Coconut Oil Stocks Drop by Half As Everyone Realizes How Unhealthy It Is

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again—coconut oil isn’t healthy enough to earn the health halo it’s been enjoying since the paleo diet started lauding it in 2011. First, the American Heart Association has found that saturated fats (which coconut oil is very high in) play a significant role in cardiovascular disease, and that most veggie-based oils were far superior for our heart health compared to butter or coconut oil. And then a year later, we saw sales slump (though clearly some readers still feel quite strongly about the health benefits of coconut oil).

RELATED: How to Make Your Own Eye Makeup Remover With Coconut Oil

And so, as even more health experts continue to condemn coconut oil’s cardiovascular blowback, it makes sense that wholesale prices have dropped by more than 50 percent as demand nosedived. It doesn’t help that alternative vegetable-based oils have also become drastically cheaper, making coconut oil more costly.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the wholesale price of industrial coconut oil averaged a mere $786 per metric ton in November 2018—which is down more than 58 percent compared to a record high of $1,869 in June 2017, according to sales data sourced from the World Bank. Unsurprisingly, imports of coconut oil into the United States have also dropped by 4 percent in between September 2017 and 2018, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Furthermore, data sourced from the United States Department of Agriculture suggests that coconut oil isn’t as widely used as it once was. Americans used 437,000 metric tons of coconut oil between 2017 and 2018, whereas 562,000 metric tons were used between 2014 and 2015. The Wall Street Journal notes that industrial use didn’t change much over those periods, meaning the drop in usage is likely to be due to smaller individual consumption.

RELATED: Is It Safe to Use Coconut Oil as Lube? Ob-Gyns Explain

More on cardiovascular health:

This Is the Best Diet for Heart Health, And You’ve Probably Never Heard of It
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Exactly How Healthy Is Canola Oil?

Cooking Light’s nutrition director, Brierley Horton, has previously explained that concerns over coconut oil have to do with more than just its saturated fat content (which acts as 80 percent of its overall make up). The amount of low-density lipoproteins, also commonly referred to as LDL cholesterol (or as what many health professionals refer to as “bad” cholesterol), in coconut oil has previously been shown to raise overall levels in the body thanks to regular consumption. In addition, the American Heart Association has published guidelines recommending that saturated fat make up less than 10 percent of daily caloric intake.

Horton makes it clear that consuming coconut oil in moderation isn’t the issue—in fact, Cooking Light has even published recipes featuring the rich, flavorful ingredient. But home cooks should be aware that heavy consumption could impact cardiovascular health, and that there are better alternatives to regularly cook with: namely, canola oil (here’s why).

RELATED: A Harvard Professor Called Coconut Oil ‘Pure Poison’—Here’s What You Need to Know

But home cooks may be abandoning coconut oil in the interest of new alternatives such as avocado oil, according to Dorab Mistry, a vegetable oil analyst at Godrej International. He told the Wall Street Journal that demand for oil “tends to move with whatever has captured the imagination of discerning consumers.”

The good news? Lower coconut oil prices have served some companies well, including beauty manufacturers who use the staple to create everything from shampoo to skin care products. And while it’s unclear if raw coconut oil has directly seen a price drop in grocery stores, this sales trend could help you adapt coconut oil into your beauty routine—or any of these 10 topical remedies used to boost skin health.

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What’s the Difference Between a Food Allergy and Food Intolerance? Here’s What Most Americans Don’t Know

With the rise of gluten-free and dairy-free diets over the past few years, food allergies and intolerances appear to be surging now more than ever. Celebs like Kourtney Kardashian and Kate Hudson have famously stripped their diets of common allergenic foods in the name of health, and the public seems eager to follow suit. Have we become better at detecting food allergies and intolerances, or are they just the latest trend?

A new study published in JAMA Network Open suggests many Americans’ food fears may be “unfounded.” After reviewing data collected from over 40,000 U.S. adults, the researchers found about 19% of adults believed they had a food allergy—and only about 10% actually had one.

RELATED: An 11-Year-Old With Food Allergies Allegedly Died After Breathing In Fish Fumes—Can That Really Happen?

“While we found that one in 10 adults have [a] food allergy, nearly twice as many adults think that they are allergic to foods, while their symptoms may suggest food intolerance or other food-related conditions,” lead study author Ruchi Gupta, MD, MPH, of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, explained in a press release.

While these adults may actually believe they have a food allergy, the symptoms they reported were not reflective of true allergic reactions. Most likely, they were experiencing other unwelcome symptoms—like diarrhea, abdominal pain, or bloating—from a food sensitivity or intolerance. Food allergy symptoms are caused by an immune system response; symptoms of intolerances or sensitivities are not. Someone with a food intolerance is missing a digestive enzyme that would break down a part of the offending food. Food sensitivities aren’t as clearly defined, but they usually involve an upset stomach after eating a specific food.

Julie Upton, RD, co-founder of Appetite for Health, explains that when a person has a full-blown food allergy, “the body’s immune system overreacts to proteins that [their bodies perceive as] unhealthy and attacks them as a threat to the body. The reaction to this faulty immune response leads to symptoms like itching, welts on your skin, breakouts, tightening of your throat, or shortness of breath.”

