The popular ingredient has been widely touted for its numerous health benefits such as weight loss and improved overall health, but Karin Michels of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health challenged these claims in a German lecture posted to YouTube last month.
“Coconut oil is pure poison,” she said, adding that it is “one of the worst foods you can eat.”
The problem with coconut oil is that it is made up almost entirely of saturated fatty acids, which are known to clog heart arteries, raise “bad” cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease, Business Insider reported.
Michels was quick to point out that coconut oil could actually be more dangerous than lard. Further, she noted that there are no current studies that can prove the alleged health benefits of the ingredient.
Michels’ claims follow similar remarks passed by the American Heart Association, which highlighted the dangers of consuming excessive amounts of coconut oil.
The Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease advisory conducted a review of existing data on saturated fat and found that coconut oil appeared to raise “bad” cholesterol in clinical trials, USA Today reported.
The study noted that cardiovascular disease is the leading global cause of death and that preventative treatment that can reduce this number, even by a small amount, could make a positive impact.
A glance at the numbers shows that the U.S. is gripped by a cardiovascular disease epidemic.
According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, about 610,000 people die of heart disease in the U.S. each year, which amounts to one in every four deaths.
Simple dietary swaps could help tackle the problem and health experts have recommended that a good start is to replace saturated fats with products that include lots of unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as rapeseed and flaxseed oil, soybean, sunflower and corn oil, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said.