Breaking news: Coconut Oil

Let's catch you up with studies and news that recently made the headlines!

Detox Specialist

Food Allergies and Intolerances

Coconut oil as unhealthy as beef fat and butter?

“Coconut oil as unhealthy as beef fat and butter,” the BBC reported a few days ago…

If you find this confusing, you’re not alone. I got so many questions about it, so let’s clear things up!

First of all, where does this story come from?

A new paper released by the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends to "replace" saturated fats by unsaturated fats to decrease your heart disease risk:

  • Saturated fats are abundant in animal foods (butter, cheese, cream, beef fat) but also in plant foods (coconut oil being one of the main ones).
  • Unsaturated fats include Omega 3s (such as ALA from flaxseeds, or DHA from oily fish), Omega 6s (such as GLA from vegetable oils) and Omega 9s (such as oleic acid from olives and avocados).

What's the recommendation based on?

The AHA recommendation is based on looking at controlled feeding trials where the incidence of heart disease was reduced when saturated fat intake was replaced with unsaturated fat intake.

In contrast, when the trials used carbohydrates to replace sat fats, heart disease risk didn’t go down.

What's the main glitch?

While the AHA authors use the word “replace” across their paper, I personally think that a complete “replacement” is impossible to achieve. Why?

Saturated fat is present in so many plant foods too, from nuts and seeds, to avocados, to olive oil… And the participants’ diets were quite rich in those foods, too! So I’m not sure about the accuracy of their language choice…

As you can see on this table, even sunflower oil and corn oil contain saturated fat (around 5% to 11%):

What should we make of this?

What you need to remember is that in nutrition science there are no “absolutes”… For that reason, it’s best to avoid making blank statements based on news articles, particularly when you advise your clients.

You should also keep in mind that most scientific studies report averages, so individual variability is often left “out of the picture”.

But individual variability matters…

This means that we cannot say that saturated fat is unhealthy for most people. Or that saturated fat is healthy for most people.

Each of us is intrinsically different, metabolises nutrients differently, and responds differently to identical diets.

For example, there are several genes associated with inefficient fat metabolism. So if you cannot metabolise saturated fat or ketone bodies properly, a high fat diet (or even a ketogenic diet) can do more harm than good!

Caution: There are definitely some individuals who may want to minimise saturated fat in their diet. This includes those with a genetic disorder called Familial Hypercholesterolemia and those who have the Epsilon4 mutation at the ApoE gene. Today, we know that about 26-30% of the population carries that mutation. A lot of us!


White vs brown bread, but no winner?

Here’s another example of nutrition news that make great headlines, but when you look at the study you find something entirely different...

A few days ago, the Daily Mail reported: “Is wholemeal bread really any better for you? People who eat white are no less healthy, study finds.”

The Daily Mail reporter suggested that there is no difference between the two types of bread in terms of health effects.

But when you look at the study, you see a different story:

  • The responses varied from person to person, depending on the type of bread eaten for a week and gut bacteria composition.
  • There were only 20 participants. That’s a very small group, so we can’t extrapolate this to “everyone” else.
  • Their blood glucose and other biomarkers were measured for a week. This is too short to gather meaningful data.

What did the experiment involve?

The participants ate the same amount of digestible carbohydrates from either white bread or whole wheat sourdough bread for a week. This means that the whole wheat sourdough group ate MORE bread because whole wheat has less digestible carbohydrates (and a lot of fibre).

The researchers tried to explain the individual differences based on an “algorithm” they came up with regarding gut bacteria composition. This algorithm is what they intend to use to commercialise a stool test with diet recommendations.

But we don’t know who funded this study, which remains a complete mystery… Typically, you’d see this information disclosed in the paper.

Also, when I looked at the statistical analyses, there’s a lot of supporting data that is missing, so the origin of some of the conclusions is still unclear...

The key takeaways?

While I love the notion of personalised nutrition around your own “bacterial fingerprint”, we’re at very early stages of microbiomics research and it’d take many, many years before we get there!

In the meantime, if you’re a bread lover without a sensitivity, whole grain is preferred because of the benefits of getting more fibre into your diet.

Fibre has been linked to lower bowel cancer risk and a more favourable microbiota composition in your gut. For example, “good” bacterial strains feed from fibre and even covert it into butyrate, which has been shown to have protective epigenetic effects.

Also, higher fibre meals help balance your blood sugar, preventing a sudden spike after a meal. Good blood sugar management is important for improved brain performance and lower diabetes risk.

