Category Archives: HDL Cholesterol

Cholesterol levels linked Alzheimer’s – MNT

I have mentioned previously about losing three family members to Alzheimer’s Disease and/or dementia. Hence, my own serious concern about these mental conditions. I remember my aunt whom Alzheimer’s took had very high cholesterol late in life and had been warned by her doctor that she needed to get her numbers down. So, this study from  Medical News Today published several years ago had real meaning for me.

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Project leader Bruce Reed, a professor of neurology at the University of California (UC) Davis, and associate director of its Alzheimer’s Disease Center, says:

“Our study shows that both higher levels of HDL – good – and lower levels of LDL – bad – cholesterol in the bloodstream are associated with lower levels of amyloid plaque deposits in the brain.”

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Filed under aging brain, Alzheimer's disease, brain, brain function, brain health, cholesterol, HDL Cholesterol, LDL Cholesterol

Nuts Improve Cholesterol Levels – Tufts

“Nuts to you” used to be a way of putting someone down. But, according to Tufts, nuts might be a good way to get some of those pesky cholesterol levels down.

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At least part of the proven cardiovascular benefits of eating nuts can be explained by their effects on cholesterol and other blood lipids, according to new Tufts research. The meta-analysis of 61 controlled intervention trials totaling 2,532 participants found that tree nut intake lowered total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and lipoproteins (particles that transport fats through the body). The major determinant of cholesterol lowering appeared to be nut dose rather than nut type, so you can eat your favorite nuts without worrying about nutrient differences.

“This meta-analysis provides the most comprehensive estimates to date of the effects of tree nut intake on major cardiovascular disease risk factors,” says Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH, dean of Tufts’ Friedman School and editor-in-chief of the Health & Nutrition Letter, who was a co-author on the study.

Lead author Liana C. Del Gobbo, PhD, adds, “Accumulating evidence indicates that nut intake lowers risk of cardiovascular disease events. Our findings showing that nut intake significantly improves the lipid profile provide critical mechanistic evidence to support a causal link between nut intake and lowered cardiovascular disease risk.” Continue reading

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Harvard on the health aspects of eggs

Don’t feel bad for harboring any confusion about just how healthy or unhealthy eggs are in your diet. There has been a lot of information and, it turns out, some misinformation about the little chicken nuggets over the years. So, to put it eggs-actly straight here is the latest from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Long-vilified for their high cholesterol content by well-meaning doctors and scientists researching heart disease, eggs now seem to be making a bit of a comeback. So what changed?

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While it’s true that just one egg yolk has 200 mg of cholesterol—making it one of the richest sources of dietary cholesterol—eggs also contain additional nutrients that may help lower the risk for heart disease. In addition, the moderate amount of fat in an egg, about 5 grams, is mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. It’s also crucial to distinguish between dietary cholesterol and cholesterol in the blood, which are only weakly related. The focus on dietary cholesterol alone was de-emphasized as more attention was placed on the influence of saturated and trans fat on blood cholesterol. Accordingly, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015 removed the prior recommendation to limit consumption of dietary cholesterol to 300 mg per day.

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4 Ways to eat your way to lower cholesterol – Harvard

Following is one of those helpful email I get from Harvard from time to time. I thought you might find it interesting.

Many people can reduce cholesterol levels simply by changing what they eat. For example, if you are a fan of cheeseburgers, eating less meat (and leaner cuts) and more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains can lower your total cholesterol by 25% or more. Cutting back on saturated fat (found in meat and dairy products) and trans fat (partially hydrogenated oils) can reduce cholesterol by 5% to 10%.

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Here are four steps for using your diet to lower your cholesterol.

Stick with unsaturated fats and avoid saturated and trans fats. Most vegetable fats (oils) are made up of unsaturated fats that are healthy for your heart. Foods that contain healthy fats include oily fish, nuts, seeds, and some vegetables. At the same time, limit your intake of foods high in saturated fat, which is found in many meat and dairy products, and stay away from trans fats. These include any foods made with “partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.”

