MyMT™ Blog

MyMT™ Education: Why your overweight menopausal clients may not need this popular tropical oil.

“Growing up in Fiji, we never cooked with coconut oil” mentioned Losena in an email to me.

After reading new evidence noting how we need to be cautious about all the marketing hype with coconut oil, I wanted to hear from her. After all, the marketing is based on the experience of Pacific Islanders using coconut oils for improved health.

“The only thing we used for cooking was the coconut meat and the oil was used in our hair. My mother taught us not to cook with it as it affects heart health.”

Like most things that appear on our supermarket shelves, coconut products are promoted as the panacea to all sorts of health issues and given a one-size-fits-all label. But for women going into menopause and beyond, it’s prudent to be cautious about coconut oils – especially if your client has higher blood markers of Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.

This is one of the main blood markers that women need to be aware of with a changing hormonal environment in menopause.

Over 25 years ago I went on a trip to Fiji to present at a weight loss conference. It was the year that a pharmaceutical company was launching their brand new weight loss ‘magic-pill’. My invitation was to talk to Doctors about the role of exercise in cholesterol management.
One of those Doctors was Professor Harvey White, a prominent cardiologist, who still practices in New Zealand to this day. 
I sat in on all the sessions after my presentation and heard Professor White tell an interesting story about the rise of heart disease in the Pacific Island communities.
He had been studying heart disease in Pacific communities for over 20 years and had seen the introduction of western ways of eating and the increase in cholesterol levels as Pacific Islanders became more sedentary and changed the way they ate.
He mentioned, that despite the hype on coconut oil, they didn’t eat Coconut Oil in their traditional diets. 
Low levels of heart disease in traditional Pacific communities are often used as proof of the benefits of coconut oil.
However, the original studies by Professor White and his team, found that coconut was pressed and eaten as coconut flesh and coconut milk was added to meals. Both the flesh and the milk are lower in saturated fat. Coconut oil wasn’t used for cooking. It was more commonly used on the skin and hair rather than used as a food.
As I put together the Food information for women on my own 12 week MyMT™ programmes, I read the research on the role of coconut oils in the human body. I have this information for those of you interested in the MyMT™ Menopause Weight Loss Coach Certification (now on sale for you)
Like most ‘health foods’ that appear on the supermarket shelves, these are promoted as a panacea to all sorts of health concerns and given a ‘one-size-fits-all’ label.
But for women going into menopause and beyond, we need to teach them to be cautious about coconut oils – especially if their Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is high. This is the type of cholesterol that may affect cardiac health and vascular function.
For women in menopause, the decline in oestrogen production contributes to the decline in elasticity of blood vessels. As you may already have heard from me, this contributes to vascular stiffness which may cause an increase in blood pressure.
The combination of high blood pressure and high circulating cholesterol can cause all sorts of health chaos as women go into post-menopause, with many women ending up on cardiac medications at this stage of life.
As those of you who follow me on here and read my articles know, I try as much as possible to maintain an anti-inflammatory and heart-friendly ageing research connection. This is partly because the greatest health concern for women as they transition menopause is cardiac health.
Heart disease is the number 1 concern for women in post-menopause in numerous countries around the world, especially if they aren’t sleeping and/or putting on abdominal fat.

In a recently released article by Palgrave Communications, an exposure of 100 of the ‘best-selling’ diet books was reported.

Many people turn to books for nutritional advice, making the contents of these books and the expertise of their authors relevant to public health” stated the article. The books were identified and assessed for both the claims they make in their summaries and the credentials of the authors. Weight loss was a common theme.

Yet in addition to weight loss, 31 of the books promised to cure or prevent a host of diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and dementia; however, the nutritional advice given to achieve these outcomes varied widely in terms of which types of foods should be consumed or avoided and this information was often contradictory between books. Only 3 of the authors of these books were qualified nutritionists. 

