Harvard professor says coconut oil is ‘pure poison’

Is consuming coconut oil just like eating poison? That's the new concern going viral after a video online -- but let's sort it all out.

In a YouTube video, a Harvard professor said coconut oil is one of the worst foods you can eat, because it has saturated fatty acids that can clog arteries. This flies in the face of people who consider coconut oil to be a super food.

But last year, the American Heart Association did recommend people avoid coconut oil. We spoke with dietician Mira Dessy, who thinks these concerns go a little too far.

"There have been several times that coconut oil has been vilified, and it actually is a really healthy medium chain fatty acid. It is a saturated fat, however saturated fats can be good for us. They can be healthy; coconut oil is a particular type of fatty acid. Those medium chains are actually really healthy for us; they're anti-inflammatory, they're anti-viral," Dessy said.

The American Heart Association recommends people consume only about a teaspoon of saturated fats a day. We spoke with dietician Toby Amidor, author of The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook, who says coconut oil is fine in moderation.

"So let's say you're on a 2,000-calorie diet, which is your average standard diet. That would be no more than 200 calories. So, if you want to have it, okay. It should be in your fat repertoire. I would use healthier oils like olive oil, peanut, safflower, whatever you like, and then switch in coconut oil if you really want it and really like it, every so often. That's okay," Amidor said.

Clearly, this new info can be confusing. As one person tweeted, "Somewhere between health food and pure poison is probably true."

But, as with any food, sensible use may be the key. For every study saying coconut oil is unhealthy, there are studies that show it can help with inflammation, immunity, and diabetes.