- Coconut oil: Benefits, uses, and controversy
- Increasing good cholesterol
- Controlling blood sugar
- Reducing stress
- Shiny hair
- Healthy skin
- Fighting candida
- Preventing liver disease
- Reducing asthma symptoms
- Improving satiety
- Dental health
- Weight loss
- Incorrect interpretation of a study?
- Coconut oil consumption and cardiovascular risk factors in humans
- Cracking the coconut oil craze – Harvard Health Blog – Harvard Health Publishing
- Coconut oil’s effect on cholesterol
- Tropical diets are different
- Unsaturated fats
- Coconut Oil and Heart Health
- 8 Coconut Oil Health Benefits + Effects on Heart Health
- What is Coconut Oil?
- Health Benefits of Coconut Oil
- 2) Inflammation
- 3) Antimicrobial
- 4) Digestion And Nutrient Absorption
- 5) Skin Health
- 6) Hair Health
- 7) Oral Health
- 8) Wellbeing
- Effects on Heart Health
- Blood Lipids
- Animal and Cellular Research (Lacking Evidence)
- Blood Sugar Control
- Oxidative Stress
- Joint and Bone Health
Coconut oil: Benefits, uses, and controversy
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Coconut oil has grown in popularity in recent years, amid claims that it can do everything from supporting weight loss to slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Many manufacturers have begun to use coconut oil in packaged products, and many people use it for cooking. Many products, such as fried foods, sweets, shampoos, coffee, smoothies, contain coconut oil.
In July 2016, results of a survey in the United States showed that 72% of people believed that coconut oil was healthful, but only 37% of nutritionists agreed.
Coconut oil contains over 80% saturated fat. Some experts have linked saturated fats with cardiovascular and other diseases.
The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting consumption of saturated fats to less than 10% of a day’s calories. This means that someone following a 2000-calorie per day diet should eat no more than 20 grams (g) of saturated fat each day.
Find out more about the controversy, and if you should make coconut oil a staple in your diet.
Supporters claim coconut oil provides various health benefits.
Increasing good cholesterol
There are two types of cholesterol: high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or good cholesterol, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or bad cholesterol. HDL appears to help reduce levels of LDL, and high levels of HDL may help boost cardiovascular health.
Some researchers have argued that medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), a component in coconut oil, may help boost levels of good cholesterol. Participants took 1 tablespoon of coconut oil twice daily for 8 weeks.
However, results have varied. One small study in 2004 found the opposite. In research, dietary MCT increased bad cholesterol in 17 healthy young men. The scientists did not study any other indicators of heart health.
A 2016 study found no clear evidence that coconut oil either benefits or harms cholesterol levels.
However, findings published in 2018 suggested that extra virgin coconut oil’s impact on cholesterol may be similar to that of olive oil. So far, the results remain inconclusive, and more studies are needed.
Learn more about how to reduce cholesterol.
Controlling blood sugar
Findings from a 2009 animal study suggested that MCTs, present in coconut oil, may help preserve insulin sensitivity. The review also listed the specific beneficial health effects of MCT oil, not coconut oil, in 29 studies.
However, other investigations have not found the same results. This study on mini pigs, however, looked at an excess calorie, high fat diet that also included hydrogenated fats and high fructose.
Which foods help manage blood sugar levels? Find out here.
Virgin coconut oil may have antioxidant properties. In a rodent study, it appeared to reduce stress resulting from exercise and chronic cold. Researchers believe that virgin coconut oil could be useful in treating some kinds of depression.
Many plant based foods provide antioxidants. Learn more here.
Some people apply coconut oil to their hair to increase shine and protect it from damage. It may penetrate the scalp better than mineral oils.
However, one study of people with similar hair types found no difference in hair condition between those who used coconut oil and those who did not.
Applying a coconut extract to human skin may enhance its protective barrier functions and have an anti-inflammatory effect, says a 2017 study.
These findings could have implications for medicine but not for the diet.
Some foods may help boost skin health. Get some tips here.