Get more soluble fiber. Eat more soluble fiber, such as that found in oatmeal and fruits. This type of fiber can lower blood cholesterol levels when eaten as part of a healthy-fat diet. Continue reading

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Saturated fat could be good for you

A Norwegian study challenges the long-held idea that saturated fats are unhealthy

Regular readers know that I am a big supporter of coconut oil – a saturated fat. You can check out my Page – Coconut oil – Why you should include it in your diet for more details.

A new Norwegian diet intervention study (FATFUNC), performed by researchers at the KG Jebsen center for diabetes research at the University of Bergen, raises questions regarding the validity of a diet hypothesis that has dominated for more than half a century: that dietary fat and particularly saturated fat is unhealthy for most people.

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The researchers found strikingly similar health effects of diets based on either lowly processed carbohydrates or fats. In the randomized controlled trial, 38 men with abdominal obesity followed a dietary pattern high in either carbohydrates or fat, of which about half was saturated. Fat mass in the abdominal region, liver and heart was measured with accurate analyses, along with a number of key risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

“The very high intake of total and saturated fat did not increase the calculated risk of cardiovascular diseases,” says professor and cardiologist Ottar Nygård who contributed to the study. Continue reading

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Is Your Cholesterol in Good Shape?

The message that hasn’t changed is this: If your blood has a lower level of bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, or LDL) and a higher level of the good kind (high-density lipoprotein, or HDL), you will reduce your risk of heart disease. Lifestyle modifications and/or medications are usually effective in shifting your cholesterol levels into a healthy range.

Cooking with Kathy Man

Gilles Beaudin wrote . . . .

Cholesterol has been getting a lot of press lately. The most recent news is the about face on dietary cholesterol. The American dietary guidelines no longer encourage restricted cholesterol consumption. Strong scientific evidence shows that dietary intake has little influence on levels of good and bad cholesterol in the body.

The message that hasn’t changed is this: If your blood has a lower level of bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, or LDL) and a higher level of the good kind (high-density lipoprotein, or HDL), you will reduce your risk of heart disease. Lifestyle modifications and/or medications are usually effective in shifting your cholesterol levels into a healthy range.

Surprisingly, a large number of heart attacks are seen in people with healthy levels of good cholesterol. This indicates that there is something going on beyond the numbers, and that is the quality and function of…

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Sugar Substance ‘Kills’ Good HDL Cholesterol, New Research Finds

A potentially damaging substance, MG is formed from glucose in the body. It is 40,000 times more reactive than glucose it damages arginine residue (amino acid) in HDL at functionally important site causing the particle to become unstable.

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Scientists at the University of Warwick have discovered that ‘good’ cholesterol is turned ‘bad’ by a sugar-derived substance.

The substance, methylglyoxal – MG, was found to damage ‘good’ HDL cholesterol, which removes excess levels of bad cholesterol from the body.

Low levels of HDL, High Density Lipoprotein, are closely linked to heart disease, with increased levels of MG being common in the elderly and those with diabetes or kidney problems.

Supported by funding from the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and published in Nutrition and Diabetes, the researchers discovered that MG destabilises HDL and causes it to lose the properties which protect against heart disease.

HDL damaged by MG is rapidly cleared from the blood, reducing its HDL content, or remains in plasma having lost its beneficial function.

