There’s been recent news of how bad coconut oil is for you. Articles like this really make my skin crawl. Why are we taking one doctor’s word as the absolute truth without asking any questions?
I went to watch the actual talk that caused the worldwide news – lucky I speak German! I’m paraphrasing and translating here. Prof. Dr. Dr. Karin Michels claims that
‘There is not a single study on humans that shows any positive effect of coconut oil. Coconut oil is high in saturated fat and has hardly any essential fatty acids. Saturated fat clogs your arteries and leads to cardiac death. A higher consumption of coconut oil leads to more clogged arteries and a higher risk of suffering a heart attack. Coconut oil is pure poison.’
She refers to the American heart association’s statements on coconut oil and regrets that the German guidelines are behind on this. She claims that there are ‘many fairytales’ out there.
What I’m missing are reasons for her statements that go beyond her 40-year expertise. Which studies prove the opposite? How did she come to this conclusion? Of course you can take her word for it because she has authority. But with all the information we have available today, may I suggest you do your own research and make up your own mind.
There are other doctors who disagree. So let’s look at some other viewpoints, shall we?
Firstly, Chris Kresser (M.S., L.Ac) has written a piece on the topic. He refers to the AHA report Michels quotes and explains that ‘it appears the authors performed the following logic:
Premise: 4 core studies from the 1960s and ’70s → saturated fat causes heart disease
Premise: coconut oil has a high content of saturated fat
Conclusion: coconut oil causes heart disease and should be avoided’
‘This logic relies on some faulty assumptions, namely that saturated fat causes heart disease (it doesn’t) and that all saturated fats are the same (they’re not).’
He has linked this to a separate piece where he cited numerous studies that show no association between saturated fat intake and heart disease. He goes on to cite more studies which have shown the benefits of coconut oil:
- ‘Improves blood lipid profile (22, 23)
- Reduces weight circumference (24, 25)
- Is anti-inflammatory (26)
- Is antimicrobial (27)
- May promote weight loss (28)
- May improve antioxidant status (29, 30)
- May protect against Alzheimer’s disease (31, 32)’
Mark Hyman (MD) is another doctor who has written about coconut oil. He makes the opposite claim to Michels and points out that
‘There is not a single study showing that coconut oil causes heart disease.’
And goes on to explain
‘Before we get off saturated fats, here’s one BIG warning. They ARE a problem if you eat them in the context of a high-sugar, high-starch, processed foods diet. It’s what I call sweet fat. Stay away. No bagels and butter. No donuts or French fries. Stick with butter and broccoli.’
‘Broccoli is healthy but if that’s all you ate you would get sick. Coconut oil is healthy but only as part of an overall healthy diet not as the main course.’
He also cites a long list of references to studies and medical papers.
I have to say I’m more inclined to believe professionals who back up their claims with evidence. I can only recommend you read their articles – but beware of the very, very deep rabbit hole you can go down if you start reading up on nutrition studies 🙂
I’m not a medical professional and I don’t intend to give medical advice here. But I’d rather see you ditch the donuts than the coconut oil.
PS: While we’re talking about saturated fat, check out this article explaining butter in a similar way.