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2. Tropical oils
The claim: Coconut, palm and palm kernel oils are frequently used to replace trans fats in processed foods, and they're now being positioned as the new healthy oils. Coconut oil is especially coming on strong, with books such as The Coconut Oil Miracle and Web sites claiming that the oil can decrease your heart disease risk, prevent cancer, boost your immune system and help you lose weight.
Why they're overrated: While it's true that some of the fatty acids in coconut oil are different from those found in animal products, there is no evidence to suggest coconut oil is better for you than other saturated fats, said Alice H. Lichtenstein, a nutrition researcher at Tufts University in Boston. Numerous studies have shown that coconut oil can raise LDL or bad cholesterol, she said. For years, it's what researchers fed to animals to induce atherosclerosis. Despite the aggressive attempts to improve its tarnished image, coconut oil is still mostly saturated fat, and research does not support the battery of claims.
Bottom line: Do not run out and buy coconut oil, especially if you plan to use it in place of more beneficial oils that have been thoroughly studied, such as olive, canola and other vegetable oils.
December 9, 2009