History of Coconut Oil

When I started reading about coconut oil extensively, I started wondering why such an amazing health product is not at all popular ? I mean, there is no dearth of health conscious people across the world and the sales of “health promoting” products / natural products is at all time high. Then why has coconut oil has not gained traction?

Initially, I was of the opinion that it might be because people were not knowing about this oil. But I was wrong. You would be surprised to know that coconut oil benefits have been known to man for thousands of years. In tropical areas across the globe, our ancestors have been using this wonderful fruit for their good health. In fact in many tropical countries such as India, Sri Lanka, Jamaica, Nigeria etc. people still use coconut oil very prominently. For example, in India coconut oil is used a lot for cooking as well as hair oil; it is also a very important part of India’s Ayurvedic medicine system which has evolved using thousands of years of research and experience. In Panama, for example, people drink coconut oil to overcome sickness. Similarly, in Nigeria and Jamaica people use coconut oil in various ways to ensure they remain fit and fine. Such examples are numerous, studies have shown that excellent health of natives who inhibit the islands of South Pacific can largely attributed to their largely coconut diet.History of Coconut Oil

According to various records, formal documentation and research on benefits of coconut oil were on full swing in 1950’s. But inspite of all its benefits, it lost its traction by 1980’s. The primary reason of the same is popularity of Soybean oil. The Soybean oil lobby propagated that as coconut oil is a saturated oil (more on types of oils later in this chapter), it leads to heart related problems. The primary reason for this campaign was to ensure that tropical oils (coconut and palm) which were primarily imported loose grounds in this multi billion dollar industry and can be replaced by domestically produced Soybean oil.

Despite of extensive research produced by many researchers that tropical oils are not harmful and the claims by ASA and other organization are not correct, tropical oils across the board lost their popularity because of extensive negative campaign run by American Soybean Association (ASA), health groups, etc. It was joined by print and television media alike. Restaurants stopped using coconut oils, so did food manufacturers and later end consumers also were trapped into the misconception. Thus, what was a popular oil type reduced to villain.

The result of the above is, today in America, usage of the health promoting coconut oil is next to nil, while Soybean oil accounts for biggest consumption chunk. Most of this oil is hydrogenated which is contain high amount of trans fatty acid very harmful for human body. Study have shown that average in a single restaurant meal in 1982 contained 2..4 gms trans fatty acid while today it has close to 20 gms! As our eating habits have not changed drastically, it is easy to deduce that it’s the oil we use which is causing majority of this increase.

The situation, I am not sure is better or worse today. While I see several people using healthy oils such as coconut, but on the other hand there are so many more who are okay with using other oils. 

I was shocked to know how marketing and lobbying created a bad image for a perfectly healthy oil and how it has been impacting our health ever since. I am sure in due course of time people will realize that what they are consuming is not best for their health and will shift to healthier options. 

What do you think about this issue? do you really feel people were misguided? Do provide your comments.