Benefits Of Coconut Oil

Understanding coconut oil 

When it comes to boosting your health and well-being, few things can come close to the power of coconut oil. Coconut oil is rich in a multitude of nutrients. It offers numerous health benefits, has been used for centuries in traditional medicine and cooking, and is now gaining popularity as a health supplement due to its unique properties and health benefits. 

Coconut oil contains 100% fat, and 80–90% is saturated fat, giving it its hard texture at room or cold temperatures. There are various kinds of saturated fatty acids in coconut oil, the smaller molecules that make up fat. Lauric acid predominates at 47%, with myristic and palmitic acids appearing at lesser levels. Saturated fats can help regulate weight, strengthen the immune system, act as antimicrobials, support the structure of the gut mucus membrane, and act as dietary supplements for chronic degenerative diseases like cancer, liver disease, and cardiovascular disease.

It has a wide range of uses, such as cooking, skincare, and soap making, and has been shown to improve hair growth. So, let us take a closer look at how coconut oil can help you reach your health goals and discover why it makes such an excellent addition to your diet.

Sources of coconut oil

Coconut oil is a type of edible oil extracted from the meat of mature coconuts of the coconut tree found in the tropics and subtropics.1 It is believed the oil content of coconut increases with age.2 There are two common ways coconut oil can be extracted;

  • Cold-pressed method: The coconut meat is blended to produce coconut milk, put in a bag, and allowed to sit for a couple of hours, after which the different components of the coconut meat separate - the shaft, water, and oil. 
  • Heat-pressed method: This is a faster process whereby heat facilitates extraction. 

Cold-pressed coconut oil has been argued to be more beneficial than heat-pressed because it is believed some nutrients are lost during the heating process.2

Other ways include fermentation;

  • Low-pressure extraction that involves manually pressing in mills to extract the oil from the coconut
  • Centrifugation is where coconut milk is put in a tube and spun in a centrifuge. This machine spins fast till the water and oil separate.
  • Chilling, freezing, and thawing, which involves centrifuging the cream after cooling coconut milk to below 0 °C and warming it to 25 °C
  • Fermentation whereby coconut milk is put in a jar with hot water, covered, and allowed to stand for two days
  • Enzymatic extraction, whereby different enzymes are added to coconut milk till the oil separates
  • Supercritical fluid carbon dioxide is a process where the shredded coconut meat is dried and then continuously infused with carbon dioxide.

Nutrients we can get from coconut oil

  • Coconut oil is a rich source of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are thought to help reduce body fat and improve metabolic health. 
  • Coconut oil is composed of fatty acids,
    • 8% caprylic acid, which helps with so many skin conditions, yeast infections, and digestive disorders and may be beneficial for high cholesterol
  • 7% capric acid, which is converted to monocaprin, which gives it its antiviral and antimicrobial properties
  • 49% lauric acid, which may aid weight loss
  • 8% myristic acid, which may prevent heart disease
  • 8% palmitic acid, which possesses anti-inflammatory properties and may support metabolic health
  • 2% stearic acid, which may reduce cholesterol, blood pressure, and cancer risk
  • 6% oleic acid, which promotes wound healing and may help with autoimmune diseases
  • 2% linoleic acid, which may support heart health and improve insulin sensitivity

Furthermore, coconut oil contains the following nutrients:

  • 1 mg of calcium, which is necessary for humans to develop and maintain strong bones and teeth
  • 0.05 mg of iron, which serves as an oxygen carrier in red blood cells
  • 0.02 mg of zinc, which is necessary for the synthesis and stabilisation of enzymes, proteins, and genetic material
  • 0.3 mg of choline, a nutrient that is crucial for the transmission of nerve impulses because it is used in the production of neurotransmitters. 
  • Vitamin E, an antioxidant, aids in maintaining a robust immune system.

