Coconut oil has over the last several years been touted as the miracle cure-all by doctors and health food bloggers alike. But Karin Michels, an epidemiologist at the Harvard TH Chan school of public health, recently singled it out as a nutritional disaster.
Disaster sounds like hyperbole, but is in fact understatement. Because the rhetoric Michels used when discussing this misnomered superfood culminated in: “pure poison,” and also, “one of the worst things you can eat.”
So all those punishing meals you endured—particularly the eggs prepared using coconut oil because they were “healthier” than butter—were tolerated for naught.
According to The Guardian, Michels dropped the damning conclusion during a recent lecture at the University of Freiburg in Germany, where she works at the the Institute for Prevention and Tumor Epidemiology. Her speech (which she gave in her native German) has been watched nearly a million times on YouTube since its upload under six weeks ago.
Apparently, coconut oil contains more than 80% saturated fat—twice the amount found in lard and 60% more than in beef dripping—an amount which increases cholesterol levels and heightens the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Though coconut oil hadn’t been given so dire a label (poison literally kills) until Michels, it had been debunked as a “superfood” long before. Last year, the American Heart Association found a significant discrepancy between how the American public perceived coconut oil in regards to its health benefits, and the reality of its nutritional prosperity.
While three quarters of Americans deemed coconut oil “healthy,” a mere 37% of nutritionists agreed. Tufts University professor Alice Lichtenstein recently told The New York Times “there’s virtually no data to support the hype” of coconut oil. This disparity is due entirely to the way in which coconut oil is marketed.
Many on Twitter were angered by the way the Times reported Michels’ findings.
If you’re wondering whether to cut coconut oil out of your diet entirely, the answer isn’t so simple. While most researchers agree virgin olive oil is generally beneficial, the verdict on saturated fatty acids is still out. The most important thing to remember is that just about everything (food-wise, anyway) is fine to consume in moderation.
Coconut oil is neither poison nor a miracle diet substitute. If you want less calories and saturated fats in your diet, don’t eat it. Otherwise, it’s a fine substitute for other oils you might be using.