Coconut oil “is one of the worst foods you can eat” and “is pure poison”, a Harvard professor has said.
Dr Karin Michels, professor at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and Director of the Institute for Prevention and Tumor Epidemiology at the University of Freiburg, made these observations in an address titled ‘Coconut Oil and Other Nutritional Errors’.
Coconut oil has had its profile boosted in recent years by health food advocates who claim it is healthier than other forms of fat, she said.
Some people even have a spoonful of it in their coffee or their smoothie because of the alleged health benefits.
It has also replaced many oils used in cooking and some people feed it to their pets.
But, she said, consumption of so-called “super foods” was unnecessary because we already get enough nutrition from everyday foods like carrots, cherries and apricots.
“We are well and sufficiently supplied.”
Dr Michels isn’t the only critic of coconut oil.
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) says there is not enough good quality research to provide a definitive answer as to whether coconut oil is better for you than other saturated fats, but the healthier choice is to opt for unsaturated fats such as vegetable or sunflower oil.
Coconut oil is about 86% saturated fat, about a third more than butter.
Excessive amounts of saturated fats in the diet can increase cholesterol levels and lead to blocked arteries and heart disease.
The BHF recommends swapping butter, lard, ghee and coconut and palm oils with small amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as olive, rapeseed or sunflower oils and spreads.