In an in vitro study, coconut oil was active against Candida albicans (C. albicans), suggesting it could be a treatment for candida.
This may be due to the extract’s barrier functions and anti-inflammatory properties. However, this is not the same as consuming regular coconut oil since it is not fermented.
Can coconut oil fight candida? See this article for more details.
Preventing liver disease
In a 2017 study, rats with liver disease consumed a high glucose diet either with or without coconut oil. Those who consumed coconut oil had better measures of liver health after 4 weeks than those who did not.
This suggests that some elements in coconut oil may help protect the liver.
Reducing asthma symptoms
Inhaling coconut oil has helped reduce asthma symptoms in rabbits.
However, no studies have taken place in humans, so people should not inhale coconut oil.
Some people have argued that coconut oil leaves people feeling fuller after eating, which means they will not eat so much.
However, one study compared MCT oil to coconut oil and confirmed that MCT oil exerts effects on satiety, not coconut oil.
A 2017 review discusses the importance of oil pulling for dental health. Oil pulling is a traditional oral treatment. It involves swishing an oil around the oral cavity, in a similar way to the modern mouthwash.
Studies have found coconut oil pulling to protect against cavities, improve gingivitis, and influence the oral bacterial balance.
A study comparing two products found that coconut oil was less ly to trigger diabetes and weight gain in mice. Some have interpreted this as meaning coconut oil can help people lose weight.
One reason weight gain occurs is when people consume more calories than they use for energy.
All high fat foods and oils are high in calories. One tablespoon of coconut oil, weighing 13.6 grams (g) contains 121 calories, which is more than lard and butter and slightly less than sunflower oil.
Adding more high fat, calorie dense foods to a diet that contains carbohydrates and plenty of calories may not result in weight loss.
Which breakfast foods can help people lose weight? Find out here.
Several investigations have looked into coconut oil and its possible benefits, but many of these are small, inconclusive, and animal- or lab-based.
Some human studies have confirmed several benefits, but other studies on people show conflicting results. More research is needed to confirm the effects of daily coconut oil use.
1 tbs of coconut oil contains:
- 121 calories
- 0 g of protein
- 13.5 g of fat, of which 11.2 g is saturated
- 0 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol
Coconut oil contains vitamin E, but no fiber and little to no other vitamins or minerals.
Coconut oil is almost 100% fat, most of which is saturated fat. However, the structure of fat in coconut oil differs from that of many animal products, which mainly consist of long-chain fatty acids.
Coconut oil is high in MCTs. These are harder for the body to convert into stored fat and easier to burn off than long-chain triglycerides (LCTs). Supporters of coconut oil attribute many of its benefits to the high MCT content.
However, researchers have questioned these perceived benefits from coconut oil itself because many of the reported benefits stem from MCT oil itself. Experts have called on people to treat coconut oil as they would any other saturated fat until there is enough evidence to prove otherwise.
Not all coconut oils are the same, and the impact on health may vary according to type.
Overall, the less processed a food is, the more ly it is to offer health benefits, and the same is probably true of coconut oil.
Extra virgin coconut oil comes from the fruit of fresh, mature coconuts. Processing does not involve high temperatures or added chemicals.
People who choose to use coconut oil should opt for the least processed type.
Learn more about which oils to choose and which to avoid.
The main argument against coconut oil is its high saturated fat content.
In June 2015, a Cochrane review found that, in some ways, saturated fats may be less harmful than previously believed. It did not suggest, however, that saturated fats were healthful, and the authors urged people to continue reducing their intake of saturated fat.
In June 2017, the American Heart Association (AHA) issued new advice against using saturated fats, including coconut oil, after looking at the findings of over 100 research studies.
Incorrect interpretation of a study?
In 2008, one study made people think that coconut oil might be healthful. In this investigation, 31 people consumed MCT oil or olive oil during a 16-week weight loss program.
The team found that the body processes MCT oil, such as coconut oil, differently from other oils. They concluded that MCT could have the same impact on CVD risk factors as olive oil.