At worst, allergic responses can result in a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis, which requires immediate medical attention. On the other hand, a food sensitivity can cause discomfort, but does not pose a threat to your health, Upton says.

RELATED: 20 Reasons Why Your Stomach Hurts

So why are so many Americans under the false impression that they have a food allergy? Upton says this can be the case for a variety of reasons, but often people use allergies as a way to avoid certain foods they consider unhealthy. “In my work, I most often see extremely healthy eaters who claim to be allergic to things like sugar [which is extremely rare], dairy, wheat, or gluten,” she says. “In almost all cases they aren’t allergic or even sensitive to these foods, but they claim to be in order to have more control over their daily diet and what they may perceive as a more healthful approach to eating.”

She also mentions false food allergy claims could be the result of an unhealthy relationship with food or a desire to feel different by identifying with an allergy.

If you think you may have a food allergy, Dr. Gupta urges people to “see a physician for appropriate testing and diagnosis before completely eliminating foods from the diet.” Upton adds that elimination diets, an eating plan in which foods are cut out and slowly added back into your diet to find potential allergens, “need to be conducted with the aid of a dietitian or allergist.”

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Is Food Addiction Really a Thing? Eating Disorder Experts Can’t Agree on an Answer

When Lay’s potato chips challenged Americans with their slogan “betcha can’t eat just one!” in the 1960s, the company was making a pretty safe bet. Potato chips, like pizza, ice cream, and fries, make the list of the top 10 most “addictive” foods. We know that certain features of these foods, like being high in sugar and low in fiber—the kinds of foods that are designed to burn fast and taste really good—trigger your brain’s pleasure center and make it difficult to stop eating.

But when we say these foods are “addictive,” do we really mean it? Can you literally be addicted to food?

It’s a controversial question among researchers. “Food addiction is not universally recognized by medical professionals, but there are individual practitioners who believe, based on their view of current research, that it is a concept that has utility,” says Chevese Turner, chief policy and strategy officer for the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA).

Unlike alcoholism or addiction to narcotics, you won’t find food addiction in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Yet, you will find programs akin to Alcoholics Anonymous that treat food addiction. Despite the addiction not being universally recognized in the medical community, there are people out there trying to “fix” it.

RELATED: 9 Ways to Help a Friend With an Eating Disorder

Unlike alcohol or narcotic addiction, though, trying to get treatment for food addiction could be dangerous. Eating disorder experts worry that a treatment plan that asks supposed food addicts to abstain from certain foods could encourage disordered eating. And, to be honest, the “symptoms” of food addiction, according to Food Addicts Anonymous, are a little questionable. The website asks: “Have you tried different diets or weight loss programs, but none has worked permanently? Do you eat in private so no one will see you? Do you avoid social interactions because you feel you do not look good enough or do not have the proper fitting clothes?”

It’s easy enough to imagine just about any plus-size person who lives in the United States answering yes to these questions. “People who have drafted themselves into the anti-fat-person army feel comfortable and justified in judging fat people’s food choices. Whether they are shaming us for eating something that they don’t think we should be eating, or congratulating us for eating something of which they approve, fat people can find ourselves dealing with all kinds of inappropriate interactions involving food,” fat activist, Ragen Chastain, wrote in her blog Dances With Fat.

We live in a culture that polices food intake and shames and bullies people of a certain size. Does that mean that every plus-size person is actually a food addict? Of course not.

RELATED: 10 Body-Positivity Moments of 2018 That Were Major Wins for All Women

Other symptoms listed by Food Addicts Anonymous sound more legitimate. “Have you found yourself vomiting, using laxatives, diuretics, or exercising a lot to avoid a weight gain after you have eaten a lot?,” the website asks. This kind of symptom certainly points to disordered eating, if not food addiction.

Perhaps the closest recognized eating disorder to food addiction is binge eating disorder. But BED and food addiction are not the same thing. “Food addiction is defined as causing a preoccupation with foods that provide intense pleasure and dopamine increases like drugs, alcohol, shopping, gambling,” Turner says. “While people with BED may binge on highly palatable foods, bingeing is only one part of the behaviors associated with the disorder and, therefore, treatment is complex.”

Often, people who binge also engage in restrictive behaviors like over-exercising and fasting, Turner says. People who have BED also tend to have depression, anxiety, PTSD, or other mood disorders. While treatment for food addiction typically calls for avoiding white flour, sugar, and other so-called “addictive” foods, treatment for BED is more involved. BED treatment tries to address underlying issues, including traumatic experiences and mental health, as well as decrease the urge to binge and restrict food. “Body image and acceptance are a big part of BED recovery as well,” Turner says.

In treatment for food addiction, restriction not only typically goes unaddressed, it’s encouraged, Turner says. While eating disorder experts agree that some foods are engineered to be as tasty and addictive as possible (like those Lay’s potato chips), many worry that the concept of food addiction could be more harmful than helpful.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder and are in need of support, call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. For a 24-hour crisis line, text “NEDA” to 741741.

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