Coconut oil is 'pure poison', according to a lecture given by a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Dr Karin Michels, who also heads up the tumor research center at the University of Freiburg, made the statement in a 50-minute talk in German last month.

Among other things, she told her audience that 'coconut oil is pure poison,' and 'it is one of the worst foods you can eat,' according to a translation by Business Insider Deutschland.

The video, which has amassed more than 400,000 hits since it was published on July 10, will add fuel to the firy debate over the oil's nutritional properties; many have turned to coconuts as a guilt-free fat, but even the American Heart Association has urged consumers to restrict their use.

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Coconut oil had a peculiar rise to popularity, the Daily Mail reports.

Cardiologists know well that it may be tasty and sumptuous, but those velvety qualities are no friend to your arteries.

Dr Michels says it is worse than lard (fat from the abdomen of a pig which was a hit in the 50s and is now only seen in our grandmothers' pantries).

And yet, a nationwide poll in 2016 found at least 70 percent of Americans believed coconut oil to be healthy - with many seeing it as one of the healthiest oils out there.

The ascent of coconut oil sales began in the early 2000s, on the heels of two studies by Columbia University which looked at medium-chain fatty acids, a type of fat present in coconuts.

The study participants who ate the medium-chain fatty acid diet burned fat quicker than the controls.

Once the findings emerged, it was gobbled up: could this product, that is so easy to incorporate into daily life, be the Holy Grail of fat burning?

Consumers decided it could. Sales of coconut oil rocketed.

The medical industry, however, was not converted - not even the author of the study, nutrition professor Marie-Pierre St-Onge, who explained in her study that, coconuts are only 14 percent medium-chain fatty acids. The study participants were fed 100 percent.