Lead researcher Dr Naila Rabbani, of the Warwick Medical School, says that: “MG damage to HDL is a new and likely important cause…

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3 Diet Changes to help lower cholesterol levels – Harvard

If you have concerns about your cholesterol levels, there are several steps you can take to lower them, according to Harvard HEALTHbeat. They include losing weight if needed, being more active, and choosing healthy foods.

choleshtline“Here are three simple steps toward a healthier, cholesterol-lowering diet:

•    Choose healthy fats. Avoid saturated fats, which increase unhealthy LDL levels, and steer clear of trans fats, which both raise LDL and lower protective HDL. Instead, substitute healthier unsaturated fats found in fish, nuts, and vegetable oils.
•    Go with whole grains. Whole-grain breads, pastas, and cereals help prevent a blood sugar roller coaster and make you feel full longer. Many of these foods contain fiber, which can help lower LDL levels.
•    Make other healthy choices. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Ideally, substitute these for processed foods and sweets. Choose fat-free milk instead of whole milk. Opt for low-fat yogurt and pick brands that are not loaded with sugar.

•    For the record, I believe not all saturated fats are unhealthy. This blog is firmly behind coconut oil, a saturated fat. Check out my page – Why You Should Include Coconut Oil in Your Diet.

For more on how to reduce your risks of conditions from heart disease to dementia, buy Men’s Health Fifty and Forward, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.

Tony

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Coconut Oil Featured in Wall Street Journal

As regular readers know, I am a big fan of coconut oil. Just look at the top of this page to see Why You Should Include Coconut Oil in Your Diet.

So, you can imagine my surprise when I turned to the Personal Journal section of the Wall Street Journal and saw this headline: Unlikely Source of Healthy Fat: Coconuts, by Laura Johannes.
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The piece leads off with, “Coconut oil, which is high in saturated fats, is increasingly being heralded as a healthy oil. Its advocates, including companies that sell it, say it’s nutritious, good for the heart and a fast source of energy. The oil may possibly protect against Alzheimer’s disease, they say.”

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Filed under aerobics, Alzheimer's, April Fool's Day, cholesterol, coconut oil, Exercise, HDL Cholesterol, healthy fats, healthy living

Saturated Fat Does Not Cause Heart Disease – Annals of Internal Medicine

A growing body of research is starting to convince many doctors to think again how they look at fats and heart disease, according to Healthy Ways Newsletter.

A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine this week showed that despite decades of old nutritional advice Cambridge University researchers have found that giving up fatty meat, cream or butter is not likely to improve health. Also, so-called ‘healthy’ polyunsaturated fats do not prevent cardiovascular problems.

The new study indicates that there is more than one kind of LDL molecule. The larger ones are benign while the smaller ones cause the problems.

The new study indicates that there is more than one kind of LDL molecule. The larger LDL molecules are benign while the smaller ones cause the problems.

They want the guidelines to be changed to reflect the growing evidence that there is no overall association between saturated fat consumption and heart disease.

The new research came from a meta analysis of data from 72 studies including more than 600,000 individuals from 18 countries.

Dr. Rajiv Chowdhury is the lead author of the new study and a cardiovascular epidemiologist in the department of public health and primary care at Cambridge University.

“The primary reason saturated fat has historically had a bad reputation is that it increases low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or LDL, the kind that has been assumed to raise the risk for heart attacks. But the relationship between saturated fat and LDL is complex, said Dr. Chowdhury. In addition to raising LDL cholesterol, saturated fat also increases high-density lipoprotein, or HDL, the so-called good cholesterol that has shown to protect against heart disease. And the LDL that it raises is a subtype of big, fluffy particles that are generally benign,” Healthy Ways reported.

“The smallest and densest form of LDL is more dangerous. These particles are easily oxidized and are more likely to set off inflammation and contribute to the buildup of artery-narrowing plaque. An LDL profile that consists mostly of these particles usually coincides with high triglycerides and low levels of HDL, both risk factors for heart attacks and stroke.

“The smaller, more artery-clogging particles are increased not by saturated fat, but by sugar, sugary foods, and an excess of carbohydrates, Dr. Chowdhury said. “It’s the high carbohydrate or sugary diet that should be the focus of dietary guidelines,” he said. “If anything is driving your low-density lipoproteins in a more adverse way, it’s carbohydrates.”

