Coconut oil, widely believed to be a healthy alternative, is actually not good for you, a new study suggests. The American Heart Association says research shows that coconut oil packs more saturated fat than butter and some other oils, USA Today reports. "Coconut oil is pure fat," writes Frank Sacks, lead author of the AHA's paper. More than 70% of Americans and a third of nutritionists think coconut oil is good for you, per the site Health. "There's no basis at all for that," Sacks writes. Claims that the white paste was a health food led Sacks and his team to examine the existing data. Writing in the AHA journal Circulation, they found that 82% of the fat in coconut oil is saturated, far more than in butter (63%), beef fat (50%), and pork lard (39%), per the BBC.
They also found nothing in the coconut variety to counter the "bad effects of saturated fat." The AMA recommends avoiding saturated fat, found in animal-based sources like lard and butter, which can raise "bad" (LDL) cholesterol levels. Not all experts agree that is the path to a healthy heart; a 2015 study found people replaced saturated fat with sugar and empty calories, per USA Today. Still, the AMA recommends switching to plant-based sources like olive oil. For those with stocks of coconut oil, take heart. It still makes a good moisturizer. "You can put it on your body, but don't put it in your body," says Sacks. Plus, Gizmodo makes the case that all these coconut-oil-is-bad-for-you headlines are vastly overstated. (Vegetable oil may not be so great, either.)