To conclude, when you see news headlines suggesting that everything you knew about healthy eating is wrong, take it with a pinch of salt!

Detox Specialist

Food Allergies and Intolerances

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1 Comment

  • Clarisse A Sobiono

    Reply Reply September 4, 2018

    Thanks for this wonderful update!

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What If You Don’t Go To University

It’s August, which means it’s that time of the year again: A Level Results Day.

And whether it’s your friends or your grandma, there’s one question on everyone’s lips…

Are you going to university?

You might be heading back from college to the tune of ‘Did you get the grades?’

Or maybe you never wanted to go to uni in the first place.

Whichever boat you’re in; what happens when your friends are prepping for freshers’ week, but you’re not?

No fear – we’re here to help! The first thing you need to consider is:

Are you sure about your decision?

It’s difficult to aim for your goals if you don’t know what they are, or how to reach them. This means that if you have a particular career in mind, you might want to see a careers advisor or thoroughly research alternative routes into the field you’re passionate about before making a final decision.

But then what? Well, first, it’s important to know…

There are a ton of careers that don’t require a university degree

It’s true! You may have considered some of these options: hairdressing, beauty, personal training.

But those aren’t the only choices – many careers have a variety of pathways into them, from accountancy, to journalism, to nutritional therapy.

Read on to see what you can do instead of going to university:

Take a Gap Year

Fondly known as the ‘gap yah’ among millennials, many teens take a year out to decide what they want to do before continuing their education. This often takes the form of travelling, learning a language, and gaining lots of experience of different cultures – but it can also involve volunteering in a mix of industries to help you make a more informed decision about your future. While this kind of break provides a temporary solution, it’s common for people to head back to school once they complete their gap year, but many teens also open doors to careers they never knew existed!

(Pssst… Looking for the latest work experience opportunities? GoThinkBig is a good place to start).

Find an Apprenticeship

Becoming an apprentice is a great way to get straight into work AND gain a qualification while you earn. From farming, to hospitality, to law, you can choose your apprenticeship from a huge selection of fields and levels, from Level 2 (GCSE equivalent) right through to Level 6/7 (degree equivalent). Depending on the level, an apprenticeship can take between 1 and 5 years to complete, but you’ll be learning loads of job-specific skills along the way.

If you’re in the UK, you can click here to find an apprenticeship.

Get an Entry-Level Job

While a large number of entry-level jobs will attract applications from students and recent graduates, many employers offer roles aimed at school-leavers – including training schemes. The obvious benefit of heading straight into work is that you’ll be earning right away.

A great way to find entry-level jobs is to keep an eye on websites that advertise vacancies in specific fields. Mediargh is a great example for media-related careers (publishing, science – whatever).

Become an Entrepreneur

Ever wanted to start your own business? Now might be your chance! This can be an exciting option for those not looking to go to university, but it’s wise to first consider the funding, support, and advice you’ll need along the way. If you’re in the UK, check out these government guidelines for new businesses.

For an extra boost when it comes to marketing your business effectively, check out Google’s Digital Garage for free digital marketing training.

Study for an Online Diploma

A huge barrier for many prospective students is the possibility of getting in over £50,000 of debt for a qualification in an area they’re not entirely sure about, or wasn’t necessary for their preferred career.

Whether you’re looking to boost your entrepreneurial endeavours, or you want to get a feel for a subject before jumping into a degree, an online diploma can be a great way to go! Loads of platforms offer you the chance to study via the web and many don’t require specialist technology, so you can get going with just a laptop and a cup of tea.

If it’s nutrition you’re into, we at The Health Sciences Academy® have a whole host of certifications and short courses for you to explore.

Nutrition not your thing? Not to worry – there are loads of other great providers out there. Check out Coursera and Lynda for an array of online courses on a variety of subjects.

They’re called options for a reason…

It’s important to remember that choosing to not go to university isn’t something that sets your career in a permanent direction. You may try one of the above and decide you want to go to uni after all! Perhaps you want some work experience, maybe you’re looking to boost your know-how before embarking on a degree, or you might even decide to do both an online course and an apprenticeship – the point is: the sky’s the limit.

What you’re doing this September doesn’t necessarily define the rest of your life, but it CAN boost it. Do what’s best for you and remember: it’s quite natural to need a little bit of extra time to work out where you want your career to go.

The Health Sciences Academy® is the UK’s largest online educator in nutrition science.

We are home to a variety of Level 5 online diplomas, in addition to a range of accredited short courses in nutrition topics – ready to help you ignite your career.

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