I’m keeping my coconut oil

I’m a little late with my response to the coconut oil debate, but I needed time to process what was being put forth by the American Heart Association (AHA). I needed time  because I spent two and a half years working for a cardiovascular prevention non-profit that partnered with AHA on many programs. So, I wanted to be careful with my response as I respect folks working for the organization.

For those of you who don’t know, I spent most of my career in in public health. I admire the people in this field as most work tirelessly to improve the health and well-being of Americans (particularly those underserved). But well-intentioned people aren’t always right. In fact, when it comes to nutrition, these well-intentioned people are often wrong. It’s part of the reason I left the field.

You see, the American Heart Association, like many non-profits funded by the government, say they are invested in American’s health. And I believe most people working for the organization want to improve people’s health. But, the reality is, the organization themselves don’t always promote habits that improve your health. And their coconut oil report showcases just that.

I’m so frustrated that the AHA would not only advise against a fat that has been shown to reduce obesity and atherosclerosis but, in the same report, promote oils that increase inflammation and weight gain. It’s these types of reports that cause mass confusion about what is healthy and what is not. After all, we’re conditioned to trust non-profits like the American Heart Association. But the more time I spent in public health, the more I realized we shouldn’t. Organizations funded by the government to promote lifestyle change usually advocate for Americans to follow the USDA guidelines. Yet, those guidelines serve to make us sicker. You don’t need dairy at every meal. Nor do you need grains. But USDA will never say that. And, as a result, people are getting sicker and fatter.

So, maybe this wasn’t the most respectful response to the American Heart Association’s report on coconut oil. But they disrespected the American public when they put out findings and a call-to-action that confuses people, and, worse, could make them unhealthier. For those of you still on the fence about coconut oil, I encourage you to do some research. I think you’ll quickly find that AHA’s opponents are much more knowledgeable and much healthier than the folks who stand by it.