There has always been a lot of interest surrounding the use of coconut oil. It’s mostly considered bad for health due to its high content of saturated fats. Ninety percent calories of coconut oil come from saturated fats, making it one of the richest sources of these fats.
However, recent studies have suggested that there is no association between saturated fats and heart disease.[1,2,3] This is because the initial research that demonized coconut oil used unhealthy, refined and hydrogenated coconut oil that contained trans fats.
How Is Refined, Hydrogenated Coconut Oil Different From Unrefined, Organic, Virgin Coconut Oil?
Hydrogenation is the process by which hydrogen atoms react with oil, changing their physical properties such as the melting range, making them semi-solid or solid to extend their shelf life.
A major drawback of hydrogenation is that it converts the fats present in coconut oil to trans fats. Trans fats are responsible for deposition of cholesterol in the arteries, which increases your risk of heart disease.
Organic virgin coconut oil does not have trans-fats, which is why it is a healthier cooking option. Studies show that populations that ate a lot of coconuts and got more than 50 percent of their calories from it had no traces of heart disease despite the high saturated fat consumption.[4,5]
Here’s how non-hydrogenated coconut oil can benefit your health.
1) High Lauric Acid Content Prevents Infections
Lauric acid is the most abundant fatty acid in coconut oil that is broken down into the compound monolaurin in the body. These in combination can kill microbes such as fungi, bacteria, and viruses and protect the body from various infections.[6,7,8]
2) Unique Combination Of Fatty Acids
The fatty acids in coconut oil are 90 percent saturated, making it highly resistant to oxidation at high temperatures. This is the reason why coconut oil is perfect for high-heat cooking methods such as frying.
Coconut oil consists of medium-chain triglycerides, a type of fatty acid that goes from the digestive tract to the liver, where they are turned into ketone bodies which provide a quick source of energy.
3) Bad Cholesterol Reduction & Heart Disease Prevention
Two separate animal studies compared virgin coconut oil with refined coconut oil.
The virgin coconut oil reduced LDL (bad) cholesterol, oxidized LDL, triglycerides and total cholesterol but increased HDL (good) cholesterol levels. It also helped regulate the clotting of blood because of its antioxidant effects.
Another study on women with abdominal obesity found that coconut oil increased HDL and lowered the LDL: HDL ratio. The lower this ratio, the lower is your risk of heart disease. The medium-chain triglycerides in coconut oil can also reduce blood triglycerides (bad fats) in the blood.
4) Provides Greater Satiety & Aids Weight Loss
In a study done on 40 women with abdominal obesity, coconut oil reduced waist circumference when compared to soybean oil. The medium-chain triglycerides in coconut oil can
- Provide greater satiety [15,16]
- Cause a greater proportion of weight loss from fat, sparing any loss of muscle mass.
- Increase the energy expenditure compared to the long chain fats.
5) Effective Skin Moisturizer & Hair Revitalizer
Topical application of coconut oil can moisturize the skin and prevent hair damage.[19,20] The antimicrobial properties of coconut oil also keep skin infections at bay.
1. Siri-Tarino PW, Sun Q, Hu FB, Krauss RM. Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Mar;91(3):535-46. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.27725. Epub 2010 Jan 13. PubMed PMID: 20071648; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2824152.
2. Ravnskov U. The questionable role of saturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids in cardiovascular disease. J Clin Epidemiol. 1998 Jun;51(6):443-60. Review. PubMed PMID: 9635993.
3. Mente A, de Koning L, Shannon HS, Anand SS. A systematic review of the evidence supporting a causal link between dietary factors and coronary heart disease. Arch Intern Med. 2009 Apr 13;169(7):659-69. doi: 10.1001/archinternmed.2009.38. Review. PubMed PMID: 19364995.
4. Lindeberg S, Lundh B. Apparent absence of stroke and ischaemic heart disease in a traditional Melanesian island: a clinical study in Kitava. J Intern Med. 1993 Mar;233(3):269-75. PubMed PMID: 8450295.
