Coconut oil is rubbish!

Image of Coconut Oil and Coconut Oil

Coconut oil or coconut fat is one of the hypes among the "superfoods". Coconut fans think it is the miracle weapon against blood sugar and cholesterol or a means to lose weight. The other extreme is: "coconut oil is pure poison". I explain here how healthy coconut oil actually is. To put it briefly, coconut oil is not poison, but it is not particularly healthy either.

What is (in) coconut oil?

Coconut fat or coconut oil, on the other hand, is pressed from the flesh of the coconut. Similar to animal fats, coconut oil contains mainly saturated fatty acids. This is paradoxical, since it is precisely these saturated fatty acids that are generally considered unhealthy. Normally, nutrition experts recommend a maximum intake of 10% saturated fats and otherwise only unsaturated fats from vegetable oils. Because coconut fat contains mainly these "unhealthy" fatty acids, some say: "Coconut oil is just as harmful as lard". However, manufacturers argue that the medium-chain fatty acids (MCT) contained in coconut oil are healthier than the long-chain fatty acids of other fats. It is therefore mainly due to the MCT content that coconut oil is even said to be healthy.

Is coconut oil healthy?

The Dutch nutritionist Rob van Dam and his colleagues analysed all studies that compared coconut oil with other vegetable oils and edible fats. This so-called meta-analysis included a total of 16 studies with about 1000 test persons. Result: Compared to butter, coconut oil is better for the cholesterol level, but it performs worse than other vegetable oils (olive oil, safflower oil, soybean oil).

According to the authors, coconut oil consumers even have a 5% higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than non-consumers. This is not dramatic, but it is a bad way to sell a "superfood".

Coconut oil does not bring any benefits as a dietary product either. The scientists found no effect on the body's fat content. They also found no evidence for lowering blood sugar .

Conclusion of the researchers: Coconut fat offers no advantages over other vegetable oils, but it is not poison either. You can consume it in moderation, but you should not expect any positive effects on your health.

What exactly is in coconut oil?

Coconut fat and oil Coconut oil consists of virtually 100% fat and nothing else. 90% of it is saturated fatty acids, including lauric, palmitic or stearic acid. A special feature is the high proportion (60%) of medium-chain fatty acids (MCT = medium-chain triglycerides) (see info box), which are otherwise only found in palm oil (55%) and butter (10%). MCT fats are said to have some advantages over long-chain fatty acids: The body breaks them down quickly, without the involvement of bile or pancreas. (However, this does not apply to lauric acid, which is mainly found in coconut). The cleavage products are then transported directly to the liver, where they can be broken down to ketones. Ketones are simple hydrocarbon compounds that play a role in the ketogenic diet, for example. Apart from these fats, coconut oil contains almost nothing: very little vitamin E (but only in the unrefined oil) and small traces of minerals.


Neelakantan N, Seah JYH, van Dam RM: The Effect of Coconut Oil Consumption on Cardiovascular Risk Factors. A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Clinical Trials. Circulation. 2020;141:803-814. DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.119.043052.

Additional information

Two forms of coconut oil on the market

Coconut fat is found on the market in two forms: Most commonly as solid coconut fat, which is sold as slab fat. Its high smoke point (177°C) makes the fat suitable for frying, baking and deep-frying. It is industrially highly processed, hardened and tasteless and odourless and contains no vitamins or trace elements worth mentioning.

Virginly pressed coconut oil, on the other hand, is the refined but otherwise unchanged product. It smells slightly of coconut and has a buttery consistency and melts already at 23 to 26°.

Coconut fat must be distinguished from coconut milk , in which ground coconut meat is slurried in water.

Info on fats

Fats differ chemically primarily in terms of the fatty acids that make up the respective fat or oil. There are long-chain fatty acids, which consist of 12-18 carbon atoms in a row, and medium-chain ones of only 6-10 carbon atoms in length. In addition, a distinction is made between saturated fatty acids, in which all carbon bonds are occupied by hydrogen atoms, and unsaturated fatty acids, which contain one or more double bonds and can therefore still absorb hydrogen.

Oils normally contain more unsaturated fatty acids, whereas solid fats contain more saturated fatty acids. During fat hardening, for example in margarine production, unsaturated fatty acids are converted into saturated fatty acids.