Is Coconut Oil 'Pure Poison' Or Just Over-Hyped?

Dr. Deanna Lites
August 22, 2018 - 5:21 pm

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DETROIT (WWJ) - Weeks after a Harvard professor called coconut oil "pure poison" in a lecture overseas -- the internet is abuzz and many are re-evaluating their consumption of the oil. 

Coconut oil has been touted as a superfood with the ability to do everything from burn fat to improve the brain function in Alzheimer's patients, although there's little scientific evidence behind that claim says WWJ Health Reporter Dr. Deanna Lites. 

Karin Michels, a 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 gave a talk titled "Coconut Oil and other Nutritional Errors" describing the oil as one of "worst foods you can eat," according to a translation from Business Insider. 

The YouTube video, basically a 50-minute lecture, has almost a million views. 

What is known is that coconut oil is high in saturated fats - which can raise the cholesterol in your blood putting you at an increased risk for heart disease. 

"But the reality is when you look at what coconut oil is made of, 80 percent of it is saturated fat and that's similar to butter which is about 60 percent saturated fat or beef fat which is about 40 percent," CBS News medical contributor Dr. Tara Narula told "CBS This Morning" last year."

The American Heart Association (AHA) says skip the coconut oil and instead cook with healthier oils like canola, soybean or extra virgin olive oil.

Emily Schwartz, a registered dietitian with Ascension Providence Hospital says she wouldn't call it "pure poison."

"Because there aren't a lot of long-term studies on coconut oil use and health, we'd recommend moderation - we typically recommend no more than 10-15 percent of calories coming from any source of saturated fat," says Schwartz. 

The AHA says "it's better on your skin than in your food, and it recommends that no more than 5% or 6% of your daily calories come from saturated fats -- about 13 grams per day. The association also advocates replacing coconut oil with "healthy fats" such as polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats, like those found in canola and olive oils, avocados and fatty fish," writes Lisa Drayer and Michael Nedelman of CNN. 

Coconut oil is "probably not quite as 'bad' as butter but not as good as extra virgin olive oil," Kevin Klatt, a molecular nutrition researcher at Cornell University who is studying the metabolic effects of coconut oil, previously told CNN.