Claiming that “coconut oil is pure poison” in a recent lecture, Karin Michels, director of the Institute of Prevention and Tumor Epidemiology at the University of Freiburg, has sparked quite the debate about this so-called superfood. While the last few years have seen the rise of coconut oil’s popularity into mainstream culture – as well as opposing opinions about the benefits of it – could it be that we’ve all been duped into singing its praises and it’s actually remarkably bad for us? In a word…potentially.
Positive attributes of coconut oil include speeding up metabolism (assisting with weight loss endeavors) and preventing the hardening of arteries (lowering risk of heart disease), but the American Heart Association updated its position on the intake of saturated fats in June of 2017, recommending that “lowering intake of saturated fat and replacing it with unsaturated fats, especially polyunsaturated fats, will lower the incidence of [cardiovascular disease].”
The main issue with coconut oil is this: coconut oil is roughly 90% saturated fat (whereas butter is only around 65% saturated fat), so it’s a substance that is almost entirely made up of fat. Increased amounts of saturated fats in the diet can raise LDL (“bad,” unhealthy) cholesterol levels, which are a factor that can lead to cardiovascular disease (CVD). With a 90% makeup of saturated fat, Michels states that “coconut oil is more dangerous than lard” and that it can “clog the coronary arteries.” Alternatives to coconut oil, oils with high levels of unsaturated fatty acids, include olive oil and rapeseed oil, neither of which remain solid at room temperature, which can be a good indicator of the large presence of saturated fatty acids.
Similar to the conflicting opinions about the benefits and detriments of coconut oil, there are also conflicting studies regarding the substance. We tend to go with butter regardless, but until more evidence comes to light regarding coconut oil, we’re going to take an “everything in moderation” approach….