Coconut's Role In Enhancing Blood Circulation

Cracking the coconut code: the good, the bad, and the oil


Imagine your body as a vibrant city where an intricate network of roads ensures that every resident receives their daily supply of life’s essentials. Here, oxygen and nutrients are the precious cargo, and the circulatory system is the skilful traffic conductor. However, here is the intriguing part - you have the power to influence the efficiency of this flurry of traffic, and it all starts with your diet. All of the cells in your body receive nutrients and oxygen through its blood circulation system. Firstly, fresh oxygen enters the blood through the pulmonary system, and then systemic circulation provides organs, tissues and cells with this oxygenated blood. The key function of blood circulation is carrying oxygen, nutrients and other components, such as hormones, to cells all over the body. It also has an important role in removing waste products like carbon dioxide.1 Here’s where your choices come into play - your diet can affect how the blood circulates through your body. Foods high in saturated fat, sugar, and salt can lead to plaque buildup, inflammation, and damaged arteries, all of which contribute to heart disease.2 However, there are foods that can enhance your blood circulation by optimising the heart’s pumping efficiency, ensuring that the blood can be distributed effectively throughout the body. The aim is to improve circulation, whether it be through relaxing blood vessels, reducing strain on the cardiovascular system or reducing inflammation. As we delve into the world of blood circulation and its essential role in well-being, we will discuss one of nature's contenders for a healthy heart: coconuts. Coconuts have been identified to have numerous benefits for your heart through lowering blood pressure and its antioxidant effects. However, the literature suggests mixed findings. Join us on this journey to uncover how you can nurture your body’s lifeline and unmask the coconut controversy. 

Understanding blood circulation

The cardiovascular system is responsible for your body's blood supply, with your heart being the primary traffic conductor that pumps the blood through the vessels. The amount of blood flow throughout the body is controlled by your body’s blood vessel network, which makes up the intricate network of roads and highways. Blood vessels encapsulate arteries, capillaries and veins. With arteries being the largest of the,3 they carry the blood away from the heart. Smaller arteries, known as arterioles, are responsible for more specific directions of blood flow to certain areas. The capillaries branch off of these arterioles and exchange nutrients, waste and gasses with organs and tissues. Finally, the veins transport blood back to the heart. This network can be regulated through the nervous system by various types of receptors found in the heart or by autoregulation, where the organs or tissues themselves maintain blood flow.3 

When we breathe in fresh oxygen, the air is passed through the lungs and into the capillaries. Within these capillaries, you can find red blood cells, which use haemoglobin to pick up the oxygen and carry it to the left side of the heart, where the blood can then be pumped throughout the body. Did you know that haemoglobin proteins contain iron, which is what makes your blood red? The more oxygen bound to the protein, the brighter the red will be! Your body needs oxygen for energy to carry out tasks necessary for normal functions such as moving, digesting food and even thinking. Blood also carries vitamins, fats, sugar and minerals, which are all basic building blocks of normal bodily functions. These nutrients can be absorbed into the blood through capillaries in the small intestine, where there is an exchange of waste products that need to be removed. Various organs remove these products from the blood and eliminate them from the body. While this is happening, our red blood cells are also working hard to remove waste products. Namely, carbon dioxide that has been released into the bloodstream will be picked up and taken to the right side of the heart. This is where the blood will be pumped back into the lungs and breathed out.4 So, the next time you take a breath, remember the incredible journey of oxygen that fuels every thought and heartbeat, where even the colour of your blood tells a vivid story. As a vital courier of life’s building blocks, it is no wonder why doctors and health experts tirelessly underscore the importance of efficient blood circulation.

Coconut: nutritional overview

Coconuts are thought to originate in tropical areas around Malaysia, where they now thrive in tropical climates across the world. Over 80 countries grow them and each year produce around 60 million tonnes of coconuts commercially.5 There are 3 ways we can consume coconuts in our diet: water, meat and oil. Whilst coconut water contains very small amounts of protein and little to no fat, it is an excellent source of vitamin C and  B  such as thiamin.6 Coconut meat is considered energy-dense as it contains approximately 354 calories per 100g. It is very rich in healthy saturated fats, and it contains small amounts of unhealthy fats. It contains various vitamins, minerals and micronutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin B6 and magnesium.7 Coconut oil is 100% fat, which is made up of 90% saturated fats and 9% unsaturated fats.8 While there is a growing pile of research on the health benefits of coconut as a whole, the benefits of coconut oil continue to be an area of contention in medical research. 

