Is coconut oil truly harmful?

What's the real deal with coconut oil?

Coconut oil

Recently, a Harvard professor, Dr Karin Michels called coconut oil ‘poison’ in a 50-minute lecture, and the Youtube video went viral. Since then, this question is on everyone’s mind, “Is coconut oil truly poisonous?” Though certain laurels may be exaggerated, coconut oil has undisputable benefits.

Let’s look at them: coconut oil contains 80% saturated fatty acids, most of these being medium chain fatty acids (MCTs). The MCTs in oils/fats are lauric, capric, caprylic and caproic.

Lauric acid, whose chapter in the coconut oil story is the longest, has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. It helps the gut rid itself of unwanted bacteria, paving way for a beneficial microbial environment. Rapeseed, sunflower, soya bean and canola oils are polyunsaturated oils (PUFA). They go through an extreme refining process involving toxic solvents and heavy industrial chemicals, leaving the oils in a highly reactive state. In the body, it could cause oxidative damage, which is responsible for arterial blocks.

However, Dr Michels made no mention of the health-debilitating trans fats. Trans fats and hydrogenated vegetable oils are extremely damaging to the body and heart and should have found first mention in a lecture that was largely based on the merits of different kinds of fats. Lard, which, according to the respected professor a better option than coconut oil, contains a damaging omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 1:5.1, when the actual ratio should be much less. The smoking point of lard is much lower than of coconut oil awarding more points to coconut oil, in that respect, too.

While it was said that coconut oil has no known benefits, I’d like to draw attention to the fact that over and above the benefits discussed above, coconut oil is thermogenic in nature that boosts the body’s metabolism, increases HDL, and also prompts the release of hormones that promote wellness.

There have been several studies conducted to amass information about the effects of coconut oil that have had varying results, but I’m yet to come across a study that erroneously maligns coconut oil as a much as it has been in Dr Michels’s lecture.

In nutritional science, there almost is never a black or a white reading, only inferences from what we know and from ever-evolving research studies. So, anything we use, be it a product, concept or a diet, needs to be done in moderation and balance, that’s what is important.

(The author is a nutritionist and food coach)

 

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