Coconut Oil

Health Benefits, Uses, Tips & More

Coconut Oil
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Coconut oil is a natural substance said to offer a host of health benefits. One of the few plant sources of saturated fat, coconut oil contains lauric acid (said to possess antibacterial, antiviral, and antioxidant properties) and medium-chain triglycerides (purported to speed up metabolism and promote weight loss).

Uses for Coconut Oil

In alternative medicine, some proponents claim that coconut oil offers the following health benefits:

Some research shows that adding coconut oil to your diet may offer certain health benefits, however, there is currently a lack of scientific support for any of the health claims about coconut oil.

Health Benefits of Coconut Oil

So far, scientific support for the potential health benefits of coconut oil is limited. 

1) Reduced Belly Fat

Consuming coconut oil may help fight abdominal obesity, according to a 2009 study from the journal Lipids. For 12 weeks, 40 women with excess belly fat were placed on a diet, told to exercise each day, and given daily supplements containing either soybean oil or coconut oil.

Although members of both groups lost weight, women given coconut oil showed a greater decrease in the size of their waistlines.

More about Natural Methods For Reducing Belly Fat.

2) Improved Cholesterol Levels

Preliminary research suggests that coconut oil may help keep cholesterol in check. A 2004 study published in Clinical Biochemistry, for instance, found that rats fed virgin coconut oil (a type of coconut oil produced without the use of chemicals) for 45 days experienced a reduction in their total cholesterol and levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol.

Besides coconut oil, find out about other ways to Lower Cholesterol With Supplements.

3) Weight Loss

Tests on mice indicate that combining coconut oil with conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) may promote the loss of body fat. However, it's not known whether combining coconut oil and CLA might produce the same health benefits in humans. What's more, it should also be noted that CLA may have negative impact on blood sugar metabolism and possibly contribute to insulin resistance.

See 15 Popular Weight Loss Supplements.

Where to Find It

Coconut oil can be purchased at most natural-foods stores. When selecting a coconut oil, stay away from hydrogenated oil or oil that has been treated with heat, solvents, or bleach. Opting for extra-virgin oil ensures that the coconut oil product has not been refined, bleached, or deodorized. In addition, extra-virgin coconut oil tends to offer a richer flavor than refined coconut oil.

Often used in stir-frying and baking, coconut oil can replace butter as a spread or flavoring agent for bread, oatmeal, popcorn, vegetable dishes, and other foods.

Coconut oil can also be added to smoothies and shakes.

In addition to 100 percent coconut oil, some companies make a product made from the whole coconut, not just the oil, so it also has protein and fiber. It is called coconut butter or coconut manna, and is used in smoothies, shakes, desserts, dressings, and sauces.

Using Coconut Oil for Health

Given the lack of science behind coconut oil's purported health benefits, coconut oil cannot currently be recommended as a standard treatment for any condition. If you're interested in using coconut oil for health purposes, make sure to consult your physician before beginning treatment. Self-treating and avoiding or delaying standard care can have serious consequences.


American Heart Association. "Fat". Last accessed March 2011.

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.

Cox C, Mann J, Sutherland W, Chisholm A, Skeaff M. "Effects of coconut oil, butter, and safflower oil on lipids and lipoproteins in persons with moderately elevated cholesterol levels." J Lipid Res. 1995 Aug;36(8):1787-95.

Cox C, Sutherland W, Mann J, de Jong S, Chisholm A, Skeaff M. "Effects of dietary coconut oil, butter and safflower oil on plasma lipids, lipoproteins and lathosterol levels." Eur J Clin Nutr. 1998 Sep;52(9):650-4.

Hargrave KM, Azain MJ, Miner JL. "Dietary coconut oil increases conjugated linoleic acid-induced body fat loss in mice independent of essential fatty acid deficiency." Biochim Biophys Acta. 2005 Oct 15;1737(1):52-60.

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.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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