PHL, other Asia-Pacific producers to fight bad rap against coconut oil

The Philippines will convince other producers and exporters of coconut oil in the Asia Pacific to close ranks and counter the latest report of the American Heart Association (AHA), which indicated that coconut-oil consumption is unhealthy.

Romulo J. de la Rosa, the new administrator of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), said he will seek a dialogue with member-countries of the Asian and Pacific Coconut Community (APCC) to discuss AHA’s report.

“The Philippines, being the biggest coconut-oil exporter in the world, the other coconut-producing countries are looking at us to lead in educating the global consumer of the health benefits of coconut and coconut oil both as food and as a ‘nutraceutical’ product,” de la Rosa told reporters in a news briefing.

“Members of the APCC should be united in the promotion of coconut oil. We should close ranks and face the challenges that are posed by the AHA [that is] backed up by the soybean producers and the canola-oil producers in the West,” he added.

De la Rosa said the renewed effort to vilify coconut oil in the US is being supported by big vegetable- oil producers.

“The vegetable-oil producers in the West, led by the Americans through the AHA, has revived the long-discredited assertion that coconut oil causes cardio-vascular disease and is, therefore, unhealthy and should not be consumed,” he said.

“This attack had been done a decade ago. This has been disproved by other resources. Even our very own Dr. Conrado S. Dayrit has already published numerous papers disproving this [claim],” de la Rosa added.

Citing several studies, the AHA said in an advisory on June 15 that coconut oil raised LDL cholesterol the same way as other saturated fats found in butter, beef fat and palm oil. Increase in LDL cholesterol, which is considered bad cholesterol, is a major cause of artery-clogging plaque and cardiovascular diseases, according to the AHA.

“Because coconut oil increases LDL cholesterol, a cause of CVD [cardiovascular disease], and has no known offsetting favorable effects, we advise against the use of coconut oil,” the AHA advisory read.

Instead of consuming coconut oil, the AHA urged consumers to replace it with polyunsaturated or monosaturated fat, which “lowers blood triglyceride levels”, an independent biomaker of risk for CVD.

“Replacing saturated with polyunsaturated fat prevents and regresses atherosclerosis in nonhuman primates. Overall, evidence supports the conclusion that polyunsaturated fat from vegetable oils [mainly n-6, linoleic acid] reduces CVD somewhat more than monounsaturated fat [mainly oleic acid] when replacing saturated fat,” the advisory read.

“Evidence has accumulated during the past several years that strengthens long-standing AHA recommendations to replace saturated fat with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat to lower the incidence of CVD. Reduction in total dietary fat or a goal for total fat intake is not recommended,” it added.

In a statement released on June 21, the APCC condemned the AHA report, saying it is “totally false and misleading”.

“APCC finds this AHA report totally false and misleading while allegedly to be representing the commercial vested interest of its sponsors who are telling the same old story that saturated fats contribute to high cholesterol levels, which is misleading information,” the APCC said.

“The myths by the same people have since been ‘busted’, therefore there is no longer basis to continue such falsified misleading statements,” it added.

The APCC said the robust growth of the coconut industry, which threatens the market share of vegetable-oil producers, may have caused the latest attack against coconut oil.

“Higher-value products are experiencing unprecedented growth in volume of export and value, especially in the last five to seven years. This magnitude of growth would obviously be taking market share away from some of competitor vegetable-oil products,” the APCC said. It also expressed confidence that consumers will not be persuaded by the recent claims of the AHA.

“APCC is convinced that this good news for the coconut growers is causing old stories to reappear from its critics with its bad science. The traditional consumer of coconut will not be deterred, while the recently introduced consumers would by now be convinced of the true nutritional and health benefits of coconut to also not be deterred,” its statement read.

The APCC is an intergovernmental organization of 18 coconut-producing states in the Asia-Pacific region, including the Philippines, which aims “to promote, coordinate and harmonize all activities of the coconut industry”. It accounts for over 90 percent of world coconut production and exports of coconut products.

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Turning Points 2018