You might think you're doing yourself a favor by cooking food with coconut oil, since it's often sold as a health food at your local supermarket. But according to the American Heart Association's new guidelines, the stuff might be just as unhealthy as butter or beef fat when it comes to your cholesterol levels.
Their study, published in the journal Circulation, cites a survey that found 72% of Americans think coconut oil is healthy, compared with just 37% of nutritionists. The doctors believe the ingredient is marketed incorrectly as a health food.
A full 82% of coconut oil's fats are the saturated variety, which is linked to heart disease and stroke, the BBC notes. In controlled experiments, people who consumed coconut oil increased levels of LDL cholesterol (the "bad" variety) compared to ingredients like olive oil and safflower oil.
Researchers found there's not much of a difference between coconut oil and ingredients like butter, beef fat, or palm oil when it comes to your LDL levels. "Because coconut oil increases LDL cholesterol, a cause of [cardiovascular disease], and has no known offsetting favorable effects, we advise against the use of coconut oil," the report reads.
Overall, the AHA recommends limiting the amount of saturated you eat overall, and that includes coconut oil. Instead, use unsaturated vegetable oils, like olive oil and sunflower oil. And when it comes to coconut oil, stick to using it on your skin and hair. "You can put it on your body, but don't put it in your body," the report's lead author, Frank Sacks, told USA Today.