5. Prior IA, Davidson F, Salmond CE, Czochanska Z. Cholesterol, coconuts, and diet on Polynesian atolls: a natural experiment: the Pukapuka and Tokelau island studies. Am J Clin Nutr. 1981 Aug;34(8):1552-61. PubMed PMID: 7270479.
6. Kabara JJ, Swieczkowski DM, Conley AJ, Truant JP. Fatty Acids and Derivatives as Antimicrobial Agents. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. 1972;2(1):23-28.
7. Ruzin A, Novick RP. Equivalence of lauric acid and glycerol monolaurate as inhibitors of signal transduction in Staphylococcus aureus. J Bacteriol. 2000 May;182(9):2668-71. PubMed PMID: 10762277; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC111339.
8. Hoffman KL, Han IY, Dawson PL. Antimicrobial effects of corn zein films impregnated with nisin, lauric acid, and EDTA. J Food Prot. 2001 Jun;64(6):885-9. PubMed PMID: 11403145.
9. H. Ramachandra Prabhu. Lipid peroxidation in culinary oils subjected to thermal stress. Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry. August 2000, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 1-5
10. Self Nutrition Data. Site: http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fats-and-oils/508/2. (Accessed on 18 September 2015).
11. Nevin KG, Rajamohan T. Beneficial effects of virgin coconut oil on lipid parameters and in vitro LDL oxidation. Clin Biochem. 2004 Sep;37(9):830-5. PubMed PMID: 15329324.
12. K.G. Nevin, T. Rajamohan. Influence of virgin coconut oil on blood coagulation factors, lipid levels and LDL oxidation in cholesterol fed Sprague–Dawley rats. e-SPEN, the European e-Journal of Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism, Volume 3, Issue 1, February 2008, Pages e1-e8.
13. Assunção ML, Ferreira HS, dos Santos AF, Cabral CR Jr, Florêncio TM. Effects of dietary coconut oil on the biochemical and anthropometric profiles of women presenting abdominal obesity. Lipids. 2009 Jul;44(7):593-601. doi:
10.1007/s11745-009-3306-6. Epub 2009 May 13. PubMed PMID: 19437058.
14. Xue C, Liu Y, Wang J, Zhang R, Zhang Y, Zhang J, Zhang Y, Zheng Z, Yu X, Jing H, Nosaka N, Arai C, Kasai M, Aoyama T, Wu J. Consumption of medium- and long-chain triacylglycerols decreases body fat and blood triglyceride in Chinese
hypertriglyceridemic subjects. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009 Jul;63(7):879-86. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2008.76. Epub 2009 Jan 21. PubMed PMID: 19156155.
15. Van Wymelbeke V, Himaya A, Louis-Sylvestre J, Fantino M. Influence of medium-chain and long-chain triacylglycerols on the control of food intake in men. Am J Clin Nutr. 1998 Aug;68(2):226-34. PubMed PMID: 9701177.
16. Stubbs RJ, Harbron CG. Covert manipulation of the ratio of medium- to long-chain triglycerides in isoenergetically dense diets: effect on food intake in ad libitum feeding men. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1996 May;20(5):435-44.
PubMed PMID: 8696422.
17. M Krotkiewski. Value of VLCD supplementation with medium chain triglycerides. International Journal of Obesity (2001) 25, 1393–1400.
18. Marie-Pierre St-Onge and Peter J. H. Jones. Physiological Effects of Medium-Chain Triglycerides: Potential Agents in the Prevention of Obesity. School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition, McGill University, Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec, Canada, H9X 3V9
19. Agero AL, Verallo-Rowell VM. A randomized double-blind controlled trial comparing extra virgin coconut oil with mineral oil as a moisturizer for mild to moderate xerosis. Dermatitis. 2004 Sep;15(3):109-16. PubMed PMID: 15724344.
20. Rele AS, Mohile RB. Effect of mineral oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil on prevention of hair damage. J Cosmet Sci. 2003 Mar-Apr;54(2):175-92. PubMed PMID: 12715094.