One type of saturated fat is especially valuable for those of us who have diabetes. Oils like coconut and MCT are the easiest for us to use, as I have written in my last four posts here, including “The Best Saturated Fats.”
But too many people avoid these great fats because they believe myths about them. When I interviewed Ron Rosedale, M.D., recently, he addressed these concerns.
Dr. Rosedale is one of my most trusted experts on what to eat. His website is “The Rosedale Program,” and he also wrote one of the best weight-loss guides, The Rosedale Diet.
I asked him about the concern that some people have that coconut oil raises our LDL cholesterol level. “But, I noted, “this may be a question of small dense versus big fluffy LDL.”
“Exactly,” Dr. Rosedale replied. “That’s what it is. It has nothing to do with coconut oil per se. Lowering carbohydrates and increasing fats is going to increase the size of the LDL particles. This is a good thing, and if you are only measuring the total quantity of LDL, it will probably increase that too — but that is also a good thing.”
He agreed with my observation that this is a question of the size of the different LDL particles. But he disagreed with me that we measured only total LDL because it’s easier to do.
“No,” Dr. Rosedale responded. “We measure what the pharmaceutical companies want us to measure. They are telling all the doctors to measure LDL, so they do, because statin drugs can lower it.
He told me that it has nothing whatever to do with health, and even less to do with diet. Rather, “It has everything to do with marketing and making money for large corporations.” It bothers him a lot.
“And it is not difficult to measure LDL particle size. It is actually relatively easy. And if it were done on a more routine basis, it would be relatively cheap. And this is what I tell people about measuring it: The best thing to do is to not. If there is relevance, it is going to have to do with particle size and number. The only time I recommend doing it is as a tool to get their primary care physician off of their back.”
One of the otherwise most accurate encyclopedias, Wikipedia, perpetuates a different myth about coconut and MCT oils. Wikipedia notes correctly in “Medium-chain triglycerides” that coconut oil is about two-thirds medium-chain triglycerides, which “are generally considered a good biologically inert source of energy.”
But then it goes off the rails. MCT “may be contraindicated in some situations due to their tendency to induce ketogenesis and metabolic acidosis. Their use is not recommended for diabetics unless under supervised medical treatment and those with liver problems due to the added stress they may put on the organ.”
Then, this Wikipedia entry quotes Shawn M. Talbott and Kerry Hughes, The Health Professional’s Guide to Dietary Supplements (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2007), p. 62, as its source. I checked it out, and Wikipedia followed it almost verbatim.
Concerned, I then asked Dr. Rosedale how would medium-chain triglycerides put added stress on the liver?
“It doesn’t,” he forcefully replied. “That’s a misconception in the medical community, and a lot of that has come from the so-called high fat studies. If you look at them, about 99 percent of them might have 30 percent fat and still keep 50 percent carbohydrate. It’s high in fat and even higher in carbohydrate. And when you give a high fat diet along with a high carbohydrate diet, you can’t burn the fat. And then it can accumulate in the liver and elsewhere, and it gives the impression that high fat is bad.
“They are calling it high fat and so the title of the study will be that ‘high fat causes liver disease’ or ‘high fat causes diabetes.’ But it doesn’t.
“The worst diet that you can be on is a high fat and high carbohydrate diet, because then the carbohydrates prevent you from burning the fat, and then it just sits around where it happens to be and gets stored.”
Dr. Rosedale set my mind at ease about using coconut and MCT oil. I now use these oils exclusively in my salads and elsewhere where I don’t need high heat. As I wrote in “The Best Saturated Fats,” I fry with another oil, ghee, because of its very high smoke point, although it is somewhat lower in medium-chain trigycerides.
Maybe these myths have kept you from making good use of these excellent cooking oils. If so, I hope that my sharing of Dr. Rosedale’s insights will relieve your concerns.
This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.
Never Miss An Update
Subscribe to my free newsletter “Diabetes Update”
I send out my newsletter on first of every month. It covers new articles and columns that I have written and important developments in diabetes generally that you may have missed.
My son has been a Type 1 diabetic for 25 years. His cholesterol recently skyrocketed well into the 300s. His HDL was only 52. My husband who is not diabetic recently had his cholesterol checked and it had also skyrocketed well into the 300s. The only change in their diet was the addition of MCT oil. They both stopped it and we will see what the next test results may be.
Example triglycerides should be 30 – 149 mine was 130 and it is usually below 90?? Same with LDL 0-129 is the scale mine 128 usually in the 70s. My HDL is usually over 100 yes 100 and this time it’s 93..
My LDL and Triglycerides increased and only diet change was MCT oil! They have never been at the normal end of the scale for normal levels !!!
I’ve read that MCTs get quickly converted into energy to fuel your brain and body instead of requiring a pit stop in the liver for processing, but another article (both from what seem to be trusted sources) claimed that MCT oil has been shown to break down in the liver, which leads to efficient burning of energy… Needless to say I’m now a little bit confused as to how MCTs are absorbed by the body. Could you please give me a simple explanation? It would be much appreciated!
Thanks in advance,
Maybe someone else can help, Joe. But I haven’t been concerned about how MCT works, just that it does. So I am not the expert, like Dr. Rosedale is, for example. I know that he writes about MCT oil that it is the one oil that our bodies do handle most efficiently.
