Recently you may have seen an article that was released about a study conducted by the American Heart Association stating that coconut oil isn’t as healthy as we thought. In fact, the article published by USA Today had an alarming headline, “Coconut oil isn’t healthy. It’s never been healthy.” However, I have noticed that articles are written about studies and when you dive deeper into the study there is a lot of context and information that is typically missing.
In this case the study focuses on all saturated fats. As with anything, not everything that is classified within a group is created equal. When you read the Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease: A Presidential Advisory From the American Heart Association there is no mention of the type of saturated fat that is part of this study, yet parallels were made that coconut oil is the demon. One part that is missing is the source of saturated fat that can lead to heart disease and obesity. If someone’s diet is made up of a large amount of pizza, and someone else consumes coconut oil, will they have the same health issues?
For a full explanation of why doctors disagree with the American Heart Association findings, this article from Mind Body Green does a great job of outlining why coconut oil can be healthy. In the article one doctor explained, “the AHA’s recommendation is based on an out of date and oversimplified understanding of the role of cholesterol in heart disease.”
In general I have been noticing more and more that articles on health-related news are not always accurate so you may want to dig a little deeper or ask certain questions when you see a headline that doesn’t sit well with you. Some things to look for include:
- The sample size – Sometimes studies will draw conclusions based on a study conducted with 20-50 people. While a small group can represent the general population, the the composition of the sample is really what’s important in order to determine if it is representative of the general public.
- How/who was the study conducted on? – I once saw an article that drew parallels between humans and birds. Something tells me that the makeup of a human being and a bird are not quite the same. In this case, the finding would have been a hypothesis that requires additional substantiation.
- Holes in the study – Did the study look at all aspects to collect the data required to draw the conclusions they made?
With all of the conflicting health information in the news, sometimes we need to take the role of detective whether you agree or disagree with the information in order to separate fact from misinformation. One way to do this is to cross-reference the information to see if it has been reported by more than one reputable source.
While it is likely this type of reporting will continue, it is important that we take some of the information with a grain of salt and do additional digging/research if necessary.
Laura B. Folkes is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) and is a Certified Holistic Health Coach. She supports busy adults who know what they should be eating but have a hard time sticking to it by helping them identify the root cause of what’s keeping them from sticking to what they know works. She ensures her clients don’t feel deprived by guiding them to make small, incremental changes so the journey is more enjoyable. After successfully losing 60 pounds and working through her own emotional relationship with food, Laura recognizes there are many factors keeping individuals from sticking to what they know works but it’s her mission to help others overcome these factors to become healthier and happier.
To learn more contact Laura at firstname.lastname@example.org.