photo by Magone via getty images

It's “one of the worst foods you can eat" according to Harvard's Karin Michels

Mike Pomranz
August 22, 2018

If you want to poison someone a hurry, arsenic is a good option. But for those with a little more time on their hands, Harvard professor Karin Michels has another suggestion: coconut oil.

Michels is the director of the Institute for Prevention and Tumor Epidemiology at the University of Freiburg, as well as a professor at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. And she's done something you don’t see very often: She made a 50-minute, German-language medical talk to go viral. The video has surged toward 1 million views thanks to Michels’ aggressive rebuke of coconut oil. She calls it “poison” on multiple occasions, including the more emphatic “pure poison,” and even refers it as “one of the worst foods you can eat.”

What makes Michels’ assertions so headline grabbing is that, in recent years, coconut oil has gained a cult following for its supposed health benefits, with some people even tossing it into the ever expanding culinary category known as “superfoods.” For instance, last March, we ran a story calling it “every celebrity’s favorite fat”—including a mention of how Angelina Jolie supposedly has a spoonful of the stuff with breakfast. However, even then, we concluded our article by stating, “At the end of the day, coconut oil, no matter how it's produced or refined, is a saturated fat, and according to the World Health Organization, using unsaturated fats like olive oil or corn oil is preferable to cooking with saturated fats because of an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.”

That’s precisely Michels’ criticism. Though not a “will-kill-you-in-an-instant” poison, she points out that coconut oil consists almost exclusively of saturated fatty acids—making up 82 percent of its total fat according to American Heart Association data—which is significantly more than butter and even lard. As a result, Michels suggests that coconut oil makes for a better artery clogger than panacea.

Meanwhile, Michels also targets other hip food trends. According to Business Insider, when it comes to a few superfoods, she went more for a jab than a knockout punch. Specifically, she said that though things like acai, chia seeds, and matcha aren’t harmful, she believes they’re ineffective because the nutrients they provide are already available in other, more readily available foods.

 

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