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Unsubstantiated and inconsiderate: Indian official on Harvard's 'coconut oil is poison' claim

Thursday September 6, 2018 8:40 AM, News Network

Coconut Oil Poison

Mumbai: India has rebuked the research by Harvard University professors who termed coconut oil as "poison" and asked the researchers to retract their claim.

According to USA Today, Harvard Professor Karin Michels, in a German talk on the topic 'Coconut Oil and Other Nutritional Errors' labelled the oil as 'poison'.

Another Harvard Professor who specialises in nutrition, Frank Sacks said that consuming saturated fatty acids has its ramifications. "It is due to the higher presence of saturated fat in coconut oil, which tends to raise one's LDL cholesterol, also known as bad cholesterol", Frank said.

Many experts seconded Michels' and Sacks' conclusions.

However, in a letter emailed to the Dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the Horticulture Commissioner B.N. Srinivasa Murthy, said the conclusions are "unsubstantiated and inconsiderate", according to The Washington Post.

Murthy also asked the Dean to take "corrective measures" and retract the comments. Michels made "negative statements against the revered crop of billions," wrote Murthy.

Rajesh Muralidharan, a cardiologist in Kerala, said that his initial reaction upon learning of the lecture by Michels was "Oh, not again" and to think of all the questions he would face from his patients.

"The answer is that we don't have an answer," he said. "What we try to tell them is all oils have fat and to use as little as possible."

It is impossible to imagine Keralan cuisine without coconut oil, he added. "Our ancestors have been using this for ages," he said. "It's something in the blood, the taste of coconut oil."

V.S. Sunil Kumar, Kerala's minister of agriculture, said he, too, planned to write a letter to Harvard seeking an explanation for the comments by Michels.

"Our lived experience is that coconut oil is not a poison," he said. "Without coconut, there is no life in Kerala. That is true."

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