The fat story is a complex one. I think it is important to focus on Dr. Chowdhury’s observation that the LDL that is raised is a subtype of big fluffy particles that are generally benign. In my experience, I have only read that LDL is the ‘bad’ cholesterol and we need to reduce it. Apparently that is not the case. It is sugar that increases the small and harmful LDL.

As I have written here more than once, I eat coconut oil , a saturated fat, every day in a number of ways and my cholesterol numbers have only gotten better.

To read more about the benefits of coconut oil check out my Page: Why You Should Include Coconut Oil in Your Diet.

Tony

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Filed under arterial plaque, coconut oil, HDL Cholesterol, LDL Cholesterol

5 Reasons Stair Climbing is Good For You – Part One

Regular readers know that I have been an avid bicycle rider for years. I logged over 7000 miles in the year just ended. And, I have not stopped riding. I have, however, begun a new exercise, for me – climbing stairs.

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Although this person is walking down the stairs, I don’t recommend it. You can develop knee problems among others.

How come? Well, the only drawback to cycling I know of is that it is not weight-bearing. So, while the aerobic activity benefits my cardiovascular system greatly, I get no benefits for my skeletal system. I need both and I just can’t get into weight workouts.

An additional benefit of  stair climbing over bike riding is that you can do it indoors so the weather conditions do not present a problem. Having just suffered through historic cold weather with much of the country, this is particularly relevant now. While current temps here in Chicago range in the mid 30’s, there is still a lot of snow, ice and slush around that makes for dangerous biking conditions.

So, what about climbing stairs? It burns more calories than running and doesn’t beat up your legs as much as running does. RunSociety says, “When you stair climb for exercise, you burn twice the fat in half the time than if you run and three times more than walking. An intense stair-climbing exercise session will produce more aerobic benefits in a shorter amount of time than running or walking. One hour of stair climbing will burn approximately 1000 calories.”

Nonetheless, you can climb at your own pace and still get a good workout.

A New York Times article by Dr. Harvey Simon on the heath sciences technology faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and founding editor of the Harvard Men’s Health Watch, wrote, “What’s so special about climbing stairs? Researchers in Canada answered the question by monitoring 17 healthy male volunteers with an average age of 64 while they walked on the level, lifted weights or climbed stairs. Stair climbing was the most demanding. It was twice as taxing as brisk walking on the level and 50 percent harder than walking up a steep incline or lifting weights. And peak exertion was attained much faster climbing stairs than walking, which is why nearly everyone huffs and puffs going up stairs, at least until their “second wind” kicks in after a few flights.”
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Coconut Oil May Improve Your Brain

I tried coconut oil for the first time back in April and I wrote Why should I try coconut oil? enumerating facts about how endurance athletes (bike riders like me) use it as a high energy food;  how it helps to boosts our HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) readings, it has healing properties, etc.

Now comes a write up by Dr. Mercola about how coconut oil appears to be the perfect brain food.

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As I have mentioned in previous posts, I lost an aunt to Alzheimer’s and my mother suffered from dementia in her final years. The possibility that coconut oil could be a positive influence on the brain resonated powerfully with me.

The following is from Dr. Mercola: “There are only two types of fuel your body can convert into energy: carbs/sugar, or fat. Again, ketones are what your body produces when it converts fat (as opposed to glucose) into energy. And a primary source of ketone bodies are the medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) found in coconut oil. In fact, coconut oil contains about 66 percent MCTs. Continue reading

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How to Improve your Cholesterol Numbers

To begin with, what is cholesterol? WebMD says, “Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance made in the liver and other cells and found in certain foods, such as food from animals, like dairy products, eggs, and meat.”

The body needs some cholesterol to function properly, but you can have too much of this good thing. Too much cholesterol leads to plaque formations in the arteries which can cut into blood flow to the heart. Over time this can result in heart disease.

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When you have bloodwork done and get cholesterol numbers, there are at least five of them. These are confusing to a lot of folks. My latest numbers included Cholesterol, Triglycerides, HDL and LDL Cholesterol and Non-HDL Cholesterol.

