A Harvard professor termed coconut oil ‘poison’, so should kids have it?https://indianexpress.com/article/parenting/health-fitness/coconut-oil-health-kids-5323105/

A Harvard professor termed coconut oil ‘poison’, so should kids have it?

A Harvard professor Dr Karin Michels recently triggered a debate after she reportedly deemed coconut oil “pure poison” or “one of the worst things you can eat”.

Is coconut oil really good for kids? (Source: Getty Images)

Express Parenting got in touch with pediatricians to find out if consuming coconut oil is good for kids. 

By Disha Roy Choudhury

Much has been said about how coconut oil can impact one’s health. While some studies have shown that consuming coconut oil is good for health, others have advised against using it. A Harvard professor Dr Karin Michels, for instance, recently triggered a debate after she reportedly deemed coconut oil “pure poison” or “one of the worst things you can eat”.

Dr Michels talked about how coconut oil contains high amounts of saturated fatty acids, thereby raising levels of bad LDL cholesterol, while increasing the risk of cariovascular diseases. So, is coconut oil really harmful? In that case, should we use it for kids?

“We cannot base our judgment on just one study. In Indian households, we recommend mustard oil, desi ghee or coconut oil. That coconut oil is poison doesn’t hold good in the Indian context,” pediatrician Dr Vivek Goswami told Express Parenting.

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Don’t go overboard with coconut oil

Express Parenting also got in touch with pediatrician and nutritionist Dr Charu Kalra, who talked about why coconut oil should be used in moderate amounts for cooking. “Coconut oil isn’t poison, but one should be careful while using it for cooking. We advise parents to use more than one form of oil for cooking. It needs to be a combination of different oils—medium-chain fatty acids and long-chain fatty acids. Coconut oil is the staple in many parts of South India. So, we cannot ask parents to eliminate it completely from their diet,” said Dr Kalra.

“Coconut oil can be used for ingestion, but in moderate amounts. Secondly, one should only use organic coconut oil for cooking, without any preservatives in it. For children above one year of age, not more than two spoons of coconut oil a day is advisable since it contains medium-chain fatty acids. Even if one is using clarified butter or ghee, or any form of greasy product, it should be used in small amounts,” she added.

“Any oil should be used in moderate amounts. Diet is all about striking a balance. Anything taken in excess can be poison,” agreed Dr Goswami.

How coconut oil can affect your health

“If coconut oil is used over and over again, the large amounts of medium-chain fatty acids would be harmful for the child. Coconut oil contains a combination of medium-chain fatty acids, which are more saturated than unsaturated. With time, saturated fatty acids increase the chances of obesity. It gets collected in the arteries and by the time children grow up, they are more at risk of heart and cardiovascular problems,” explained Dr Kalra.

Dr Goswami, on the other hand, talked about how coconut oil can help in brain development. “The present understanding is that coconut oil contains saturated fat and it doesn’t get denatured by heat easily. It is considered to be good for brain development,” he said.

Can coconut oil promote weight loss?

Some small-scale studies in the past have shown how coconut oil boosts metabolism and helps reduce abdominal fat. There is, however, no consistent evidence to support the claim that coconut oil can reduce weight in the long-term.

On the contrary, consumption of coconut oil can lead to weight gain, said Dr Kalra. “Coconut oil consumed as part of the Keto diet for adults may induce weight loss, but not in case of children. We don’t advise consumption of coconut oil for weight loss for children. Rather, parents were earlier advised to add a few drops of coconut oil in the milk given to a preterm baby, to help the child gain weight. Nowadays, parents are advised to use SMCT oil (Syml MCT oil)—MCT (medium-chain triglycerides) oil—that helps preterm babies gain weight,” she said.

Coconut oil is good for massaging babies

While the benefits of using coconut oil in your diet is still being debated, there is no doubt that it is good for massaging babies. “Coconut oil is still one of the best products one can use for the skin. It is a very good oil for massaging babies,” affirmed Dr Kalra. Coconut oil contains natural anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties, which can heal or protect your baby from infections.