Some people interpreted this to mean that if MCTs can have a positive effect on HDL and total cholesterol levels, coconut oil must be healthful.
However, the original study did not use coconut oil, but a special oil that was 100% MCT. The MCT content of coconut oil is around 14%. Butter is about 9.2% MCT.
A person would have to eat 150 g, or 10 tbs, of coconut oil each day to get the benefits. Consuming this much oil would not be healthful.
The Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting the intake of saturated fats to 10% or less of total calories. For those monitoring their cholesterol, the AHA recommend a maximum of 5-6%.
Most studies that show positive health benefits use MCT oil, not coconut oil. Studies supporting coconut oil have often been short term, small scale investigations involving animals rather than humans. The results have not been significant enough to warrant advising people to switch to coconut oil.
Research supporting a switch to unsaturated fatty acids has produced more reliable results.
Fats and oil provide essential nutrients, but people should always use them in moderation. If people use coconut oil, they should look for extra virgin coconut oil.
Here are some tips for buying, storing, and using coconut oil:
Check the label and avoid oils that contain partially hydrogenated coconut oil.
Store coconut oil in a cool, dark place. other saturated fats, it is solid when at room temperature and liquefies when heated.
Use coconut oil in baking for a light, sweet, “coconutty” flavor. It substitutes well for butter and shortening, and it is suitable for vegan recipes.
Coconut oil can add flavor and variety to the diet, but research seems unly to prove that it is a superfood.
Consumers should remember that, while changing from one oil to another may benefit health, adding more of any oil to the diet is unly to help them lose weight loss or improve their overall health.
People should always consume oils and fats in moderation, as part of a varied diet. They should also ensure that their activity levels are high enough to burn off the calories they consume.
Coconut oil is available for purchase online.
If coconut oil is not good for health, which oil should I use?
While I recommend to limit all oils and choose whole food fats more often, healthy staple oils are olive and avocado. I do also keep coconut oil at home, but it is not my default oil for cooking.
Natalie Butler, RD, LD Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.
Coconut oil consumption and cardiovascular risk factors in humans
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Cracking the coconut oil craze – Harvard Health Blog – Harvard Health Publishing
If you Google “coconut oil,” you’ll see a slew of stories touting the alleged health benefits of this solid white fat, which is easy to find in supermarkets these days. But how can something that’s chock-full of saturated fat — a known culprit in raising heart disease risk — be good for you?
Coconut does have some unique qualities that enthusiasts cite to explain its alleged health benefits. But the evidence to support those claims is very thin, says Dr. Qi Sun, assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
“If you want to lower your risk of heart disease, coconut oil is not a good choice,” he says. It’s true that coconut oil tends to raise beneficial HDL cholesterol more than other fats do, possibly because coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, a fatty acid that the body processes slightly differently than it does other saturated fats.
Coconut oil’s effect on cholesterol
But there’s no evidence that consuming coconut oil can lower the risk of heart disease, according to an article in the April 2016 Nutrition Reviews.
The study, titled “Coconut Oil Consumption and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Humans,” reviewed findings from 21 studies, most of which examined the effects of coconut oil or coconut products on cholesterol levels.
Eight were clinical trials, in which volunteers consumed different types of fats, including coconut oil, butter, and unsaturated vegetable oils (such as olive, sunflower, safflower, and corn oil) for short periods of time. Compared with the unsaturated oils, coconut oil raised total, HDL, and LDL cholesterol levels, although not as much as butter did.
These findings jibe with results from a study by Dr. Sun and colleagues in the Nov. 23, 2016, issue of The BMJ, which examined the links between different types of saturated fatty acids and heart disease.
Compared with other saturated fats ( palmitic acid, which is abundant in butter), lauric acid didn’t appear to raise heart risk quite as much.
But that’s ly because American diets typically don’t include very much lauric acid, so it’s harder to detect any effect, Dr. Sun notes.
Tropical diets are different
Coconut oil proponents point to studies of indigenous populations in parts of India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Polynesia, whose diets include copious amounts of coconut.
