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Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is a highly saturated oil derived from coconuts, made up primarily of lauric acid and other medium-chain triglycerides, which are responsible for many of its metabolic effects. It is also a popular cosmetic.

Our evidence-based analysis on coconut oil features 81 unique references to scientific papers.

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Summary of Coconut Oil

Primary information, health benefits, side effects, usage, and other important details

Coconut oil is an oil product derived from Cocos nucifera, commonly known as the coconut.

Coconut oil is used frequently in cosmetics as a topically-applied moisturizer. The effects of coconut oil on skin and hair after ingestion have not been studied.

The majority of coconut oil (65%) is made up of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are triglycerides and fatty acids with a carbon length chain of 6 – 12. Studies suggest replacing calories with MCTs without exceeding daily caloric requirements can result in a small, but significant, increase in the rate of fat loss over time. This effect appears to be slightly more powerful in overweight people.

Coconut oil may also temporarily increase metabolic rate and the speed at which fats are broken down to release fatty acids, a process known as lipolysis. This effect occurs when coconut oil is first added to the diet and disappears after two weeks. Coconut oil also creates more ketone bodies than longer chain fatty acids when it is broken down. One study has provided evidence that this mechanism is what causes coconut oil to provide obese people with a muscle preserving effect during caloric restriction. This effect has not been replicated in lean people.

Adding coconut oil to a diet is unlikely to cause noticeable fat loss effects, but it can replace other dietary fatty acids in order to fine-tune a diet plan.

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How to Take

Recommended dosage, active amounts, other details

Coconut oil is most effective when about 5- 10g of medium chain triglycerides are included in the diet. This is approximately 7.7 – 15g of coconut oil.

Coconut oil can be used in cooking, as long as cooking is done below the smoke point of the oil (350°F/175°C).

Replacing other dietary fatty acids with coconut oil may negate any potential fat loss effects if the caloric content of coconut oil is greater than the previously consumed fatty acids.

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Human Effect Matrix

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The Human Effect Matrix summarizes human studies to tell you what effects Coconut Oil has on your body, how much evidence there is, and how strong these effects are.

Full details are available to Examine members.
Grade Level of Evidence
Robust research conducted with repeated double-blind clinical trials
Multiple studies where at least two are double-blind and placebo controlled
Single double-blind study or multiple cohort studies
Uncontrolled or observational studies only
Level of Evidence
? The amount of high quality evidence. The more evidence, the more we can trust the results.
Outcome Magnitude of effect
? The direction and size of the supplement's impact on each outcome. Some supplements can have an increasing effect, others have a decreasing effect, and others have no effect.
Consistency of research results
? Scientific research does not always agree. HIGH or VERY HIGH means that most of the scientific research agrees.
grade-c Notable - See study
Appears to be comparable to mineral oil, which is usually the active control in these studies.
grade-c Notable Very High See 2 studies
Appears to be comparable to mineral oil, the active control
grade-c Minor - See study
Study was unable to properly assess coconut oil as it was used as an active control; some benefit appears apparent relative to fish oil.
grade-c - - See study
Insufficient evidence to support an increase in working memory
grade-d - - See study

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Frequently Asked Questions and Articles on Coconut Oil

21 of the best arguments for and against coconut oil
When should I take Vitamin D?
Vitamin D can be taken any time. As it is fat soluble, likely best to take it with a meal.

Things to Note

Is a Form Of

Primary Function:

Also Known As

Cocos nucifera, Coconut, Medium Chain Triglycerides (partially synonymous but commonly touted as such)

Goes Well With

  • Vitamin E (enhanced topical absorption when using medium chain triglycerides as base)

  • Although single-use heating of coconut oil appears to be free of harm (use as a home cooking oil) multiple heating (deep frying) may be associated with production of polyaromatic hydrocarbons, a carcinogenic compound, which is common to all tested fatty acids

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Click here to see all 81 references.