So coconut oil is poison is it? Don't you believe it!

The Good Life Letter 

7th September 2018

  • Here’s some bad news
  • But is it really? Or is it just clickbait hysteria?
  • Why this fat is good for you, no matter what this so-called expert in the Guardian says
Oh dear.

Here’s some bad news…


Well, so claimed an article in The Guardian the other week, quoting Karin Michels, an epidemiologist at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.

She made her scornful comments in a lecture at the University of Freiburg entitled “Coconut oil and other nutritional errors.”

Quite rightly, one of my readers emailed me to ask what I made of it?

My reader was sceptical, stating that “the idea that saturated fats cause heart attacks, strokes, etc has been thoroughly debunked”.

She added: “I've read Grain Brain, which is by the only American neurologist also qualified as a dietician, who is all for coconut oil! Perhaps you should write a column on this, as I see other articles decrying coconut oil. I wonder who benefits from this fake science?”

Well, yes, as you might expect I’m MORE than happy to throw my oar in here…

I’ll start by saying…

Don’t fall for this clickbait hysteria

The expert in question is a 'nutritionist' who – in my view – hasn’t a clue what she is talking about.

As my reader points out, her argument that saturated fats are poisons has been debunked by many researchers.
Yet there she was, emblazoned on the Guardian’s pages.

Of course, it makes great copy and everyone can get themselves in a panic about it, generating lots of clicks and page views.

And when I say a “lot”, I mean a lot!

The video of Karin Michals’ speech has had 392,768 views on YouTube at the time of writing this, and no doubt it has gone up a significant amount by the time you read this,

Popularity is no indictor of truth though, as we all know (and as Lara keeps telling me!)

In reporting such articles, the basic error that the media often makes is to assume the person has a high level of expertise.

The thing is, anyone can call themselves a ‘nutritionist’, whereas Registered Dietitians are the only qualified health professionals that assess, diagnose and treat dietary and nutritional problems at an individual and wider public health level.

Their title is protected in law and only those who undergo the rigours of a four-year degree and research can use the title.

This means that the people I’d prefer to listen to regarding diet and how good various foods are for me will only be Registered Dieticians, quite frankly. And they agree that we need a range of fats to maintain health.

Why this fat is good for you

Our neural systems (which includes the brain of course) derive much of their energy from fat and cholesterol. Without these in our diet they begin to cease to function properly.

In addition to feeding our brains and nerves, fats are a great source of energy, which is why athletes eat high fat diets in preparation for major competitions.

This is hardly the effect of a poison now is it?

But once again the words of a chancer trying to sell books get taken as gospel!

For more information I thoroughly recommend you read this webpage: WRONGLY ACCUSED of being unhealthy! The "Wonder-Drug" hidden inside saturated fat.

It explains how oil from coconuts was considered "bad" for you because 94% of it is made up of saturated fatty acids.

However, these are "medium-chain fatty acids", the same kind as found in mother's milk......they are metabolized quickly in your liver and turned into energy, as well as other things called ‘ketone bodies’.

These are really good for the brain. And for other parts of your body too…

  • Coconut oil fats can improve the health of your thyroid, which controls your metabolism. When your metabolism is working well, you burn fat and lose weight more easily. A 2008 study suggested that subjects who ate oils containing medium chain triglycerides (MCT) – like in coconut oil – lost more weight than a control group who ate olive oil.

  • Coconut oil also helps reduce the amount of fat which builds up around your abdominal cavity, or ‘belly fat’ as it’s known, which is linked to heart disease and other nasties.

  • Coconut oil fats also raise your level of high density lipoproteins and lower the low density lipoproteins, these are the things that are often wrongly called bad and good cholesterol, but in reality are the way cholesterol is transported and the high density version is bigger and helps keep blood vessels clear of blockages.

  • So no, they’re not poison, they’re very good for you, and if you’d like to test them out yourself I recommend this really good source: Coconut Oil Capsules

A sensible way to approach fats

On top of these coconut capsules you should also eat monounsaturated fats, the kind found in olive oil, avocados and almonds.

But everything in moderation…

These fats should be balanced out with some carbs and plenty of protein, as well as leafy green vegetables and plenty of fruit.

And I’m not saying all fats are good.

We should avoid non-natural fats, which come about from food manufacturing techniques. These lead to trans-fats, found in huge quantities in many junk foods.

But just beware of coconut oil hysteria and don’t leap to conclusions when you see articles with terrifying headlines.

Thankfully, many journalists have given Karin Michels’ “coconut oil is poison” statement short shrift.

Including Cheryl Wischhover who writes: “Calling something a poison is a great way to get YouTube views, but unless you stir-fry the coconut oil with some arsenic, it’s an exaggeration.”

To this I say HA HA!

And also HEAR HEAR!

As always, keep your emails coming, as I love to hear what you’ve been reading, eating and trying out to ease pain or improve your health.

I’ll back with more at the weekend.

Yours, as always




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