Is the Coconut Oil Craze Over and Done?

Just a few years ago, it was everywhere.



Photo by: Magone


Remember how, for a while, coconut oil was the next big thing? Well, now, it seems, it' seems the trend may be on its way out.

Just a few years ago, coconut oil seemed to be everywhere — from baked goods to beauty produces. In 2011, New York Times writer Melissa Clark wrote a paean to it, noting that it had risen from its status as "the devil himself in liquid form" to become "the darling of the natural-foods world."

Allowing that the research may not back up the most wildly enthusiastic health claims about coconut oil (that it can help cure everything from acne to H.I.V. to a slow metabolism), Clark quoted researchers saying it was basically OK in moderation, and she waxed enthusiastic about the flavor, suggesting it brought a nutty, creamy sweetness to foods.

Last June, however, the American Heart Association issued a Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease Advisory in which it noted that, following a review of data on saturated fat, coconut oil was maybe actually a bit devilish after all.

"Because coconut oil increases LDL cholesterol, a cause of CVD [cardiovascular disease], and has no known offsetting favorable effects, we advise against the use of coconut oil," the advisory intoned.

The American public — faced with such advisory-spawned headlines as "Coconut oil isn't healthy. It's never been healthy" — seems to have gotten the memo, turning away from the erstwhile "superfood." In the past year, coconut oil retail sales, which peaked in 2015 at $229 million, have plummeted, dropping $52 million, or 24.3 percent, in 2017, according to data from health-and-wellness market research firm SPINS cited in the Chicago Tribune.

"There was a coconut craze several years ago," SPINS retail analyst Kimberly Kawa told the Tribune. "Now we're seeing [sales] come back down again."

Food Network nutrition expert and author Dana Angelo White, MS RD ATC, says she is not surprised to see coconut oil lose momentum.

"Consumers are figuring out what registered dietitians have know all along: Coconut oil is incredibly high in unhealthy saturated fats — containing more than butter or lard!" she tells Healthy Eats. "A diet high in saturated fats increase ‘bad' LDL cholesterol, a risk factor for heart disease."

That doesn't mean you have to live in abject terror of coconut oil. It has its place, in moderation, White contends.

"Coconut oil can be delicious in some recipes, especially as a vegan alternative for butter," she says. "I also use some to add an extra element of flavor in granola."

However, she says, she discourages die-hard coconut-oil fans from taking an "all coconut oil all the time" approach "since it is so high in saturated fat."

In other words, don't go nuts.

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