During a 50 minute lecture given at the University of Freiburg, Harvard professor Karin Michels called coconut oil ‘pure poison’. Michels is the director of the Institute for Prevention and Tumor Epidemiology at the University of Freiburg and professor at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, so her opinion isn’t something to be ignored.
A Youtube clip of the lecture Michels gave in July, titled ‘coconut oil and other nutritional errors’, has since gone viral, making many people rethink their choice to use coconut oil in their cooking.
Karin isn’t the only person to question the belief that coconut oil is good for you. Public health organisations such as Canada’s Heart and Stroke Foundation, the World Health Organization, and Dietitians of Canada have noted that coconut oil is high in saturated fat and advise limiting its use.
Coconut oil has been spruiked by celebrities and wellness coaches as being a natural cure-all with endless health benefits such as aiding digestion, boosting the immune system, and a healthier alternative to olive and vegetable oils, yet there’s no scientific proof to support these beliefs. And while coconut oil is praised for containing many antioxidants, this is only true for the extra virgin varieties, but is also true for any extra virgin variety of oil, such as olive oil – which has less saturated fat.
Coconut oil actually contains more than 80 per cent saturated fat which is why it remains solid at room temperature. For comparison, animal-based fat lard contains only 40 per cent saturated fats, and butter only 27 per cent.
The high content of saturated fat in coconut oil is thought to raise LDL cholesterol, which can increase the risk of heart disease.
Ultimately, coconut oil is better used topically on the skin as a moisturiser, rather than as a staple in cooking.
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