What are the Health Benefits of Coconut Oil?

Coconut Oil is passionately advocated as a wonderful product that has a multitude of health benefits.  An example of the potential benefits is shown below.

The health benefits of coconut oil include hair care, skin care, stress relief, cholesterol level maintenance, weight loss, boosted immune system, proper digestion and regulated metabolism. It also provides relief from kidney problems, heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV, and cancer, while helping to improve dental quality and bone strength. These benefits of oil can be attributed to the presence of lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid, and their respective properties, such as antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-fungal, antibacterial and soothing qualities.


Problems with Coconut Oil

Problems with all fat

Fats contain 2¼ times more calories than the same weight of carbohydrates.  They are not as filling so you can eat more. Fats make you fat – not carbohydrates. There is no metabolic pathway in humans that convert carbohydrates to fats.

All fats damage the endothelial lining of the arteries – cells cannot produce nitric oxide.

A study from the 1990s 1 compared the effect of a single high-fat meal (Sausage and Egg McMuffin with 50 g fat) with a low-fat meal (0 g fat) on the arterial blood flow.

A tourniquet was placed on the upper arm for 5 minutes and the flow-dependent vasoactivity was measured 1 minute after the tourniquet was released.

Before the meal, the measurement was 21. With the high-fat meal, the vasoactivity decreased at 2, 3 and 4 hours to 11, 11 and 10. There was no change with the low-fat meal.

Serum triglycerides increased from 94 mg/dl to 147 mg/dl 2 hours after the high-fat meal.

According to the study, “these results demonstrate that a single high-fat meal transiently impairs endothelial function. These findings identify a potential process by which a high-fat diet may be atherogenic independent of induced changes in cholesterol”.

It takes about 6 hours to recover a normal flow rate in the artery – which is not enough time to fully recover before your next high-fat meal.

High in Saturated Fat

Coconut oil contains over 85% of saturated fat.  It is higher in saturated fats than lard or butter. Saturated fats cause increased viscosity of blood, increases risk of thrombosis and increases the adhesiveness of the blood cells. Your blood cells become more “sticky”.

Saturated and trans-fats molecules are straight – they do not have has many bends or kinks. Since fatty acids are the major component of cell membranes, then the permeability and fluidity of cell membranes are affected.

High in Lauric, Myristic and Palmitic Fatty Acids

Not all saturated fats raise cholesterol levels – only Lauric (12:0), Myristic (14:0) and Palmitic (16:0) acids.  Of all the oils, coconut oil contains the most (over 66%) of the above fatty acids.

Coconut oil does raise cholesterol – no dispute. 2 3 4

High in Medium Chain Fatty Acids

One of the benefits claimed for coconut oil is that it is high in medium chain fatty acids.  Medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) contain 7 – 12 carbon atoms. Approximately 55% of coconut oil consists of MCFAs which means that 45% is not. The claims that MCFAs assist in weight-loss because they are metabolised differently from other fatty acids has not been substantiated.

The following is an extract from Caldwell Esselstyn’s book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.

NO OIL! Not even olive oil, which goes against a lot of other advice out there about so-called good fats. The reality is that oils are extremely low in terms of nutritive value. They contain no fiber, no minerals and are 100% fat calories. And above all they contain saturated fat which immediately injures the endothelial lining of the arteries when eaten. It doesn’t matter whether it’s olive oil, corn oil, or any other kind of oil. You should not consume any oil if you have heart disease. Flax seed meal is well tolerated and supplies a bonus of omega 3 using 1 or 2 tablespoons on cereal daily. Avoid flax seed oil. Olive oil, canola oil, coconut oil, Sunflower oil, soybean oil, peanut oil, avoid any oil – They injure the endothelium, the innermost lining of the artery, and that injury is the gateway to vascular disease. Omega 3 ‘s are essential fatty acids supplied in adequate amounts in people consuming plant-based nutrition with plenty of green leafy vegetables.


At the outset of the China Study, no one could or would have predicted that there would be a relationship between cholesterol and any of the disease rates. What a surprise we got! As blood cholesterol levels decreased from 170 mg/dL to 90 mg/dL (4.4 mmol/L to 2.3 mmol/L), cancers of the liver, rectum, colon, male lung, female lung, breast, childhood leukemia, adult leukemia, childhood brain, adult brain, stomach and esophagus (throat) decreased. 5 The China Study – Professor Colin Campbell

Cholesterol is not the only risk factor for heart disease.  Other risk factors for heart disease include:

  • high homocysteine
  • low vitamin D
  • lack of exercise
  • lack of adequate water
  • high omega-6:omega-3 fatty acid ratio

Differences in Mortality Between Hong Kong and Singapore

Differences in dietary habits, food consumption and other factors were compared between Hong Kong and Singapore using Japan, Spain and the USA as reference countries.

Large differences in all-cause and cardiovascular mortality exist between Hong Kong and Singapore. Heart disease mortality in 1993–1995 was 2.98 and 3.14 times higher in Singapore than in Hong Kong in men and women, respectively. Of the five countries considered, Singapore has the highest all-cause mortality in both sexes in the period of 1960–1995.

The ratio of animal to vegetable fat was higher in Singapore (2.24) than in Hong Kong (1.08). Singapore had higher serum concentrations of total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol than Hong Kong.

The authors conclude that higher consumption of animal fat and saturated fats from coconut and palm oil is the most plausible explanation. 6

Cholesterol Recommendations

The following people state that they have never seen a heart disease fatality when cholesterol levels are below 150 mg/dL (3.9 mmol/L).

  • Dr William Roberts, a leading cardiovascular pathologist, who is the current editor (at 2016) of the American Journal of Cardiology—a position he has held since 1982.
  • Dr. William Castelli served as the third director of the Framingham Heart Study from 1979-1995.
  • Dr Caldwell Esselstyn, a former leading surgeon at Cleveland Clinic and currently directs the cardiovascular prevention and reversal program at The Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute.
Dr John McDougall recommends the same guidelines and recommends oat bran, garlic, vitamin C, vitamin E and niacin if there is difficulty in reaching this level.
He also states that HDL“Good” Cholesterol is Not Worth Your Attention because HDL cholesterol will fall when total and LDL cholesterol falls.

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  1. Vogel, R. A. et al. (1997) Effect of a Single High-Fat Meal on Endothelial Function in Healthy Subjects. American Journal of Cardiology. 79 (3), 350–354.
  2. Cox, C. et al. (1995) Effects of coconut oil, butter, and safflower oil on lipids and lipoproteins in persons with moderately elevated cholesterol levels. Journal of Lipid Research. 361787–1795.
  3. Reiser, R. et al. (1985) Plasma to beef lipid and lipoprotein response fat , coconut oil and safflower oil. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 42 (August), 190–197.
  4. Trautwein, E. A. et al. (1997) Effect of dietary fats rich in lauric, myristic, palmitic, oleic or linoleic acid on plasma, hepatic and biliary lipids in cholesterol-fed hamsters. The British Journal of Nutrition. 77605–620.
  5. Campbell, T. C. & Campbell, T. M. (2006) The China Study. Dallas USA: Benbella Books.
  6. Zhang, J. & Kesteloot, H. (2001) Differences in all-cause, cardiovascular and cancer mortality between Hong Kong and Singapore: Role of nutrition. European Journal of Epidemiology. 17 (5), 469–477.

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