“Coconut oil is as bad for you as pure poison,” declared Karin Michels in a lecture delivered at the University of Freiburg. Michel’s speech entitled “Coconut oil and Other Nutritional Errors” caused quite a stir on YouTube where it amassed over one million views.
It is one of the worst foods. Why has it spread so much? The misconception is the advertising.
In the 50-minute address Michels, a professor at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health dispelled coconut oil’s “superfood” status and described it as “One of the worst foods you can eat.”
In the interview which was translated from German to English by Business Insider, Michels declared that consuming coconut oil is far worse than eating lard due to its high levels of saturated fatty acids.
Cracks in the coconut oil myth first began to appear in 2017, when a study by the American Heart Association (AHA) revealed that coconut oil was more detrimental to heart health than butter, as it contained 82 percent saturated fat compared to butter’s 63 percent.
The AHA went on to say it advised against the use of coconut oil and were followed by the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) who recommended lowering intake of foods containing saturated fats, including coconut oil.
As coconut oil gained a reputation for being healthy, sales soared and it was hailed as a “miracle food” with advocates claiming it could boost the brain, assist in weight loss and was effective for treating Alzheimer’s disease.
The Alzheimer’s Association refuted such claims and issued a statement on their website saying, “There have been some claims that coconut oil could be used as a treatment, or even a cure, for Alzheimer’s disease. However, there is currently not enough experimental evidence to back up these claims.”
As the debate continued, Annessa Chumbley, a registered dietician and spokeswoman for the A.H.A. told the New York Times, “Between the two, olive oil is a better choice, since monounsaturated fats can have a beneficial effect on your heart when eaten in moderation and when used to replace saturated and trans fats in your diet,”
Earlier this week Qi Sun, an associate professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School told the New York Times that while extra-virgin coconut oil is rich in phytochemicals, known for their antioxidant properties, much of the coconut oil on the market has been refined and contains very few of these antioxidants. He added that even when using extra-virgin coconut oil, “The saturated fat effects outweigh any beneficial effects of the antioxidants.”
While Michels was less scathing about other “superfoods” including acai, chia seeds and matcha in her address, she did point out that the nutrients contained in them were readily available in more common fruits and vegetables saying, “We are well and sufficiently supplied.”
Gwyneth Paltrow led the many celebrities who jumped on the coconut oil bandwagon. In addition to cooking with it, Paltrow hailed the oil’s skin moisturizing benefits, recommended it for teeth whitening and proposed it as a natural lubricant to ease vaginal dryness.