Ready for your thoughts on wellness to be well and truly shaken? A Harvard professor has labelled coconut oil "pure poison".
Professor Karin Michels' lecture, which took place last month but has just been translated by Business Insider Deutschland, was held at the University of Freiburg in Germany, where Michels is the director of the Institute for Prevention and Tumour Epidemiology as well as being a professor at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. It was called "Coconut Oil and Other Nutritional Errors".
Michels' lecture comes after an advisory issued last year by the American Heart Association which noted that coconut oil is up there with butter and lard in terms of comparable saturated fats. "I just don't know who is pushing it, but it's not scientists," said Frank Sacks MD, professor of cardiovascular disease prevention at the Harvard School of Public Health, at the time.
According to Michels, there are no conclusive studies on the health benefits of ingesting coconut oil. A review published last year in Current Nutrition Reports says: "Until the long-term effects of coconut oil on cardiovascular health are clearly established, coconut oil should be considered as a saturated fat and its consumption should not exceed the USDA's daily recommendation." According to the NHS, "too much saturated fats in your diet can raise low density lipoprotein cholesterol in the blood, which can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke." They go on to recommend that women should not exceed 20g of saturated fat each day.
So if you do use a lot of coconut oil in your cooking and wish to substitute, what should you use instead? The American Heart Association recommends "healthier" oils like canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil and walnut oil.
For those of you who use coconut oil as a beauty supplement, Michels' lecture doesn't refer to external use – in fact several studies have shown that coconut oil can be beneficial for a number of skin conditions, from wound healing to skin barrier repair.