oil. And then there’s just two percent of linoleic acid, which has two places where it’s unsaturated, which makes it an omega-6. None of these fats are bad. None of them are artificial. None of them are synthetic. They are just different lengths, and coconut is very unusual because there’s no other product. There’s no other food on the planet that has this type of distribution. So when they make MCT oil, they just separate the shortest chains so they get about 15% MCT oil. It’s a refined product out of the coconut oil, and the rest is used for other purposes. They have other nutritive purposes, or they can be used for cosmetics and creams and shampoos and things like that. Now, just a quick point here that the study they refer to in 2003, it said that MCT oil had some benefits for weight loss, and they didn’t have anything bad to say about MCT oils. But then they went on to say that people are concerned. Experts are concerned because coconut oil is so high in saturated fat. Well, MCT oil separates out the 8- and 10-carbon chains, which are fully saturated; they have zero double bonds. And therefore, MCT oil is a hundred percent saturated. Okay, so again, that doesn’t make it bad; it’s just what it is. It’s a good fuel. Coconut oil, however, if saturation was what we should judge oils on if they’re good or bad, is only 86 percent saturated. So from the saturation perspective, then coconut oil would be better. How does that compare with butter or olive oil? Good question. It’s the same as almost two tablespoons of butter. All right. Wow. Six and a half tablespoons of olive oil. Okay. Really? That’s crazy! And wait for it, two and a half tablespoons of lard. Lard, wow. That’s stuff right here. Damn, that’s crazy, actually. I didn’t realize that. Yeah, okay. Here you can have this back.

And now she goes through the unveiling process. So she holds out the spoons of coconut oil and shows how much saturated fat that is, and it’s over your daily limit. And then she compares it to other forms of fat and shows that based on how much saturated fat, it’s worse than any other form of fat. And people are oohing and aahing and grossing out along the way because everyone knows how bad fat is. So there is no argument here, it’s just playing on emotion based on misconceptions, based on a myth that people have bought into. But she’s not telling them anything new; she’s just saying, „Ooh, saturated fat,“ and people just go along. And then she saves the last box for lard. And she says, „Now hold on here, hold on here, drumroll,“ and she lifts it, and it’s lard, alright? And again, it’s all these connotations that we have. There’s nothing wrong with any of those fats. I eat them all on a regular basis. If I cook bacon, I make my own bacon bits, I get lard leftover, I save it for cooking. When I make my bone broth, I get beef tallow, pure saturated fat leftover. I save it for cooking because they’re all good. And the only thing the reporter uses to back up her story is the fact that Canada Food Guide and of course also the American USDA are recommending us to limit our fat intake, especially saturated fat. Now, of course, the reason that people are so afraid of fat is that in the back of their minds, and especially saturated fat, in the back of their minds, they have heart disease, cardiovascular disease because that had been linked at one point. Most research in the last ten years has shown the opposite, that it’s due to inflammation. But, of course, it takes a couple of generations for people to change their mind even after the evidence is in. But if it’s heart disease that we’re afraid of, let’s just look at the track record of the experts‘ food recommendations.

So on this scale, we have the percentage of obesity in the United States. And on this scale, we have diabetes incidence in millions. So in 1960, we had about 12% obesity. In 1970, we had about 14-15%. In 1980, we had about 17. So it was climbing steadily. And what happened in 1980? Well, a couple of things. They came out with high-fructose corn syrup, and the government decided to issue some guidelines to teach people how to eat. And they said, „You should eat sixty percent of your calories should come from carbohydrates, no more than ten percent should come from saturated fats, and no more than ten percent should come from added sugar.“ So, all in all, though, the vast majority of the calories come from sugar, either added sugar or fruit sugar or milk sugar or lots of other forms of sugar that are allowed and recommended in the food. Until they published the guidelines in 1980, the trend looked kind of like this. And after they published the guidelines and people got really scared of fat, now the trend looked like that. So, we can’t say that there’s a causative relationship between the guidelines and the changing, the accelerating trend, but we can say for sure that it didn’t help a whole lot either. When we look at from 1990 and on, now, of course, it has exploded. And in the last year, we had over 40% obesity in the United States. When we look at diabetes, we find that, if you watch some of my other videos, you know that obesity and diabetes are both due to insulin resistance. And the diabetes is just lagging behind 10, 15, 20 years, which matches this graph exactly. And we see that in 1960, we had a very small percentage. In 1970, it was increasing by about 2 to 3% per year, and it went over 10% in 1990. And it didn’t accelerate as fast as the weight gain because it lags behind a little bit. But then in 2000, 2010, 2018, it has absolutely exploded. And it’s now going even faster in trends increasing than the weight gain. And despite this, despite the evidence in hand, they have not changed more than a few commas in their food recommendations. They still recommend 60-65% carbohydrates, three cups of low-fat dairy, no saturated fat, avoid animal foods, animal fats, and the advice is the same over and over and over. Things are getting worse and worse and worse, but they’re just saying, „Hey, our guidelines are correct. They’re based on expert recommendations. It’s you people who aren’t doing it right.“ And, of course, as we’ve talked about in other videos, you can’t do it right when you’re insulin resistant because your insulin dictates your hunger.

