Contrary to popular opinion coconut oil is not healthier than butter or regular oil. In fact, the American Heart Association warned against overusing coconut oil, since it contains a high quantity of saturated fat, which is known to raise cholesterol levels.

"A recent survey reported that 72 percent of the American public rated coconut oil as a 'healthy food' compared with 37 percent of nutritionists," an AHA statement said. "This disconnect between lay and expert opinion can be attributed to the marketing of coconut oil in the popular press."

"Evidence has accumulated during the past several years that strengthens long-standing AHA recommendations to replace saturated fat with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat to lower the incidence of cardiovascular disease."

"Coconut oil is not healthier than butter or beef fat. There are no studies which support the claim that coconut oil is healthier than butter or regular fat, and it contains a high amount of saturated fat."

In recent years, coconut oil has been perceived as healthier than oils deriving from animal fats, and the push for consumers to prefer vegetable-based oils has caused sales of sunflower oil, coconut oil, and olive oil to rise.

According to supporters, vegetable oils are lower in cholesterol-raising saturated fats and therefore healthier for the cardiovascular system.

However, according to the AHA's research, coconut oil contains a quantity of saturated fats similar to that of animal-based oils.

According to the AHA, 82% of the fat in coconut oil is saturated fat. In contrast, butter contains 63% saturated fat, and beef contains 39%. Studies show that coconut oil can raise the levels of "bad" cholesterol in the blood, increasing a person's risk of heart disease and stroke.

Instead of coconut oil, the AHA suggests using sunflower or olive oil.

According to lead researcher Dr. Frank Sacks, men should eat no more than 30 grams of saturated fat each day, while women should limit their daily intake to 20 grams.

"That statin is only going to go part of the way," Sacks said. "You’re going to mess up the effect of the statin if you’re eating all unhealthy foods."

"This recommended shift from saturated to unsaturated fats should occur simultaneously in an overall healthful dietary pattern.

"The people who were eating low saturated fats were eating a lot of junk food carbohydrates. You wouldn’t tell people, ‘Hey reduce your sat fat and replace it with sugary soft drinks or donuts.’

"A healthy diet doesn’t just limit certain unfavorable nutrients. It should also focus on healthy foods rich in nutrients that can help reduce risk, like poly- and mono-unsaturated vegetable oils, nuts, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and others.

"One of the real problems in transmitting health information is that generally people who are writing about it don’t look into what’s come before. The overall effect has misled the public on the science of dietary fats.

"People also have a strong emotional connection to what they eat. What you’re brought up eating, what people call their comfort food — there’s a lot of emotion in that."

The bottom line, Sacks said, is that "you can put it on your body, but don’t put it in your body."