But their traditional diets also include more fish, fruits, and vegetables than typical American diets, so this comparison isn’t valid, says Harvard Medical School professor Dr.
Bruce Bistrian, who is chief of clinical nutrition at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
Some of the coconut oil available in stores is labeled “virgin,” meaning that it’s made by pressing the liquid from coconut meat and then separating out the oil.
It tastes and smells of coconut, un the refined, bleached, and deodorized coconut oil made from the dried coconut meat used in some processed foods and cosmetics.
Virgin coconut oil contains small amounts of antioxidant compounds that may help curb inflammation, a harmful process thought to worsen heart disease. But to date, proof of any possible benefit is limited to small studies in rats and mice, says Dr. Bistrian.
In contrast, there’s a wealth of data showing that diets rich in unsaturated fat, especially olive oil, may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, Dr. Sun points out.
The evidence comes not only from many observational studies ( those in the aforementioned BMJ report) but also a landmark clinical trial from Spain, which found that people who ate a Mediterranean-style diet enhanced with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts had a lower risk of heart attack, stroke, and death from heart disease than people who followed a low-fat diet.
Of course, there’s no need to completely avoid coconut oil if you the flavor. Some bakers use coconut oil instead of butter in baked goods, and coconut milk is a key ingredient in Thai cooking and some Indian curry dishes. Just be sure to consider these foods occasional treats, not everyday fare.
Coconut Oil and Heart Health
Article, see p 803
That coconut oil contributes to cardiovascular disease would appear noncontroversial because its saturated fat content increases plasma low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol concentration.
1 Cholesterol-rich LDL is a major cause of atherosclerosis because it delivers its cholesterol load to the arterial wall and causes obstruction and inflammation.
Nonetheless, coconut oil has been accorded much attention in the popular media as a potentially beneficial food product. In fact, a survey in 2016 found that 72% of Americans viewed coconut oil as a healthy food.
2 This represents a remarkable success in marketing by the coconut oil and related industries calling coconut oil a natural, healthful product, despite its known action to increase LDL cholesterol, an established cause of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular events.
A systematic review, published in 2016, identified 7 trials that tested the effect of coconut oil on LDL cholesterol. In these trials, coconut oil was compared with oils that had a high content of unsaturated fats.3 Significant detrimental effects were found in 6 of them.
The present study by Neelakantan, Seah, and van Dam4is an important advance over this systematic review in that it includes a total of 17 published trials, takes a quantitative rather than a descriptive approach, and includes a range of outcomes relevant to assessing cardiovascular and metabolic health.
This meta-analysis found that coconut oil significantly increased plasma LDL cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and had no effect on triglycerides, body weight, body fat, and markers of glycemia and inflammation in comparison with nontropical vegetable oils.
Overall, this meta-analysis is rigorously conducted and reported, putting the results in the context of cardiovascular disease prevention.
Coconut oil is composed mainly of the saturated fatty acid, lauric acid (12 carbon atoms), but also of other long-chain saturated fatty acids, myristic (14 carbon atoms) and palmitic acids (16 carbon atoms).
5 Mensink performed a comprehensive systematic review with meta-regression of each of these fatty acids on plasma LDL cholesterol and other lipoproteins.
1 Mensink’s review considered all sources of lauric, myristic, and palmitic acids, not only from coconut oil, but also in other foods such as dairy fat, palm kernel, and palm oil. All these saturated fatty acids increased LDL cholesterol.
Lauric acid, the most prevalent fatty acid in coconut oil, had a significant linear effect on LDL cholesterol. Mensink used carbohydrate as the direct comparator nutrient for the fatty acids.
His approach found even more of an effect on LDL cholesterol of these saturated fatty acids in comparison with mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids, combining the 2 estimates (coconut oil minus carbohydrate) + (carbohydrate minus unsaturated fats). This is a practical way to illustrate the dietary application of the present meta-analysis, because unsaturated oils soybean, corn, olive, or peanut oils are practical replacements for coconut oil.