Coconut's role in enhancing blood circulation

Research into how coconuts can enhance blood circulation by improving the health of your heart comes from both humans and animals, such as rats and rabbits. The coconut can exert its effects by lowering cholesterol levels and blood pressure, which can contribute to better blood circulation. One study found decreased levels of bad cholesterol, such as VLDL and LDL, when rats were given a coconut water diet and increased levels of the good cholesterol HDL.9 It is important to keep in mind that these animals were given a very high dosage at  4ml per 100g of body weight, which equates to 68 kg per person consuming 2.7L of coconut water a day! Another study using rats has shown that virgin coconut oil can prevent blood pressure elevation.10 This investigation in humans using coconut water saw decreases in their average systolic blood pressure in 71% of the participants.11 

Coconuts can also enhance the health of your blood vessels through its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. One study investigated the anti-inflammatory effect of specific compounds found within virgin coconut oil and demonstrated a positive effect on induced inflammation in cell cultures.12 This study highlights the natural properties of coconut oil that can help to prevent plaque buildup inside the body’s arteries - a huge contributor to inflammation. Additionally, coconuts are thought to prevent or remove free radicals, which can build up and cause stress inside our cells. When there are too many of these free radicals, it can upset the balance in cells, which can cause problems for the heart, such as muscle disease and heart attacks. One study that used a coconut embryo tested its antioxidant properties and found that secondary compounds in the coconut embryo were significantly effective in neutralising free radicals.13 This study also found a significant amount of cardiac glycosides, which are natural compounds that work on the heart to make it beat more efficiently.14 Antioxidants and anti-inflammatories can target certain elements that impede the flow of blood through your arteries and vessels and hence promote better blood circulation.

There is also evidence to suggest that coconuts can promote blood thinness through their natural anticoagulant properties that prevent the formation of blood clots. Animal models using rabbits have investigated the anticoagulant properties of coconuts. Anticoagulants help to prevent blood from clotting when they form in excess or in harmful ways, such as inappropriate formation in blood vessels. The study found that coconut water increased the time it took for blood to clot by cultivating more platelets and fibrinogen - important components for anticoagulants.15 Additionally, coconut water was found to have a positive impact on red blood cells and haemoglobin. Blood thinning is an important component of blood circulation as it can reduce the risk of blood clots that can form within blood vessels and obstruct blood flow. 

So, what do the experts have to say about coconuts for heart health and blood circulation? When looking at countries such as Sri Lanka, where coconuts were the primary source of fat in their diets for many years, you can observe low instances of heart disease. At a time when the country had one of the lowest rates for heart disease in the world, it caused 1 out of 100,000 deaths, with the equivalent in the United States of America up to 280 times higher.16 While this may be true for countries like Sri Lanka, An expert dietitian from the British Heart Foundation stressed that “there is not enough good-quality research to provide us with a definitive answer” when asked if the saturated fats in coconut oil are better for us than other kinds of saturated fats.17 With coconut oil in particular, there is an evident area of contention. However, it is important to recognise the aversion that medical journals tend to have towards saturated fats as a whole. Some experts have stressed the importance of recognising that coconuts are a healthful source of saturated fats as medium-chain fats ( found in coconuts) have different metabolic properties to longer chains and are associated with more benefits.18 While coconut oil may point to a cause for concern, coconut water does not face the same objections.  Some expert nutritionists, such as Nolan Colan, point out that coconut water can prevent increases in blood pressure through the high potassium count. While this is encouraging, she also stresses that other food sources also high in potassium offer more components that promote a healthy body: “it’s important to make sure your primary source of dietary potassium is from a variety of foods, and not just coconut water”.19 

Risks and considerations for coconut oil

While some animal research does suggest a positive effect of coconuts on heart health, the role of coconut oil becomes less pronounced when considering the recent advancements in this field. Numerous meta-analyses pinpoint coconut oil as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.20 Research finds a significant increase in bad cholesterol levels associated with coconut oil,21 which is supported by a meta-analysis that found this effect in 7 studies by the American Health Association.22 Nevertheless, it is important to consider the research into coconuts as a whole. Some argue that coconut oil has a less detrimental effect on cholesterol than butter, but not when compared to other vegetable oils such as sunflower oil or canola oil.23 The big picture remains unclear at this time, and more in-depth research is required to answer the question: are coconuts really good for your heart?


In a nutshell, your dietary choices can have a profound effect on your body’s intricate network of blood circulation. While coconuts have previously been considered a contender for promoting heart health by enhancing blood circulation, it is important to take into account both sides of the argument in the literature. Scientific evidence, spanning from animals to humans, shows the potential for coconuts to improve blood circulation. Their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, coupled with their knack for promoting blood thinness, paint an intriguing picture. Most importantly,, we must consider coconut oil with caution flags raised by experts due to its cholesterol-raising antics. The verdict? Mixed, complex, and in need of further research.


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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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Jessica Nicholson

Master of Neuroscience – MSc, University of Sussex

I have a BSc in Psychology with Neuroscience as well as an MSc in Neuroscience. I am passionate about bridging the gap between healthcare, science and the wider community. I have worked for the NHS as a youth research advisor and I also enjoy volunteering/support work with local charities that support the disabled community. presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
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