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15/10/2018 – News / Food Processing / Health / Ingredient / Coconut Oil / GlobalData

Is coconut oil starting to lose its shine with consumers?

Is coconut oil starting to lose its shin

The once acclaimed superfood ‘coconut oil’ has been exposed as a health myth, observes GlobalData, and this is leading the ingredient to lose its shine with consumer – a trend that the leading data analyst predicts will continue.

Once claimed to induce weight loss, boost your metabolism and provide energy, lower cholesterol and even treat digestive system diseases, coconut oil has more recently been discovered to be harmful. Yet the fact that coconut oil is comprised 80–90 per cent of saturated fat, which is responsible for bad cholesterol and cardiovascular diseases, has largely been overlooked by consumers, says GlobalData.


According to the firm’s 2017 Q1 survey, 53 per cent of consumers globally cited coconut oil as an ingredient with a positive impact on their health – down from the 58 per cent of consumers in a 2015 survey. As consumers become more informed about the real impact of coconut oil on their health, this number is expected to decline significantly.


A 2017 survey of the American Heart Association (AHA) found that 72 per cent of the American consumers labelled coconut oil as a ‘healthy food’, compared with 37 per cent of nutritionists, demonstrating how marketing efforts have separated public opinion from the views of health experts.


Notably, a tablespoon of coconut oil contains 120 calories and 11.2g of saturated fat. Regarding the latter, at up to 90 per cent, coconut oil has an even higher saturated fat content than butter, which contains roughly 64 per cent saturated fat.


A weighty claim


The rumour behind the health benefits of coconut oil revolves around a saturated fat called lauric acid. This fatty acid belongs to the category of medium-chain triglycerides, which, according to studies, are metabolised more quickly than other fats, boosting energy instead of being accumulated as fat, and also appearing to increase good cholesterol.


However, evidence of this are only robust in-vitro, and the impact on weight-loss and good cholesterol observed in people consuming coconut oil against other oils has not been assessed in the long-term. Aside from this, the processing or refinement of coconut oil by food processors can destroy those potentially beneficial elements.


Last year, the American Heart Association officially recommended consumers stop using coconut oil for cooking. The British Nutrition Foundation had earlier suggested a limited and infrequent intake. The next step could be regulatory restrictions on its use by the food industry.


In any case, as the myth around coconut oil starts to erode, the food industry is expected to shift towards less costly alternatives such as rapeseed oil and palm oil.

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