The number most people focus on is Total Cholesterol which is generally recommended to be around 200 or below. However, the total cholesterol number is not at all the most important. Here is why. You have two kinds of cholesterol in this series. The first is HDL – High Density Lipoprotein the second LDL -Low Density Lipoprotein.

Web MD says, “Low density lipoproteins (LDL): also called “bad” cholesterol, can cause buildup of plaque on the walls of arteries. The more LDL there is in the blood, the greater the risk of heart disease.

“High density lipoproteins (HDL): also called “good” cholesterol, helps the body get rid of bad cholesterol in the blood. The higher the level of HDL cholesterol, the better. If levels of HDL are low, the risk of heart disease increases.

In this simplified grouping, one can easily become confused. Bruce Fife, Publisher of the Healthy Ways Newsletter, says, “When people ask me about their cholesterol values I tell them to ignore total cholesterol and look at their cholesterol ratio. In every case, the cholesterol ratio improves when they start using coconut oil and their risk of heart disease drops.”

The Mayo Clinic says, “You can calculate your cholesterol ratio by dividing your high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good”) cholesterol into your total cholesterol. For example, if your total cholesterol is 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) (5.2 millimoles per liter, or mmol/L) and your HDL cholesterol is 50 mg/dL (1.3 mmol/L), your cholesterol ratio is 4-to-1.”

The American Heart Association says the goal is to keep your cholesterol ratio 5-to-1 or lower. The best ratio is 3.5-to-1. “A higher ratio indicates a higher risk of heart disease; a lower ratio indicates a lower risk.”

I have bloodwork done at least once a year and usually more often. I wrote about my last doctor visit in June of this year in What do you look for in a cholesterol report?

Here are my numbers from that visit.
CHOLESTEROL
197 Standard Range 0 – 200 mg/dL
TRIGLYCERIDES
46 Standard Range 50 – 150 mg/dL
HDL CHOLESTEROL
85 Standard Range >=40   mg/dL
LDL CHOL (CALC)
103 Standard Range 0 – 100 mg/dL
Non-HDL Cholesterol
112 Standard Range 0 – 130 mg/dL

My cholesterol ratio (see above) is 85 (HDL) divided into 197 (Total) for a 2.32 ratio, well below the recommended one.

WebMD recommends the following to lower your cholesterol and risk of heart disease:

• Eat low-cholesterol foods. The American Heart Association recommends that you limit your average daily cholesterol intake to less than 300 milligrams. If you have heart disease, limit daily intake to less than 200 milligrams. People can significantly lower their dietary cholesterol intake by keeping their dietary intake of saturated fats low and by avoiding foods that are high in saturated fat and that contain substantial amounts of dietary cholesterol.
• Quit smoking. Smoking lowers HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels. This trend can be reversed if you quit smoking.
• Exercise. Exercise increases HDL cholesterol in some people. Even moderate-intensity activities, if done daily, can help control weight, diabetes, and high blood pressure — all risk factors for heart disease.
• Take medication as prescribed by your doctor. Sometimes making changes to your diet and increasing exercise is not enough to bring cholesterol down. You may also need to take a cholesterol-lowering drug.

Besides the four excellent recommendations on lowering your cholesterol from WebMD listed, I would like to add that I consume several tablespoons of coconut oil every day. I discovered coconut oil in April of this year and you can read about it on this Page Why you should include coconut oil in your diet. From April till June when I got my bloodwork done, I had begun to include coconut oil in my diet. I would have a tablespoon or two every morning. In addition, I also cooked with it whenever possible. You can see my recipe for Hawaiian pasta which I wrote about in May. I also use it for popcorn which I eat most nights. Although I have only had a couple of months of coconut oil consumption, I reduced my total cholesterol and increased HDL cholesterol and the important cholesterol ratio. Check it out. You might have good results, too.