I was reminded of the importance of science, rather than marketing-hype, when the Journal of the American Medical Association, [JAMA] reported on a brand new study about Coconut Oils. It was a comparison of coconut oil with other fats and the effect on cholesterol levels.
The heading didn’t pull any punches – ‘Coconut Oil’s Health Halo a Mirage’  states the headline. The article reported exactly what my own navigation of the women’s heart health research reports – that coconut oil significantly increases low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. 
This is some of what you will learn in the Menopause Weight Loss Coach Course and I tell you about this in the video below.
Despite the fact that coconut oil is a plant source of fat, it acts the same as a saturated fat in the liver. For those of your clients with a fatty liver, this is important information.   
For those clients who are endurance athletes, then yes, they can get away with the increased saturated fats in their diet, because the muscles use this for fuel for performance, but for those clients with a fatty liver or family history of heart disease or who are overweight or obese, then they need to be cautious about their intake of Coconut Oil. 
Here are some highlights from the research:
  • Compared with Palm Oil, coconut oil significantly increased LDL-C (the ‘bad’ cholesterol) by 10mg/dL and total cholesterol levels by 14mg/dL.
  • Coconut oil did not significantly affect triglycerides (circulating fats in blood) nor inflammatory markers.
  • Coconut oil should not be viewed as a healthy oil for cardiovascular disease risk reduction and limiting coconut oil consumption because of its high saturated fat content is warranted.
Because I was so confused myself at what oils to use during menopause, I turned to the organisation that does the most research on heart health in New Zealand – the NZ Heart Foundation.
They position on these have been updated in a scientific review. [Downloadable on their website]. Their Position Statement confirms what I have been reading as well,
“A recent scientific review by the Heart Foundation does not support the use of coconut oil in place of other plant oils that are lower in saturated fat. The review found that the health benefits of coconut oil claimed in marketing are not supported by sound scientific evidence for cardiac health.
The main fatty acid in coconut oil is lauric acid. Lauric acid behaves in the body like a long-chain saturated fatty acid so they are larger than fats present in other plant oils. Whilst coconut does not raise total cholesterol to the same extent as butter, the increase is greater than other plant oils. In general whilst 30mls of coconut oil does not promote weight gain or inflammation, findings in Sri Lanka, where there was a high intake of coconut oil, show high rates of heart disease.
Heart disease rates have been low in Pacific countries, because coconut is consumed as flesh and as milk. Coconut oil was not traditionally used in food preparation. The consumption of coconut has been in the context of a traditional Pacific diet with plenty of vegetables (including starchy vegetables), fruit, seafood and a physically active lifestyle.”  [NZHF Position Statement, 2019].

How interesting that over 25 years ago, I heard the exact same commentary from Professor Harvey White too.

Three large studies spanning 30 years convinces me that as women move through menopause, then educating them to be cautious about the marketing of foods, especially oils, is an important coaching role for us. There are so many oils on the market these days and like many food claims, the messages become confusing.  

In light of this research, your midlife clients may also need to be careful of smoothies (especially commercially bought ones) that have as their base, coconut oil and coconut milk. It might taste great, but again, these are high in saturated fats, which impact cholesterol levels and gut and liver health as well.  

If your clients do have a fatty liver, then it is beneficial to reduce the total daily consumption of saturated fats and replace coconut oil with olive oil instead. If your clients are thinner and leaner however, and engaging in daily moderate exercise and/ or weight training, then they can afford to have a bit more saturated fat in their diet for their energy levels. 


Abbasi, J. (2020). Coconut Oil’s health halo a Mirage, Clinical Trials Suggest. JAMA, April 28, Vol 323, Number 16.

Eyres, L. (2014). Coconut Oil and the Heart: Evidence Paper. New Zealand Heart Foundation Position Statement. 

Marton, R.M., Wang, X., Barabási, A. et al. Science, advocacy, and quackery in nutritional books: an analysis of conflicting advice and purported claims of nutritional best-sellers. Palgrave Commun 6, 43 (2020).

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