Heart Foundation Agrees Coconut Oil Aint No Superfood

But is it "pure poison"?

A report came out in recent days that coconut oil is, and I quote, "pure poison."

Just a bottle of coconut oil, nothing to see here. Image: Getty

At least, that was the message the world got from a lecture from Dr Karin Michels of Harvard’s School of Public Health. “Coconut oil is pure poison,” the Harvard professor said (there you go, then) in the lecture, which you can watch -- in German -- on YouTube. “It is one of the worst foods you can eat.”

Which kind of goes against the recent thinking that coconut oil is a bit of an all rounder superfood  -- in fact, Dr Michels thinks it's not "super" at all, due to the damaging effect the saturated fatty acids in the coconut oil can have on your body.

She goes on to say that she thinks the oil is even worse than lard (rendered animal fat) because it almost exclusively contains saturated fatty acids, ones that can clog the coronary arteries.  (According to the report about her lecture in Business Insider magazine, you can identify fats that contain large quantities of saturated fatty acids by checking to see whether they remain solid at room temperature, as is the case with butter or lard... or coconut oil.)

Dr Michels doesn't spare other superfoods either -- she also goes to say she considers things like acai, chia seeds and matcha are ineffective because, in most cases, the nutrients they're touted for are available just as readily in other foods that are more easily accessible  -- like carrots, cherries, and apricots.

Now you chia, now you don't. Image: Getty

We've all been duped!

Anyway, the worrying news that we've all been cooking with coconut oil believing it to be healthy "good fat" has caused a number of experts to come out swinging too, though no one else  is calling it "poison" per se. Most agree, though, that we should ditch saturated fats for unsaturated ones, and that includes ditching coconut oil.

ten daily asked Julie Anne Mitchell, Director of Prevention at the Heart Foundation for her opinion -- poison or just not great?

"Coconut oil is better for your face than your body," she tells us. "Coconut oil contains 92% saturated fat content which is not recommended for heart health. Even though the saturated fat in coconut oil is slightly different to that found in animal products, it doesn’t make it a healthy option. The evidence supports replacing the saturated fats in your diet with unsaturated fats and completely avoiding trans fats. This means using oils like olive oil in cooking instead of coconut oil or butter."

And just how do saturated fats harm you? They raise your levels of bad cholesterol, that's how. And that, in turn, clogs your arteries.

"Coconut oil raises total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL)," Julie Anne explains. "HDL is called the ‘good cholesterol’ because it helps to keep cholesterol from building up in the arteries, while LDL is called the ‘bad cholesterol’ because it’s the main source of cholesterol build-up and blockage in the arteries, which can lead to heart attack and stroke. While the increase in HDL may seem good, it’s overshadowed by the increase in LDL. Studies have found the saturated fat in coconut oil acts similarly to saturated fats in other foods. That is, it raises LDL cholesterol."

OK so once and for all let's sort out the kinds of oils we SHOULD be eating and using to cook our foods.

Julie Anne tells ten daily, "We recommend you get the fat in your diet from foods such as nuts, seeds, avocados, olives and their oils and oily fish. Ideally, cook with plant-based oils like olive, canola and avocado."

Yep it turns out that by choosing plant-based oils, nuts and seed butters in place of fats like palm oil, coconut oil, butter, lard and ghee, you’ll be doing some very good things for your heart health.

And while coconut oil's rep has been well and truly damaged, it may not be all bad -- there are reports that it's good for treating patients with dementia, though there isn't enough evidence yet to support these claims.

 Feature image: Getty