Lauric acid is often classified as a medium-chain fatty acid, lumped with shorter chain fatty acids that have 6, 8, or 10 carbons.6 However, lauric acid, with its 12-carbon atoms, acts biologically a long-chain fatty acid absorbed by packaging into chylomicrons. This mechanism increases LDL cholesterol.
True medium-chain fatty acids are absorbed directly into the portal circulation and do not affect LDL cholesterol. Coconut oil is not an oil that acts as if its main components are medium-chain fatty acids. Coconut oil has approximately 13% true medium-chain fatty acids having 6, 8, or 10 carbon atoms.
Thus, classifying lauric acid as a medium-chain fatty acid is a misnomer, going against its biological action as a long-chain fatty acid.
Neelakantan and colleagues wrote a well-reasoned section in the introduction that rebuts this argument, and stands by the well-established absorption of lauric acid to form chylomicrons, other long-chain saturated fatty acids.
The database includes small numbers of trials that could be used in analyses of the effects on LDL cholesterol of specific dietary comparisons, such as coconut oil versus butter, or coconut oil versus individual nontropical vegetable oils.
Although not the primary aim of the present study, these comparisons could be used to form a hierarchy of health effects of cooking oils.
However, the effect on LDL cholesterol of additional dietary comparisons may be estimated well by the meta-regression analysis on the component fatty acids.1
Although coconut oil increases plasma HDL cholesterol, it is impossible to know if this is a beneficial mechanism in cardiovascular disease.7 Although HDL cholesterol is a robust risk marker for cardiovascular disease, genetic studies and HDL-raising drugs have not so far supported a causal relationship between HDL cholesterol and cardiovascular disease.
HDL, the lipoprotein, is composed of a huge array of subparticles that may have adverse or beneficial actions.7,8 It is unknown which, if any, foods or nutrients that raise HDL cholesterol do so in a way that reduces atherosclerosis and coronary events.
Thus, effects on cardiovascular disease of foods or nutrients cannot be judged from changes in HDL cholesterol.
There is no randomized clinical trial that determined the effect of coconut oil on cardiovascular events such as myocardial infarction, heart failure, or stroke.
Such a trial is unly to be attempted because of the high cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, large numbers of participants, and many years of treatment with coconut oil and an appropriate control fat.
The inevitable rise in LDL cholesterol sustained over years in those assigned to coconut oil will create an ethical concern of harm, and may stop the trial before a definitive result is obtained. This situation is relevant to much of nutrition research.
This limitation can be countered with evidence from the effects of foods on established cardiovascular risk factors, such as LDL cholesterol, and on incident cardiovascular events in large prospective, observational cohorts.
Advertisements give the impression that purportedly beneficial constituents other than saturated fat compensate for its adverse effects on LDL cholesterol. Yet, controlled trials in humans are not available that support beneficial actions of the components of coconut oil on cardiovascular disease risk factors or mechanisms.
Coconut oil may be viewed as one of the most deleterious cooking oils that increases risk for cardiovascular disease. Even in comparison with palm oil, another tropical oil with high saturated fat content, coconut oil increased LDL cholesterol.
Replacing coconut oil with nontropical unsaturated vegetable oils, especially those rich in polyunsaturated fat, will have a health benefit. We believe that the results from the present meta-analysis can inform the development of nutrition recommendations and US Department of Agriculture dietary guidelines.
In culinary practice, coconut oil should not be used as a regular cooking oil, although it can be used sparingly for flavor or texture.
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8 Coconut Oil Health Benefits + Effects on Heart Health
For many years, coconut oil was labeled as dangerous due to its high saturated fat content. However, now that people are coming to realize that saturated fat is not inherently bad, the health benefits of coconut oil are being re-examined. So far, the effects on inflammation, metabolism, and skin health are promising but require further investigation.
In this article, we explore the potential health benefits of coconut oil for the body, skin & hair and its controversial effects on heart health.
What is Coconut Oil?
Coconut Oil is the oil extracted from the “meat” inside the hard-shelled coconut (Cocos nucifera). Coconut oil is solid at room temperature and has a very long shelf life (six months at 75 °F) .
