Monday, January 25, 2010

Higher Mortality Linked To Coconut Oil And Animal Fat

A few people mentioned epidemiological, or population differences, in my previous posts about coconut oil.

I saw this study a while back. It found that in populations with similar genetic makeup, those consuming more saturated fat, that is, more coconut oil, palm oil, and animal fat, had higher mortality rates, including death from heart disease:

Differences In All-Cause, Cardiovascular And Cancer Mortality Between Hong Kong And Singapore: Role Of Nutrition, European Journal of Epidemiology, 2001

From the abstract:
"The majority of inhabitants in Hong Kong and Singapore are ethnic Chinese, but all-cause and cardiovascular mortality rates in these two regions are markedly different.

The most pronounced finding was that ischemic heart disease mortality in 1993–1995 was 2.98 and 3.14 times higher in Singapore than in Hong Kong

Of the five countries considered, Singapore has the highest all-cause mortality in both sexes in the period of 1960–1995.

The ratio of animal to vegetal fat was higher in Singapore (2.24) than in Hong Kong (1.08).

Singapore had higher serum concentrations of total cholesterol and [LDL] than Hong Kong, but the opposite result was observed for [HDL].

These differences can be most reasonably and plausibly explained by their differences in dietary habits, for example, a higher consumption of coconut and palm oil, mainly containing saturated fat, in Singapore."
If coconut oil is a health food, as it's being promoted, why wasn't it protective against heart disease, instead of being associated with a greater than 3 times higher heart disease death rate?

For that matter...

If a high intake of animal fat is healthful, why was it associated with higher mortality in this study?

If a greater intake of saturated fat is healthful, why was it associated with higher mortality?

If higher serum cholesterol is healthful, as I've read elsewhere, why was it associated with higher mortality?

I don't see that the jury is in on this.
Photo of coconut butter from Wikipedia Commons.


Melissa said...

Have you been to either of these countries? Just because they are Asian island nation states doesn't mean they are a good comparison. Their cuisines, ethnic diversity, and the lifestyles of their populations are very different. This study tells us nothing. Singapore, in particular, is a major consumer of sugar and fried food. I have friends from Singapore and the sweets they make are nauseating.

I would be more interested to see a comparison of similar populations with varying diets like the tribes of Papua New Guinea. So far it seems based on studies of them, that coconut fat is not associated with disease.

Bix said...

Hi Melissa,
Were you asking if I have been to Singapore? No, but I'd love the warm weather! Have you been there?

Yes, epi studies such as this are useless as a foundation for clinical practice. Was yours an epi study too? As I said up front, since others were mentioning population trends I thought I'd mention one :)

Matt said...

One study does not a conclusion make
All I can see is the abstract. They cite saturated fat as an example of a dietary difference but we should review the whole of the diets before offering conclusions. I suspect there was author bias towards saturated fat leads to death conclusions. Also keep in mind Hong Kong is a metropolis, Singapore is a nix of rural and metro.

kelly said...

"The ratio of animal to vegetal fat was higher in Singapore (2.24) than in Hong Kong (1.08)."

It's all due to animal fat.

Also, do know the difference between Medium Chain Fatty acid (MCFA or MCT) and Long-chain fatty acid (LCFA). Both of which are saturated fats. One is coconut oil, the other is from animal oil which Wikipedia labels as 4% trans-fat.

Hydrogenated oil like margarine are a greater danger than coconut oil. It's really trans-fat.

Vegetable oil is not trans-fat till heated and semi-solid. Not that much different from plaque. Know the MacDonald's deception when they say VEGE OIL - NO TRANS-FAT? :)