Health officials have joined chorus of critics advising against so-called miracle product.

Coconut oil has been given a new black mark by the health establishment, with the Health Ministry and its nutrition advisers the latest to advise striking it from recipes for the good of our arteries.

Some health researchers have been alarmed by the promotion of coconut oil as a "superfood", because of its high proportion of saturated fat.

The Heart Foundation advises limiting coconut oil intake because it could increase the risk of coronary heart disease.

But coconut oil supporters are undeterred by the attack on what one calls a "miracle" product.

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In its Eating and Activity Guidelines, published this week, the ministry says: "The recent heavy marketing of coconut oil is based on misinformation.

"Only a few studies have looked at the effect of coconut oil on humans. Their findings suggest that coconut oil is better than butter for blood cholesterol levels but not as good as unsaturated plant oils.

"The Heart Foundation considers that when indigenous people consume coconut flesh and milk along with fish and vegetables, and they are also physically active, the coconut consumption is unlikely to put them at risk of cardiovascular disease. They are in a very different situation from people who consume coconut oil along with a typical western diet."

The ministry recommends using unsaturated plant oils such as olive, canola or rice bran oil, rather than coconut oil, as the main dietary or cooking oil.

Fitness consultant, Kiwi Living co-host and Vodafone Warriors nutritionist Lee-Anne Wann, the author of health and fitness books, has promoted coconut oil as part of a "cave man" diet which focuses on avoiding highly processed refined food.

"I live on it and I put 99 per cent of my clients on it." Lee-Anne Wann, nutritionist.

"I live on it and I put 99 per cent of my clients on it. I put the Warriors on it and these boys would not keep using it if they were not getting good results," said Ms Wann.

"We use it to have energy, to strip fat and to curb sugar cravings.

"Globally we're all eating trim fat products and it's not working. We have very fat, overweight, sick and unhappy people who are very confused about what they should do to turn their health around.

"Yet, all they hear is we professionals arguing over what's better."

Ms Wann is also the ambassador for the company which is promoting sales of the oil, Blue Coconut New Zealand, whose managing director, John Drew, describes the product as "a miracle of nature".

He wished health agencies would accept the global research which showed coconut oil was totally neutral regarding heart health.

"The Ministry of Health says to, as much as possible, eat whole or less processed foods. Yet it has the temerity to say that in one breath and then suggest consumption of rice bran oil which is one of the most industrially, chemically processed oils."

Coconut oil

Critics say

• 92% saturated fat.

• Could increase risk of coronary heart disease.

• Better than butter but not as good as plant oils high in unsaturated fats.

Supporters say

• It is a superfood.

• Boosts immune system and memory.

• Helps control food cravings.