A Harvard nutrition professor's lecture has ignited a new front in the battle over coconut oil. In one camp, coconut oil acolytes who claim the stuff can prevent heart disease, increase metabolism and burn fat. In the other, researchers like University of Freiburg professor Karin Michels, who called the stuff "pure poison" in a German-language YouTube video posted in July. On Monday, Business Insider brought Michels' comments to an English-speaking audience with an article about the lecture. Michels holds a joint appointment at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. As it turns out, Michels' assessment of coconut oil is a lot closer to what the scientific evidence has to say about the fat than what acolytes claim — though "poison" may be a bit of stretch. Coconut oil is rich in saturated fats, which puts it on the American Heart Association's (AHA) list of foods that are better to avoid. While the occasional splashy study argues that saturated fat is actually healthy, the preponderance of evidence supports the same old conclusion: Saturated fat, and coconut oil by extension, just isn't that good for you. "It's not a difficult topic, scientifically," said Frank Sacks, a professor of cardiovascular disease prevention at the Harvard School of Public Health and lead author of an AHA advisory on dietary fats released last year. Sacks said that he is acquainted with Michels, but did not know of her interest in dietary fats.
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