But the point of this, again, is that she’s referring to the experts, and here is the result or at least lack of results of listening to experts. So we need to start understanding food rather than just looking at the last piece of research because this goes back and forth every year. It changes. This year, coffee is good. Next year, coffee is bad. Blueberries are good. Blueberries are bad. Chocolate is good. Chocolate is bad. Coconut oil, who knows what it’s going to be next year unless we start understanding more about the food. So since the biggest hurdle to overcome is our fat phobia and our saturated fat phobia, we need to understand some things about fat, why does the body need fat, what is fat good for, right? So first, we talk about essential fatty acids. Those are things that the body needs in relatively small quantities compared to the energy fats. And those are the omega-3s and the omega-6s, and they are essential. That means you can’t live without them. Essential means necessary for life. And they help build cell membranes. Okay, your brain is mostly fat, and the cell membranes are mostly a fat called DHA. It’s a very long-chain, six-times unsaturated fatty acid that gives the brain and the neural membrane certain properties of signaling. And your brain can’t mature, and it can’t function, and it can’t repair itself, the brain and the nervous system, if you’re deficient in these long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, which essentially come from fish oil. You can get some from algae if you’re a vegetarian, but primarily, they come from fish. Your body can theoretically make some from linolenic acid, which comes from flax, for example, but the conversion is so poor, it’s like less than 1% for most people. So the realistic chance of getting enough is to take a supplement, to eat lots of fish, or take an algae supplement or something like that. But these are essential. They’re in small quantities. They are signaling. They’re building materials, their precursors. Thyroid and adrenal function depends on essential fatty acids. Hormone production depends on essential fatty acids. And regulation of your blood pressure, your liver function, your immune system, your inflammatory responses, all of those depend on small quantities, the right proportions and ratios of these. So the body doesn’t burn these. These are not for fuel. The body uses them for very, very specific purposes. We only need a few grams a day of these.