The majority of coconut oil (approx 65%) is composed of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are triglycerides and fatty acids with a carbon length chain of 6 – 12. MCTs are mostly comprised of lauric acid, which has a 12 carbon chain and therefore is almost considered a long-chain fatty acid.
Coconut oil is produced mostly in Asian countries and is widely used in the food and cosmetic industries .
Health Benefits of Coconut Oil
MCTs from coconut oil are “thermogenic”; this means that consuming coconut oil may actually increase energy expenditure (fat burning), versus consuming the same amount of calories from other fats .
Coconut oil is 65% MCTs. A number of studies have explored fat loss and metabolic changes in response to MCT oil. In every one of these studies, MCT oil was found to increase metabolism and fat loss, compared to other fat sources [3, 4, 2, 5].
Similarly, another study found that after 7 days, individuals on a diet rich in MCTs from coconut oil and butter burned more fat and had a significantly higher resting metabolic rates than those consuming diets rich in beef tallow .
Subjects (n=20) who consumed 30ml of coconut oil per day lost an average of 1.1 inches from their waist circumference, but this effect was observed only in men .
In 40 women, consumption of coconut oil led to a greater decrease in waist circumference, compared with soybean oil .
It’s important to note that adding coconut oil on top of daily food intake instead of replacing another (saturated) fat source would ly have opposite effects on metabolism and weight control.
Women who consumed a high-fat diet coconut oil had less post-meal inflammation, especially when compared to the group on a diet high in unsaturated fatty acids .
Virgin coconut oil was found to be anti-inflammatory for artificially-induced ear and paw swelling in rats, as well as ulcerative colitis .
In a mouse study, the anti-inflammatory activity of virgin coconut oil was comparable to aspirin .
Lauric acid makes up almost 50% of coconut oil. After being digested, coconut oil also forms the monoglyceride, monolaurin. Both lauric acid and monolaurin kill pathogenic bacteria, viruses and fungi e.g. Staphylococcus Aureus [12, 13].
In test tubes, coconut oil was effective at killing various forms of Candida, especially Candida Albicans .
Coconut oil is an effective treatment for vaginal thrush (yeast infection) .
One way coconut oil kills candida is by disrupting the yeast’s plasma membranes .
Many disease-causing microbes, including potentially deadly ones HIV and drug-resistant bacteria, are vulnerable to MCTs found in coconut oil .
When used topically, coconut oil showed potential in dealing with local bacterial infections .
Coconut oil is effective at reducing the levels of dangerous bacteria found in poultry .
MCTs found in coconut oil have also been shown to reduce the growth of certain species of Malassezia fungus. This fungus is very common in hospitals .
4) Digestion And Nutrient Absorption
Coconut oil improves the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, B, D, E, K) beta-carotene, CoQ10, minerals such as calcium and magnesium, and amino acids .
Coconut oil is used to treat malnutrition and malabsorption syndrome in children and is a common ingredient included in-hospital feeding formulas for premature and low birth weight babies. Intravenous MCT oils are used for very malnourished people .
Post-surgery, consumption of coconut oil leads to faster growth, weight gain, and improved nutritional status than other fats .
Patients with bile acid malabsorption do best when MCTs, as found in coconut oil, are their primary source of fat .
Similarly, those with pancreatic insufficiency respond well to foods rich in MCTs .
Individuals with liver disease are able to absorb the types of fats found in coconut oil better than other longer chain fatty acids .
5) Skin Health
Topical treatments containing coconut oil show great potential for healing wounds and combatting local bacterial infections .
Virgin coconut oil, applied daily for eight weeks, was an effective treatment for mild to moderate atopic dermatitis (eczema) in 117 patients .
In rodents, topically applied coconut oil speeds up wound healing time by speeding up collagen cross-linking, and increasing glutathione levels .
One of the main constituents of coconut oil, lauric acid, is effective against the bacteria that cause acne (P. acnes) .