Hi David, I am not at all worried about the impact of coconut oil on LDL, but I am getting slightly concerned on the effect of it on hepatic insulin sensitivity. There will be no impact on post prandial measurements after a low carb meal full with coconut oil, but it might descrease one’s tolerance on carbs – a common phenomena for those eating a carb restricted diet.
I’ve read that MCT oils leave out Lauric acid, probably the most beneficial aspect of coconuts, or if it is present, it is only present in minute amounts. Your thoughts on this David?
I’ve read that too, Mark. I don’t know if it’s true, but in any case I switched back to the more natural coconut oil.
I’d like to address Jill’s question, since no one else has answered her since July.
Jill, it is now generally accepted that sugar and carbohydrates in the diet elevate triglyceride levels with elevate cholesterol. It’s the carbs, in combination with the fats that you eat that raise your blood lipid levels.
Please use Google to find qualified information or head to your local library and let the librarian help you learn more. Meanwhile, here are some citations I’ve found for you on the web:
My question is regarding giving MCT oil and Coconut oil to my mother in law who has been diagnosed with Dementia. We plan on giving her 1 tbsp of each 3 times a day. How is this best prepared and can they be mixed and stored? Any information would be greatly appreciated! Thank you, Jennifer
Don’t store either oil in the fridge, but as usual storing them away from light is a good idea. Why mix them? MCT oil is essentially abstracted from coconut oil. The only way that I have ever used them is as my salad oil, mixed with vinegar (usually Bragg’s apple cider vinegar) and sometimes straight, especially for extra virgin coconut oil, which tastes great!
Is it ok to combine coconut oil, ghee, MCT oil
To eat with or drink it in coffee
Sure. They are all good oils.
How about omega 3 and 6 in coconut oil and also in MCT oil?What should a person use? I take it by the spoon full everyday is that too much? thank you. Guy
Excellent questions. And the answer is somewhat complex. Coconut oil is 1.8% omega 6 and 0% omega 3. That doesn’t sound good at first blush. It is not a favorable ratio, but the absolute amounts are much more important. That is very little omega 6. Compare this, for example, with olive oil, which is 9.762% omega 6 and 0.761% omega 3. This is of course a better ratio, but a MUCH worse amount of omega 6. And by comparison with more common cooking oils like soybean, corn, safflower, and canola, olive is very good in this respect. The source of this information is the USDA Nutrition Database, the gold standard (we have no tests that I know of by the USDA or other agencies about the omega 3/6 in Medium-chain triglycerides or MCT oil). So coconut oil is great in this respect (off the top of my head I can think of only one standard oil that has no omega 6 — or omega 3 — and that is macadamia nut oil).
Which oil to use, MCT or coconut? For some people MCT is the best oil. Athletes and people with compromised intestines, like my late wife, find it superior or in fact the only oil they can use. People with other diseases too. But for people with diabetes, I can’t really say. Both are excellent and I use both, but more often I use coconut oil, because it has a superior taste. I use it in my salad dressing (in a 2:1 ratio with Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar) most of the time. About 1/3 of the time I use extra-virgin olive oil.
How much coconut or MCT oil to use? At least one tablespoon per day, most experts recommend, like Dr. David Perlmutter in his forthcoming book “Grain Brain” that I am just preparing to review. Personally, I take three or four tablespoons per day in my salad dressing. However, if you have weight to lose, remember that this is a lot of calories and you might want to take less. These are, I think, the only considerations in terms of the amount.
My homeopath doctor wants me to use MCT oil and coconut oil and ghee. I am afraid to do so as my cholesterol and LDL is high and HDL low. There is no research done as these oils lowers cholesterol levels. Does anyone know of a medical research?
Actually, this should help. You can find a lot of research on this in dozens of my articles here.
In giving up all grains, do you mean grains such as: Brown Rice, Quinoa, Barley and Oatmeal too? Do these above mentioned grains contain the same harmful, fat storing properties as Wheat?
All except quinoa, which is actually a seed similar to a grain, so it is technically a pseudograin. Still, it is high in carbohydrates, so I don’t eat it any more.
As a secondary note, coconut oil over time cures almost everything from ezcema to alzheimer. But you need to be on a low carb diet. Not carb deprived. Eat vegetables and beans. No starches, sugars, grains (including bread stuff). This Definately works for alzheimer, and some claim it works for austim. 2 tablespoons of coconut oil daily. In about 2 months the ezcema will start to clear. It takes at least 3 to 6 months for alzheimer to start reversing itself. Have the person draw the picture of a normal clock. Watch the picture improve each month. But eating high carbs will prevent the good oil from being properly digested. Low carb (100 to 150 grams) with coconut oil. Don’t go below 50 grams of carbs. You need carbs, but not huge amounts.
It might be a slower go, but coconut oil is the better route. Nature has a way of providing a balanced approach. But when foods are separated into components, the symbiotic balance is lost. Modern milk is broken down and then re-contructed to create uniformity but the milk is never the same. Modern milk is inflammatory whereas raw untouched mik is anti-inflammatory and can clear up autoimmune disease and prevent rheumatic fever.
is this really effective to fight for diabetes?
The organic coconut oil I use says right on the label that you can heat it to 385º . I use an infrared digital thermometer to check my pan temperature and it never gets near to 385º unless I forget to put food in the pan for a long time after the oil heats up. As soon as you add food to the pan even on high heat on a gas stove the temperature drops a lot and is often under 300º. The reason I know this is because I use Volrath commercial non stick pans and if get them over 400º the fumes will kill a canary and are not that great for you as well.