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The Truth About Coconuts

The Truth About Coconuts

Many people automatically equate saturated fat with cholesterol. The case with coconuts is an example. While coconuts do have high saturated fat content, they do not contain cholesterol. Cholesterol only comes from animal-based products such as meat, milk, cheese, eggs, etc.

On the contrary, one coconut by-product may even be beneficial in lowering cholesterol. One encouraging study by the University of Kerala in India, explored the cholesterol-lowering effects of virgin coconut oil. The results showed that consuming virgin coconut oil lowered total cholesterol levels in the participants. LDL (bad cholesterol) decreased as well as triglycerides, but it also slightly increased HDL (good cholesterol) in the test subjects.

So there you go. Coconut does NOT contain cholesterol but does carry a high proportion of saturated fat. However, with virgin coconut oil, even with its high saturated fat content, there are potential benefits in lowering cholesterol as well.

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What is the best Cholesterol Chart to consult?

Lipid profiling, done advisedly every five years for a healthy individual, measures the body’s total cholesterol levels, with exact values for each lipoprotein. In the US,  cholesterol levels are quantified by milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL) while most European countries and Canada measure cholesterol in millimoles (mmol) per liter (L) of blood.

The American Heart Association recommends that total cholesterol in the body amounting to less than 200 mg/dL (Below 5.2 mmol/L) is healthy; with an optimal recommended LDL value of less than 100 mg/dL (Below 2.6 mmol/L); 60 mg/dL and above for HDL level (1.6 mmol/L) means reduced risk of heart diseases; and value lower than less than 40 mg/dL for men) and 50 mg/dL for women can pose an increased threat of heart disease. Cholesterol levels of 200-239 mg/dL (5.2-6.2 mmol/L) is borderline high but still manageable, and cholesterol levels of 240 mg/dL (or 6.2 mmol/L) and higher would pose a great risk to one’s cardiovascular health.

So many cholesterol charts depicting what is healthy and what’s risky in terms of cholesterol levels are available, but studies by a team of heart specialists – Drs. Dean Ornish, Glen Griffith, William Castelli, and John McDougall from Framingham Heart Study (http://www.framinghamheartstudy.org/) have revealed that a healthy total cholesterol count, nor healthy individual levels for LDL, HDL and triglycerides do not guarantee a healthy cardiovascular system. They argue that, though lipid levels are acceptable gauges in determining the risk for cardiovascular diseases, there are still a few factors to be considered. Different components of cholesterol have inter-related effects in the body and the ratio between one’s total cholesterol count, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides should also be taken into consideration.

Is it wise to determine one’s heart health with the use of cholesterol charts that show total cholesterol, HDL, LDL and triglycerides levels separately?  The doctors from Framingham Heart Study say no and they also warn that consulting such cholesterol charts can be dangerously misleading.

According to their study, people with cholesterol levels below 150 mg/dl are more likely not to suffer from heart diseases. In their study, the patients they have worked with had various  cholesterol levels of LDL, HDL and triglycerides, though their total cholesterol count never reached 150 mg/dl and no one, so far, have not suffered any heart conditions. This study have become the basis of the cholesterol chart below where the left column is the HDL level while the total cholesterol level is on the top row. Just match your total cholesterol count with your HDL level and you’ll get a fair idea of your risk when in comes to cardiovascular disease.

Using the Cholesterol Chart

How to read: Total Cholesterol (across the top), match with HDL Levels (along left  side), then factor in triglycerides.

Cholesterol Chart #1

Cholesterol Chart #1: (HDL is on the left column, Total Cholesterol is across the top.)

cholesterol chart 2

Cholesterol Chart #2: (HDL is on the left column, Total Cholesterol is across the top.)

Factor in Triglycerides

triglycerides chart

Triglycerides Chart

After you find your cholesterol risk from the cholesterol chart above (total cholesterol and HDL levels),  factor in triglycerides by finding your triglycerides number from the triglycerides chart on the left, then moving to the right of the cholesterol chart by the number of corresponding columns shown on the triglycerides chart:

So for example, if your total cholesterol is 181 and your HDL is 56, the cholesterol chart above will intersect at “Very Low”.  However  if your triglycerides is 750, this corresponds to moving 4 columns to the right of the cholesterol chart, which results in a risk level of  ”Average” when triglycerides is factored in.

Of course charts are used as a tool and not to diagnose, and are provided here for informational purposes only. For diagnosis, professional advice and guidance, it is always best to consult your health care provider.