Coconut oil enhances the absorption of other topical treatments, such as Vitamin E and curcumin [29, 30].
6) Hair Health
In preliminary research, coconut oil was shown to be more effective at reducing hair damage than mineral or sunflower oil. It reduced protein loss for both undamaged and damaged hair. These benefits may be due to the high lauric acid content .
It may be such an effective hair treatment because, un mineral oil, it actually penetrates the shaft of the hair .
A spray containing coconut was a more effective method for killing head lice than conventional treatments in 100 study subjects .
7) Oral Health
Coconut oil, when used as a mouthwash (oil pulling), reduces the amount of plaque-forming bacteria in the mouth, with the effects comparable to those of chlorhexidine .
In a similar study, 60 individuals aged 16-18 years with gum inflammation were instructed to do oil pulling with coconut oil for 30 days. At the end of the study, both inflammation and plaque markers were significantly decreased .
In one trial, 60 women undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer consumed 20ml of coconut oil per day. This resulted in better quality of life, fatigue, sleep, loss of appetite, sexual function and body image .
Effects on Heart Health
For decades, coconut oil was demonized for its high saturated fat content. However, there is no concrete link between the consumption of saturated fat and heart disease [36, 37].
A natural experiment that helps prove coconut oil’s safety has been taking place in many tropical countries for decades: Many Polynesian populations consume high percentages of calories from coconut oil (up to 60%), and yet have low levels of heart disease .
Virgin coconut oil stabilizes blood pressure and improves blood vessel function in rats fed a diet high in oxidized palm oil .
Current evidence supports the idea that the diseased heart is energy deficient. Coconut oil, with its rich source of ketogenic MCTs, might offer an important alternative fuel source for the heart .
On the other hand, there’s solid evidence to suggest that partly replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fatty acid significantly reduces the risk of heart disease .
According to preliminary research, coconut oil may increase HDL (good cholesterol) more than safflower and other vegetable oils [42, 8].
In humans, a diet rich in coconut oil raised HDL but also total and LDL cholesterol more than the beef fat and safflower oil; it caused less of an increase in triglycerides than a diet rich in beef fat .
After 40 days on a diet rich in coconut oil, rats showed improved lipid profiles. This included: reduced total cholesterol, triglycerides, phospholipids, LDL, and VLDL cholesterol levels and increased HDL cholesterol. The authors suggested these changes might be due to the polyphenol content of coconut oil .
Rats fed a diet rich in virgin coconut oil had significantly lowered levels of total cholesterol, LDL & VLDL cholesterol, Apo-B, and triglycerides, compared to rats fed copra oil, olive oil and sunflower oil .
A diet high in coconut milk was also able to decrease LDL and increase HDL in animal studies [46, 47].
Animal and Cellular Research (Lacking Evidence)
The following health effects have been observed in animal and cell-based studied only; they should not be interpreted as supportive of actual health benefits in humans until more research is done.
Blood Sugar Control
Coconut oil-rich diet prevented the negative impact of diabetes on blood lipids in mice .
After 21 days on a diet rich in virgin coconut oil, rats had reduced blood glucose levels .
MCTs, which are abundant in coconut oil, help maintain insulin sensitivity and blood glucose control, according to preclinical and clinical studies. Still, this doesn’t mean coconut oil would have the same effect in humans [50, 51].
One study found that dietary virgin coconut oil improved the antioxidant status of rats more than three other oils. It increased glutathione (master antioxidant) levels, thus protecting against oxidative stress .
Joint and Bone Health
One study gave coconut oil polyphenols to arthritic rats. These rats showed reduced levels of CRP (an inflammatory marker) and white blood cells, and also reduced the expression of inflammatory genes such as COX-2, iNOS, TNF-α and IL-6 .
Oxidative stress and free radicals have been associated with the onset of osteoporosis (bone disease). Rats given virgin coconut oil show improved bone health. This is probably because of virgin coconut oil’s high antioxidant content .
Another study found that coconut oil prevented lipid peroxidation and increased the antioxidant enzymes in rats with osteoporosis .