Types of coconut oil

Coconut oil is available in both refined and unrefined forms. Refined coconut oil is processed (refined, deodorised, and bleached) and has a milder flavour and aroma. In contrast, unrefined coconut oil (virgin coconut oil or extra virgin coconut oil) is cold-pressed and retains its natural taste and smell. Either form is suitable for cooking and can provide various health benefits; however, given that it contains more polyphenols and vitamin E than refined coconut oil, virgin coconut oil appears to have the most potential.1

Although coconut oil is extracted using various techniques, avoiding oil that has been refined, bleached, or deodorised is still preferable. The preference is because these processes will impair the health benefits, flavour, and aroma of the coconut oil.2

Another type of coconut oil sold in stores is fractionated coconut oil. Fractionated coconut oil is created by removing the fatty acids from coconut oil and repurposing them. MCT oil (medium chain triglycerides) is a popular fractionated coconut oil and its creation involves hydrolyzing coconut oil (broken down by a chemical reaction with water) to separate lauric acid and other fatty acids, leaving only triglycerides rich in caprylic and capric fatty acids. Due to its low smoke point, MCT oil is not recommended for cooking but is accessible as a nutritional supplement.

Where can we use coconut oil

There are many ways in which we can use coconut oil;

  • Cooking and food production: Coconut oil is used in cooking for its flavour, digestibility, and health benefits. Coconut oil is commonly used in salad dressing, vinaigrette, soups, pastries, and baked food. Because of its simple digestion and consistent flavour, coconut oil is used in some infant formulas. In the food industry, coconut oil is often used as a confectionary fat, especially for making ice cream. Coconut oil and cocoa powder are added to imitation chocolate in place of cocoa butter.
  • Cosmetics: Coconut oil is used in making various cosmetics ranging from soap to creams, hair products, lipsticks, lip balms, body butter, deodorant, and diaper creams. Soapmakers love coconut oil, not only for the bubbles it attributes to soap but for the skin feel and antimicrobial properties. It can remove even the most resilient waterproof mascara; thus, also useful as a makeup remover. 
  • Oral health: Coconut oil is used as a mouth rinse in a procedure known as oil pulling
  • As a supplement, either taken orally or drizzled over food
  • Insect repellent: Coconut oil is used in non-toxic insect repellents. The insect repellent offers over 98% protection from the bites of certain mosquitoes by blending Thai essential oils with coconut oil.
  • Stain removal: When coconut oil is combined with the same quantity of baking soda, you can use the mixture to erase stains. 
  • Furniture polish: Furniture made of wood can be polished using coconut oil. After being applied to wooden furniture, it also serves as a dust repellant.

Outside the home, there are various industrial uses for coconut oil, including petrochemicals, rubber substitutes, plastics, synthetic resins, and pharmaceuticals.

Benefits of coconut oil

Coconut oil is thought to provide health benefits, such as improving the immune system and acting as an antifungal, antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral, and hepatoprotective substance. We will discuss these benefits below.

