With the release in recent years of yet another critical review on coconut oil, many people are wondering if this previously deemed superfood is healthy after all.
Coconut oil, however, is not the only fat that has received a bad reputation over the years. It seems like the war on fat is never won. One moment fats are being criticized as an epidemic and a few years down the road, certain fats are touted as being “healthy”.
Many times, there seems to be little differentiation in these conversations between the good fats (like coconut) and the bad fats (like trans-fat). The difference between the two is more widely known than it once was, but not everyone understands it yet.
So what’s the deal? In this article, we are going to take a closer look at coconut oil and answer the pressing question, “Is coconut oil bad for you?” We'll also examine what a Harvard professor recently had to say about coconut oil and why she feels this oil should be avoided.
What Did the Harvard Professor’s Review on Coconut Oil Say to Stir So Much Controversy?
If you haven’t reviewed the lecture by Harvard professor Karin Michels, here are a few of the things she had to say:
- Michels labeled coconut oil as one of “the worst things you can eat.”
- She also stated that coconut oil is “pure poison.”
The professor gave this lecture at the University of Freiburg as part of her presentation titled “Coconut Oil and Other Nutritional Errors.”
But why was Michels so strongly opposed to the use of coconut oil in modern diets?
Many of her claims stem from the fact that coconut oil is made up of a large amount of saturated fat.
Saturated fats hold a bad reputation for raising the bad type of cholesterol (LDL) and contributing to the development of heart disease.
The Flip Side of Coconut Oil
Despite Michels' strong opinion about the oil, we also can’t ignore the fact that this oil has also been found to possess some pretty impressive health benefits.
- Coconut oil contains lauric acid which has powerful antibacterial and antimicrobial health benefits to help support the immune system and keep the gut healthy.
- While coconut oil is comprised of large amounts of saturated fats, it is also rich in medium chain triglycerides which, when ingested, go straight to the liver to be used as an immediate source of energy. This is great for anyone who may be chronically ill and struggle to get enough calories into their diet.
- An interesting study found that populations such as those found in the South Pacific, who consume most of their calories from coconuts, had low rates of heart disease! This completely contradicts Michels' claims about the harmful effects of the saturated fat content in coconut oil. This study found no correlation between their high saturated fat intake and any type of vascular disease.
- Coconut oil may be able to help assist in weight loss efforts for a couple of different reasons:
- First, since it acts as such an excellent source of energy, it may help exercisers maintain the healthy habit better.
- Second, since coconut oil is a fat, it can be added to the diet to help you stay fuller for longer periods of time. If you added a teaspoon or two of coconut oil to a smoothie, you may be more likely to stay full than if you didn’t add a healthy fat.
It’s also important to recognize the fact that the saturated fat found in coconut oil is different than adding saturated fat to your diet from fried and processed foods.
There have been several studies done on saturated fats that have found that they do not, in fact, cause an increased risk of heart disease. A recent study published in the British Journal of Medicine concluded that saturated fat intake was not associated with mortality, but trans-fat intake was.
What does this tell us?
This confirms the idea that consuming coconut oil is not going to contribute to heart disease, but consuming fast food, cookies, and baked goods high in trans fats, might.
What’s the Verdict?
There are different viewpoints on coconut oil and whether or not it should be added to your diet, including some old science and some new.
It’s important to take all facts and information into account and to take note of where the information is coming from.
The truth is that coconut oil has been found to contain some great health benefits, and populations that consume large amounts of coconut have not been found to be at any greater risk for developing cardiovascular disease than those who do not consume coconut oil.
It’s also important to understand that saturated fats that come from foods like fried and processed products should be avoided because these are often always high in trans and hydrogenated fats. These fats have been proven to increase your risk of cardiovascular disease but are much different from the fats found in coconut oil.
If coconut oil has been a regular part of your diet for some time now, and you have seen some great health benefits from it, this article likely won’t discourage you from continuing to enjoy it!
Bear in mind that as with any fat, a little goes a long way and that when it comes to high-density caloric intake, moderation is key.
While yes, coconut oil has been found to hold some amazing health benefits, it is, in fact, a fat and should be consumed in moderation. Just like eating four avocados a day is not the best choice to make, you really only need a teaspoon or two of coconut oil added to smoothies, coffee or used as a cooking oil to experience some of the amazing health benefits coconut oil has to offer.