Tony

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What Do You Look for in a Cholesterol Report?

Regular readers know that I am a senior citizen and work at keeping up on my health. I get blood work done at least once a year and sometimes more often. This week was one of those times, so I thought it might help you to understand your cholesterol number more if I went over mine.

Here are my numbers from Tuesday.
CHOLESTEROL
197 Standard Range 0 – 200 mg/dL
TRIGLYCERIDES
46 Standard Range 50 – 150 mg/dL
HDL CHOLESTEROL
85 Standard Range >=40   mg/dL
LDL CHOL (CALC)
103 Standard Range 0 – 100 mg/dL
Non-HDL Cholesterol
112 Standard Range 0 – 130 mg/dL

As you can see from the standard ranges offered, I am on the high side for total cholesterol, but the main reason is that my HDL cholesterol – the good cholesterol – is so high.
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How Good Are Mini Exercise Sessions?

A very commonly heard reason (excuse) for not exercising is I just don’t have the time. Everybody finds themselves working longer hours these days. That’s one of the explanations for the increased productivity we hear so much about. Businesses cut jobs and reallocate the work among the remaining employees. I get it. You are likely to be working longer hours now than you ever have in your life. But there are solutions for curtailed free time.

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One of the basic facts of healthy living that you need to know is that exercise is not optional. You need to do it. If you aren’t getting some kind of exercise, you are on a fast track to big time medical problems. Being overweight and under exercised is a prayer to an unkind god that will be answered in a way that does not make you happy.

One of the basic principles of healthy living is that you can break exercise up into smaller segments. Your body needs 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. Besides providing much-needed work for your muscles and cardiovascular system, exercise also helps to lower your LDL cholesterol (the bad one) and raises your HDL cholesterol (the good one).

You can break up your 30 minute exercise requirement into 10 minute segments three times a day and still get the benefit of 30 minutes of exercise.

Remember there are lots of ways you can do exercise without going to the health club. Park the car at the far end of the lot and walk the rest of the way to work, shopping mall or supermarket.

If you work or live in a high rise building, take the stairs for the last few flights. Stair climbing is a super exercise to get your heart going. You are using the big muscles in your legs to lift your body and pump your blood around your circulatory system. I have written a number of posts on the benefits of stair climbing: Stair climbing is good for you – Part One, Stair climbing is good for you – Part Two, Stair climbing is good for you – Part Three and Stair climbing is good for you – Part Four.

Get going on these mini exercise segments and remember to be kind to yourself. If you only get in two instead of three, do it again tomorrow. Two is better than none.

Tony

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Why Should I Try Coconut Oil?

That’s what I was asking myself the last time I was in Costco and passed one of their giant displays of 3+ pound jars of it. I could see the white substance inside that was solid at room temperature. Oil?

Coconut oil is a saturated fat and we need to avoid saturated fats, right? I can’t count the times I have written in negative terms about the saturated fat content of various food items.

Nonetheless, I found myself intrigued by the coconut oil. So, I bought some.

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When I got home, I learned some very positive things about coconut oil on the web.

Coconutoil.com says, “Coconut oil is an edible oil that has been consumed in tropical places for thousands of years. Studies done on native diets high in coconut oil consumption show that these populations are generally in good health, and don’t suffer as much from many of the modern diseases of western nations where coconut oil is seldom consumed anymore.”

That’s certainly a positive start.

Livestrong.com had especially good things to say about coconut oil for endurance athletes, like bike riders, “Raw coconut oil is different from most other oils because it has a high content of medium chain triglycerides – MCTs – which are also sometimes called medium chain fatty acids … according to Paul Insel, R. Elaine Turner and Don Ross, authors of ‘Discovering Nutrition.’ This means your body uses them for fuel immediately, unlike other types of fat. As a result products with coconut oil are popular with endurance athletes who need high-energy food.”

But what about those saturated fats? Continue reading

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