Coconut oil has earned, and subsequently lost, its reputation as a superfood over the past few years.
And that’s justified, according to a Harvard professor who calls it “pure poison.”
Karin Michels, professor of the department of epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, explained during a recent lecture at the University of Freiburg, Germany, that coconut oil carries multiple health risks.
According to a translation by Business Insider Deutschland, in her lecture “Coconut Oil and Other Nutritional Errors,” Michels explained how the substance was actually worse for heart health than lard, seeing as it’s comprised almost entirely of saturated fatty acids.
This is a sharp contrast from public perception. A 2016 survey in The New York Times prior to the American Heart Association’s revised guidelines revealed 72 percent of the public versus 37 percent of nutritionists believe coconut oil is “healthy.”
Dr. Marie-Pierre St-Onge of the Institute of Human Nutrition, at Columbia University, in New York, spoke out last year to set the record straight. She explained that the coconut oil she experimented with was 100 percent medium-chain – not the 13 to 14 percent medium-chain oils that are most common. A person would need to eat 150 grams, or 10 tablespoons, of coconut oil a day to reap the benefits, which would be negated by the effects of consuming the substance in excess.
In other words, a healthy diet is “a moderation thing.”
“People don’t want to face reality when it comes to their own dieting, their own health,” she said. “They want to believe in wishful thinking…. But thinking you can have unlimited amounts of one particular thing and everything will disappear is not based on reality.”
Helen Barrett, qualified dietitian and British Dietetic Association spokesperson, says the pros and cons of coconut oil need to be considered with the context of an individual’s entire diet.
“If someone has close relatives with cardiovascular disease and they are eating lots of other foods containing saturated fats, I would encourage them to reduce their consumption [of coconut oil],” she said.
However, if a person eats very little saturated fat, loves coconut oil and does not want to swap it for a healthier fat, “the risk is likely to be lower,” she argued.
“But people should be aware of what the risks are and be mindful that coconut oil is maybe not a good thing,” she warned, adding: “I wouldn’t recommend anyone start eating coconut oil.”
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