Now, all the other fat is fuel. And you store fuel and you burn fuel. Any excess fuel that you eat, if you eat more carbohydrates or more protein or more fat or a combination thereof, during a period of plenty of food, during a feast period, the body is going to store the excess, and it doesn’t store it as canola oil. It doesn’t store it as safflower oil. It stores it primarily as saturated fat. And the primary one is going to be stearic acid. The unsaturated, the monounsaturated, the polyunsaturated, those are for specific functions. They’re not for fuel. We don’t need a lot of those things. And the only ones that we really need are these things that give us EPA and DHA. And the plant oils don’t do that. The canola and the safflower cannot contribute to your omega-3s that you need for your brain. Humans and cows and pigs, they store the excess fuel as fat, and we store it as the most effective, like a standard form of fat storage, which is a saturated fat. So when humans take excess carbohydrates, we store it as saturated fats. And then when there’s a period of famine, we retrieve, we burn the saturated fat. That’s what saturated fat is. It’s fuel. It’s a very efficient way of storing fuel. Other than that, what is it that makes saturated fat so good and plant fats not so good? It is the fact of stability. Saturated fats are very stable because the carbon is jam-packed with hydrogen. It’s full. It is very unlikely to react with anything. And this is why you can leave coconut oil sitting on the counter for a year or two. It doesn’t go rancid. It doesn’t spoil. You can keep it in a clear container, right? It’s probably even better if you keep it in the fridge in the dark. But it is so stable, it does not go bad. The extreme opposite is something like flax oil, which is the plant omega-3. That, as long as it’s inside the flaxseed, it’s protected. Nature has put a very, very tight dark shell on the oils. But as soon as you break it and turn it into oil, it goes rancid in minutes to hours. You need to keep that in the freezer. So saturated fats are stable. That makes them an ideal form of food because that’s gonna mean that the food is not rancid, it is not spoiled. But when we eat a lot of plant oils, the polyunsaturated plant oils like canola and safflower and soybean, etc., those things oxidize and they go rancid, and they taste terrible. So in order to prevent that terrible taste, they refine them and they process them and they deodorize them and they degum them and they bleach them until there is nothing left. And now they have a tasteless, flavorless, nutrition-free oil that also keeps forever. But it’s because they destroyed it. So saturated fats are not bad. They are bad if you carry them in your belly around your internal organs, and that’s part of metabolic syndrome, which is a result of insulin. But other than that, the only bad saturated fat is if you eat an animal that wasn’t healthy. So if you eat meat, then you don’t want to go and eat the grain-fed cow that’s been pumped full of hormones and antibiotics, and it was so sick that it wouldn’t have lasted another three months before they turned it into hamburger. You want to eat something that had a normal life, just like the lion hunts the antelope, that antelope was healthy and free until it became food. That’s what our meat needs to be as well. If it’s healthy, then it’s healthy for you. If it’s sick, then it’s gonna make you sick.

We tell Health Canada about the industry’s claims, and we learn our government is planning to put warnings on foods high in saturated fat someday, if the proposal gets passed. In the meantime, these shoppers have a message. Do you think there should be a warning to consumers about how much saturated fat is in something like this? 100%. Why? Because I did… I had no clue. So, the saturated fat is on the label, but should there be a warning? Yeah, ‚cause I guess it feels like they’re just not putting it explicitly on the people. Until that happens, are you gonna keep on using coconut oil? For certain things, yes. For other things, probably take a step back and look at either canola or, I mean, lard in this case, I guess. No, not today, not tomorrow, not ever. I don’t know if I want to laugh ‚cause it’s so ridiculous or if I want to cry because it’s so tragic, but Canada is apparently planning to put warning labels on food based on their saturated fat content. Right, in the US, they put „heart-healthy“ on cereals full of sugar and grain, the most inflammatory foods producing heart attacks and metabolic syndrome, and that’s heart-healthy. The food labeling is so misguided and so misleading, and focusing on all the wrong things, and now they’re just gonna take it one step further and put another barrier between us and healthy foods, such as grass-fed beef and grass-fed butter and coconut oil. As for the shoppers in the video, weren’t they lucky to have their lifestyle improved by a reporter who came in and taught them the truth about coconut oil? So one of the guys who had been on the right track, now he said, „I’m gonna have to rethink what I’m doing. „I’m probably gonna have to cut back on coconut oil „and start using more canola oil.“ Like we said, polyunsaturated, rancid, processed omega-6, inflammatory, the list goes on and on and on. So weren’t they lucky to get lectured by that reporter?

The reason I want to comment on videos like this is that they’re so skillful, but they’re not based on anything. They’re very, very good at editing and shooting and presenting things in a way that’s very convincing, that’s very emotional, that’s very provoking. But the only two arguments they made in the entire thing was that coconut oil is bad because it’s not MCT oil, which was studied in the 2003 study, and that coconut oil must be bad because it has saturated fats. So, I do the videos the way I do because I want people to understand a little bit more. If you just have the basics, if you just know 1, 2, 3, this is what I’m supposed to do, then you’re gonna hear something new every day, and you’re gonna change your mind every day because we’re just bombarded with information and misinformation. But if you start understanding the basics, if you start understanding the properties of food, why saturated food is good, it’s fuel, it’s stable, why polyunsaturated can be good because they have certain information properties that the body needs, that the body uses these for building blocks and information, and uses the other fat for fuel. And the unsaturated fats that we need are for information. They don’t come from the polyunsaturated plant foods. They’re very, very different. Okay, they have nothing to do with each other. So if you start understanding a little bit more, then you’re not going to just be like a leaf in the wind and change your mind every five minutes. And you can start making some good decisions for yourself and your family.