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Ask Dr. D'Adamo: Why Can't I Eat Coconut?

Jun 22nd, 2018

QUESTION: Is the avoid status of coconut oil for Type O Secretors (and other types for that matter) based on the high saturated fat content or the existence of a harmful lectin remaining in oil? I just wanted to get this cleared up because some reports say coconut is healthy for you, and some say it’s not. All of this debate is driving me just a little batty!

ANSWER: Although palm and coconut oil do not contain cholesterol, they are very high in saturated fat; because of this it is probable that they accelerate the cholesterol-raising properties of other foods that do contain cholesterol--a potential problem if you are Type O and are using animal protein as a basis of your diet.

Saturated fat will increase serum cholesterol even if there is no cholesterol in the diet (as in a vegan diet). Most of the cholesterol in the blood is not cholesterol that has come from the diet, but rather is cholesterol which has been synthesized by the body. Evidence suggests that saturated fat has this effect because it causes a reduction in the rate that liver cells synthesize LDL receptors, which are molecules responsible for removal of cholesterol from the blood. Thus, a vegan diet that was high in coconut oil would be expected to significantly elevate serum cholesterol relative to a vegan diet without the coconut oil – a potential problem if you are Type A (already with a genetic proclivity to elevated cholesterol) and are using a low fat strategy as a basis for your diet.

The Blood Type/Lectin Argument:

Lauric acid, a component of coconut oil, has a reputation of possessing anti-viral activity, and had been studied against vesicular stomatitis virus, arenavirus and a few others. However, virtually all studies have been in-vitro, using concentrations which if taken by mouth would certainly produce massive digestive upset. For this reason, it has been used by many individuals with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, though no studies exist that support the use of lauric acid against Epstein Barr virus or Herpes virus.

The same basis by which lauric acid gains anti-viral activity is also the mechanism by which it may promote additional sensitivity to dietary lectins. This phenomenon is called ‘receptor capping.’ In essence, similar charges tend to keep cell surface receptors (like the blood group antigens) uniformly spaced apart from each other. Since lauryl acyl chains act as a type of emollient/detergent on the cell wall (which is why they put it in soaps) they can disrupt the surface tension of the cell surface, thereby causing cell antigens to aggregate, potentially disrupting many cell-to-cell functions.

My advice: Keep the lauric acid in your soaps and shampoos and the coconut oil in your moisturizers.