  • Antimicrobial and antiviral: Studies show coconut oil has antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties. It targets and eradicates lipid-coated (oil-coated) viruses, including those that cause mononucleosis, herpes, HIV, hepatitis C, and the flu. It eliminates the bacteria that cause food poisoning, meningitis, gonorrhoea, urinary tract infections, sore throats, dental cavities, pneumonia, and many other bacterial ailments. It has also been shown to kill the fungi and yeast infections that cause jock itch, thrush, ringworm, diaper rash, athlete's foot, and candida when used in skincare products.2
  • Energy: The energy production from the total oxidation of fatty acids in fats and oils is around 9 kcal per gram, compared to approximately 4 kcal per gram for carbohydrates and proteins. Fats and oils are concentrated forms of energy. The most frequent dietary fats are triglycerides. Dietary fats such as coconut oil aid in a number of vital bodily processes, including the synthesis of steroid hormones like testosterone, oestrogen, and progesterone, as well as an increase in the bioavailability or absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), obtained through food or supplements.3
  • Fights diseases in infants: The chemical that protects newborns from contracting viral, bacterial, or protozoal diseases is the monoglyceride monolaurin. The body uses lauric acid from coconut oil to produce monolaurin. This fatty acid derivative fights disease, just as newborns do with lauric acid from their mother's milk.
  • Improved quality of life in cancer patients: A study of 68 women who had been diagnosed with stage III and IV breast cancer and receiving chemotherapy shows that people with breast cancer may benefit from using virgin coconut oil (VCO) to improve their functional and overall quality of life because supplementing with VCO may lessen symptoms in the women and enhance several practical aspects, including sexual function, body image, and outlook on the future.4
  • Atopic dermatitis: Chronic skin disease such as atopic dermatitis (AD) is distinguished by impaired epidermal barrier function and irritated skin layer, resulting in lowered skin moisture and capacitance. A study was carried out on 117 patients to know the effect of virgin coconut oil on trans-epidermal water loss (water loss between skin layers) and skin conductance in children with mild to moderate atopic dermatitis. The findings showed that VCO was better than mineral oil in paediatric patients with mild to moderate AD.5
  • Wound Healing: Coconut oil makes a good wound salve due to its antifungal and antibacterial characteristics. According to a study, when researchers applied coconut oil to the wounds sustained by rats, collagen production increased, and inflammatory indicators were reduced, speeding up wound healing.2
  • Antioxidant properties: The progression of heart disease may be aided by oxidative stress, an imbalance between pro-oxidants and antioxidants. The antioxidant effect of coconut oil may be attributed to flavonoids and other polyphenols, which can help fight free radicals, reduce oxidative damage, and prevent premature ageing.6
  • Weight management: Virgin coconut oil (VCO) may be effective for weight loss as it has a proven track record of use as an anti-obesity treatment since it does not enter the cholesterol cycle and is not stored in fatty tissue. According to a study, VCO consumption effectively reduces weight, especially abdominal fat, as measured by a smaller waist circumference.2 The beneficial medium-chain triglycerides and antioxidants it contains may help with weight loss, especially when supplemented with an increased fibre and protein intake while reducing the consumption of carbohydrates.1
  • Oil Pulling: Oil pulling is an ancient practice involving swishing oil around the mouth for up to 10 minutes to draw out toxins and improve oral health. Coconut oil is a popular choice for oil pulling due to its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. Studies have found that oil pulling with coconut oil can reduce bacteria in the mouth, reduce gingivitis, and even reduce bad breath by destroying oral bacteria such as Streptococcus mutans.
  • Sun protection: When used topically, coconut oil may help shield our skin from ultraviolet (UV) rays. According to a study, coconut oil can filter 20% of the sun's UV radiation. Furthermore, it is believed that coconut oil has a UV protection factor of 7, which is lower than minimal guidelines for certain countries.2 Coconut oil should not replace your sunscreen; the recommended sunscreen should have a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 and protect against both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Hair Growth: Coconut oil can also be used to promote healthy hair growth. Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, which is thought to help strengthen hair follicles and improve scalp health. In addition, its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties can help to reduce scalp irritation, which can contribute to hair loss. Due to the smaller particle sizes, it penetrates dry, frizzy hair better than mineral oils, giving the hair a shinier appearance.2
  • Coconut Oil Hair Growth Tips

If you're looking to use coconut oil to promote healthy hair growth, there are a few things you can do. First, massage your scalp with warm coconut oil for several minutes a few times a week. This massage will help stimulate the scalp and improve circulation, encouraging hair growth. You can also apply a few drops of coconut oil to damp hair and scalp after washing, as this can help to protect the hair and scalp from damage. Using coconut oil on your hair before shampooing (pre-poo) prevents protein loss that can aid hair growth.

Other emerging benefits of coconut oil seen in animals that require further human studies as existing research have conflicting results include the following:

  • Protecting against coronary heart diseases
  • Helping to control blood sugar levels by preserving insulin action and resistance
  • Prevention of liver diseases by reversing the advancement of diseases such as hepatosteatosis, a type of fatty liver disease
  • Prevention and treatment of Alzheimer's Disease and Parkinson's.7


Is it good to drink coconut oil daily?

Due to its high content of saturated fatty acids, you should limit the consumption of coconut oil to no more than 10% of total calorie intake (2000 kcal),8 meaning that you would consume about 24 g of saturated fat daily,1 anything above this may increase HDL cholesterol and increase your risk of cardiovascular disease as shown in a study where participants took supplements containing 15 mL of virgin coconut oil twice daily.8,9

Does coconut oil have side effects?

Coconut oil typically has no side effects, although some people may experience mild symptoms which will resolve themselves in no time and will not disrupt daily activities. A study of 32 participants recorded that 71.9% reported diarrhoea or loose stools, 19% reported a slight stomach ache, and 16% reported vomiting. However, the symptoms typically disappeared by the second week.8

Is coconut oil better than olive oil?

