Cyanide is a poison. Rattlesnake venom is a poison. Certain household products can be a poison. But coconut oil? A professor seems to believe that collides head-on with consumers who believe that it is good for them.
In her lecture at the University of Freiburg – published entirely in German and in July – Professor Karin Michels from the University's Institute for Prevention and Tumor Epidemiology, calls the health-related claims around coconut oil "absolute nonsense" and says it's " pure poison "for its saturated fat content and its threat to cardiovascular health. The video of her talk has collected nearly a million views and counts.
"Coconut oil is one of the worst things you can eat," Michels said.
While others have a more modest opinion, they barely buy into the Ballyhoo. A 2016 New York Times poll found that 72% of Americans believe coconut oil is healthy compared to only 37% of nutritionists surveyed.
"There are many claims that coconut oil is wonderful for many different things. We really have no evidence of long-term health benefits," Dr. Walter C. Willett, Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, where Michels is also an adjunct professor.
"Coconut oil is somewhere in the middle of the spectrum in terms of types of fats. It's probably better than partially hydrogenated oils, [which are] rich in trans fat, but not as good as the more unsaturated vegetable oils, which are considered beneficial to health have proved such as olive and rapeseed oil, "said Willett before CNN.
Health organizations tend to prevent the use of coconut oil, which is more than 80% saturated fat. The American Heart Association says it's better on your skin than your diet, and it recommends that not more than 5% or 6% of your daily calories come from saturated fats – about 13 grams a day. The association also advocates replacing coconut oil with "healthy fats" such as polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats found in rapeseed and olive oils, avocados and oily fish.
Coconut oil is "probably not quite as bad" as butter but not as good as cold-pressed olive oil, "said Kevin Klatt, a molecular physician at Cornell University who studies the metabolic effects of coconut oil, previously warns CNN.
Klatt that we should not develop too much of it without more data. "But at the same time one has to be evidence-based … and [currently] the evidence reflects the benefits for olive oil, fish, nuts and seeds – so that should be the focus in the Nutrition. "
Coconut oil is extracted from the flesh of the fruit, it contains mostly saturated fat, which also occurs in large quantities in butter and red meat.Like other saturated fats, coconut oil increases LDL cholesterol, commonly known as" bad. " "Cholesterol, which has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
But coconut oil also increases HDL, the" good "cholesterol, especially when carbohydrates are replaced in the diet. This may be due to its high content of a fatty acid known as lauric acid. (This is also summarized in Michel's statement summarizing her presentation.)
"Coconut oil is half lauric acid, which is a bit unique," Klatt said, since the acidity seems to increase HDL more than other saturated fats and is rare
Although the increase in HDL consumption in coconut oil use can partially offset the disease risk, it is still not as good as unsaturated oils, which not only increase HDL but also LDL. [WillingIsett1965] Add to that the fact that we still do not know exactly what a high HDL means in terms of health risk. "There was discussion about the role of HDL," Willett warned. "Partly because there are many forms of HDL that have different health consequences … that have made the water cloudy."
For example, there are different forms of HDL that do different things. A role is to take LDL cholesterol out of the blood. "But some forms of HDL do not do that," said Willett, "so we're not sure that a higher HDL is better."
While elevated LDL levels are used as a marker for predicting cardiovascular risks, not always causing heart attacks, experts say they are still a cause for concern.
Research has found a mixed bag when it comes to saturated fats and especially coconut oil. A 2015 Cochrane study found that reducing saturated fats reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease by 17% – but the risk of death did not change and there was no benefit in replacing these fats with protein or starchy ones Food.  Other research specifically focused on coconut oil has examined its effects on metabolism, appetite, and cognitive functions – but "you can not close … what coconut oil does and what does not, we need better controlled trials," said Klatt.
"Right now the Internet is jumping over the facts."
Coconut oil, like other oils, is high in calories, which means consuming large amounts without reducing other sources of calories can lead to weight gain. Only one tablespoon has 120 calories, about as much as a big apple or four cups of popcorn.
"Oil is a really easy way to increase the energy density of a food, things like almonds have a lot of fat, but it's easier to eat pure oil than too much pure almonds," said Klatt.
However, in small amounts, coconut oil can take a place in the diet. For daily use, experts recommend vegetable oils such as olive, rapeseed or soybean oil, as well as nuts and seeds as the main source of fats in the diet.
"It's not that you absolutely must avoid coconut oil, but rather coconut oil, where you really need that special flavor, such as for Thai food or for baking a special dessert," said Willett.
Klatt agreed that coconut oil "is certainly good to consume occasionally when a recipe calls for it."