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Is coconut oil better than butter?

Here at Healthpath, we’re proud to offer evidence-based advice. However, we’re aware that science can seem a bit impenetrable and dry. Boring, even.

We also believe that education is the first step to regain control. We read a lot of scientific papers, so we thought it would be a good idea to create a digest (no pun intended) of some of the key research.

We hope these plain-English versions bring the science to life and—even more importantly—help you address your symptoms for good.

 

“Randomised trial of coconut oil, olive oil or butter on blood lipids and other cardiovascular risk factors in healthy men and women”

 

What’s the title in plain English?

A study looking at the effect of different fats on cholesterol.

 

What did they do?

In this randomised trial, men and women age 50–75 were assigned to either a coconut oil, butter or olive oil group. Each group ate 50g daily of their assigned fat. They didn’t change anything else about their diets. After four weeks, the participants’ blood lipid levels and weight were measured.

 

What are the take-home points from the study?

1. LDL cholesterol (‘bad’ cholesterol) significantly increased in the butter group compared to the coconut oil group, yet there was no difference between coconut oil and olive oil. Coconut oil significantly increased HDL cholesterol (‘good’ cholesterol) compared to butter or olive oil. Interestingly, C-reactive protein (a general marker of inflammation) was significantly lower in the coconut oil group compared to both the olive oil and butter groups.

2. There were no significant differences in weight loss, BMI and fasting blood glucose across any of the groups, although it’s important to remember that this was just a short-term trial. Another key point is that the study did not address cardiovascular disease directly, but rather studied blood-lipid markers based on the assumption that these are well-established risk factors for heart disease. Long-term studies following whole populations that eat different forms of fat would provide more accurate data on fat consumption and cardiovascular outcomes.

3. Self-reported compliance was high (87%) across all groups, yet as the study wasn’t conducted in a clinical ward there may be inaccuracies based on self-reporting data. As such, individuals may have also changed their normal dietary behaviours in different ways to accommodate the additional fat.

The Healthpath view

The results of this study indicate that even though coconut oil and butter are both saturated fats, they appear to have different biochemical effects. Based on the data from this study, it seems that coconut oil may be more favourable for cardiovascular health. Additional studies are needed to understand the long-term effects of dietary fat on health and disease.

 

Read the full published study here

 Ref: Khaw, K., Sharp, S.J., Finikarides, L., Afzal, I., Lentjes, M., Luben, R. and Forouhi, N.G., 2018. Randomised trial of coconut oil , olive oil or butter on blood lipids and other cardiovascular risk factors in healthy men and women. pp.1–14.

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