Virgin coconut and olive oil are two of the best edible oils for lowering blood sugar levels while having no adverse effects on the liver. They contain antioxidants that help prevent free radicals caused by pancreatic beta-cell damage following alloxan injection.10

Regarding cooking oil, two of the most popular choices are coconut and olive oil. Both of these oils have unique benefits and drawbacks, so it can be hard to decide which is best. Olive oil is generally better suited to high-heat cooking, such as frying or sautéing, while coconut oil is better suited to low-heat cooking, such as baking or steaming. Regarding health benefits, coconut oil has a slight edge over olive oil. 

A study comparing the effects of extra virgin coconut oil (EVCO) and extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) in average-weight and obese men showed that EVCO is more effective at appetite suppression. EVOO, on the other hand, had no appetite suppression because long-chain triglycerides are more easily stored in adipose (fat) tissue than medium-chain triglycerides.11

Although studies on coconut oil in humans is limited, studies on olive oil show that it is better at preventing cardiovascular diseases and lowering your chance of several malignancies and type 2 diabetes.


Coconut oil is a powerful oil that can provide numerous benefits. It is rich in beneficial nutrients and fatty acids and can also be used for oil pulling and to promote healthy hair growth. The abundance of medium-chain triglycerides in coconut oil also makes it ideal for people trying to lose weight. If you want to improve your overall health and well-being through diet modification, give coconut oil a try. However, keep in mind that consuming too much coconut oil may put you at risk for cardiovascular diseases due to its ability to raise cholesterol levels.


  1. Lima, Renan da Silva, and Jane Mara Block. “Coconut Oil: What Do We Really Know about It so Far?” Food Quality and Safety, vol. 3, no. 2, June 2019, pp. 61–72. (Crossref), Available from:
  1. Ng, Yan Jer, et al. “A Comprehensive Review on the Techniques for Coconut Oil Extraction and Its Application.” Bioprocess and Biosystems Engineering, vol. 44, no. 9, Sept. 2021, pp. 1807–18. (Crossref), Available from:
  1. Boateng, Laurene, et al. “Coconut Oil and Palm Oil’s Role in Nutrition, Health and National Development: A Review.” Ghana Medical Journal, vol. 50, no. 3, Oct. 2016, pp. 189–96., Available from:
  1. Law, Kim Sooi, et al. “The Effects of Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO) as Supplementation on Quality of Life (QOL) among Breast Cancer Patients.” Lipids in Health and Disease, vol. 13, no. 1, Aug. 2014, p. 139. BioMed Central, Available from:
  1. Varma, Sandeep R., et al. “In Vitro Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Protective Properties of Virgin Coconut Oil.” Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, vol. 9, no. 1, Jan. 2019, pp. 5–14. (Crossref), Available from:
  1. Boemeke, Laura, et al. “Effects of Coconut Oil on Human Health.” Open Journal of Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases, vol. 5, no. 7, July 2015, pp. 84–87., Available from:
  1. Hewlings S. Coconuts and Health: Different Chain Lengths of Saturated Fats Require Different Consideration. Journal of Cardiovascular Development and Disease. 2020; 7(4):59. Available from:
  1. Chinwong, Surarong, et al. “Daily Consumption of Virgin Coconut Oil Increases High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol Levels in Healthy Volunteers: A  Randomized Crossover Trial.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2017, 2017, pp. 1–8. (Crossref), Available from:
  1. Neelakantan, Nithya, et al. “The Effect of Coconut Oil Consumption on Cardiovascular Risk Factors: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Clinical Trials.” Circulation, vol. 141, no. 10, Mar. 2020, pp. 803–14. (Crossref), Available from:
  1. Rabail, Roshina, et al. “An Intricate Review on Nutritional and Analytical Profiling of Coconut, Flaxseed, Olive, and Sunflower Oil Blends.” Molecules, vol. 26, no. 23, Nov. 2021, p. 7187. (Crossref), Available from:
  1. Metin, Ziya Erokay, et al. “Comparing Acute Effects of Extra Virgin Coconut Oil and Extra Virgin Olive Oil Consumption on Appetite and Food Intake in Normal-Weight and Obese Male Subjects.” PLOS ONE, edited by George Vousden, vol. 17, no. 9, Sept. 2022, p. e0274663. (Crossref), Available from:
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Chimezirim Ozonyiri

Bachelor of Science - BS, Microbiology, General, Tansian University, Nigeria

Chimezirim has several years of experience in the healthcare, non-profit, and education sectors. She is passionate about health promotion and began her journey into health and lifestyle writing over two years ago.

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