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Is Coconut Oil Really ‘Pure Poison’? Here’s What Science Says

Aug 23, 2018 07:54 PM EDT
Coconut Oil
When professor Karin Michels called coconut oil poison-like, the controversial oil comes under fire again. It is not quite lethal like poison, but it is made up mainly of saturated fat, which has been associated with cardiovascular issues.
(Photo : Pixabay)

Nutrition professor Karin Michels has surprised many health buffs when she called coconut oil "pure poison," but she may actually have a point.

Professor Slams 'Superfoods'

Michels, who is a professor at the University of Freiburg and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, has slammed coconut oil during a lecture titled "Coconut Oil and Other Nutritional Errors" last June 2018.

"[Coconut oil] is one of the worst foods you can eat," she also says in a lecture recorded on YouTube, Business Insider reports.

The accomplished professor did not have such harsh words for acai, chia, and matcha but she believes these superfoods are ineffective. According to Michels, the nutrients in these foods are just as present in more accessible fare such as carrots, cherries, and apricots.

Is Coconut Oil Healthy?

Coconut oil has been hailed for being a superfood with a number of health benefits. However, Michels' lecture is not the first time this particular oil has come under fire.

In mid-2017, the American Heart Association released an updated guide saying that people should avoid saturated fatty acids, which is found in coconut oil. The organization reveals that reducing saturated fat intake and replacing it with unsaturated fat lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Live Science reports that AHA recommends keeping daily saturated fat intake at 5 to 6 percent, which translates to 13 grams in a 2,000-calorie diet. Coconut oil is 82 percent saturated fat, according to American Heart Association News, with a single teaspoon of it already equaling to 11 grams of saturated fat.

Dr. Walter C. Willett, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, agrees with his colleague Michels, saying there is no actual evidence of coconut oil's health benefits.

"Coconut oil is somewhere in the middle of the spectrum in terms of types of fats. It's probably better than partially hydrogenated oils, [which are] high in trans fats, but not as good as the more unsaturated plant oils that have proven health benefits, like olive and canola oil," Willett has previously told CNN.

It has proved to be difficult to rank all the different types of oil. During her talk, Michels says that coconut oil is even more harmful than lard since it exclusively contains saturated fatty acids, which can clog the arteries.

Thus, coconut oil may not be literally poisonous but given that it is loaded with saturated fat, it may not be the most ideal superfood to chug.

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