Triglycerides, a type of fat in your bloodstream, can clog your arteries and make you more susceptible to heart attacks and strokes. If you follow a low-fat, low-sugar diet and exercise regularly, you can lower your triglycerides by 50 percent, according to the American Heart Association. Coconut oil, high in saturated fat, may contribute to unhealthy triglyceride levels.
Healthy Triglyceride Levels
Your triglyceride levels should measure less than 150mg/dl–milligrams per deciliter of blood. In April 2011, the American Heart Association lowered its standard for heart-healthy triglycerides to 100mg/dl, but the higher level remains the general standard. If your triglycerides top 200mg/dl, you face a high risk of developing cardiovascular disease and, if they measure more than 500mg/dl, you face a very high risk. Other factors, including your age, gender, genetics, medical history and lifestyle, create additional risk factors.
If you want to lower your triglycerides, limit saturated fat to 16g a day. Most saturated fat comes from animal products–meat and dairy–but coconut and other tropical oils also contain high amounts of saturated fat. One tablespoon of coconut oil contains about 11.8g of saturated fat, nearly three times as much as in 1 tbsp. of margarine, which contains 3g, and more than in a 1/4 lb. hamburger, which contains 8g of saturated fat. Industrial coconut oil, used in whipped toppings and coffee whiteners, contains more saturated fat than regular coconut oil–12.7g per tbsp.
If you obtain coconut oil from coconut-filled cookies, candies or other sweets, you may consume both too much saturated fat and too much trans fat. Many chocolates and commercial baked goods contain high amounts of trans fat, a man-made fat created when turning vegetable oils into a solid such as margarine or shortening. A single store-bought macaroon contains 4.4g of saturated fat–more than 25 percent of your daily limit–and a dark chocolate, coconut-filled candy bar contains nearly 11g of saturated fat per serving. An average candy bar, with or without coconut, contains 3g of trans fat–more than a day's supply, according to the United States Food and Drug Administration, as reported by the Brigham and Women's Hospital.
Despite the saturated fat in coconut oil and its high caloric content–100 calories per tablespoon, about the same as all oils--you may read online that taking large amounts of coconut oil can help you lose weight and lower your cholesterol. Some logic behind the claims stems from the fact that not all saturated fats are created equal. The fat in coconut oil differs structurally from the fat in butter and therefore may act very differently in your body. But science as of 2011 neither supports nor refutes claims about the ability of coconut oil to burn fat. Until more research is completed, it could prove a gamble to add coconut oil to your diet.