Coconut Oil Consumption on Cardiovascular Risk Factors

Study Questions:

What is the effect of coconut oil consumption on blood lipids and other cardiovascular risk factors when compared to other cooking oils?


The authors performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of trials of coconut oil consumption compared to other fats and lasted at least 2 weeks. The main outcomes included low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), total cholesterol, triglycerides, measures of body fatness, markers of inflammation, and glycemia. Data were pooled using random-effects meta-analysis.


Sixteen articles were included, with all having results of lipids; other outcome variables were present in 4-8 trials. Compared to nontropical vegetable oils, coconut oil consumption significantly increased LDL-C by 10.47 mg/dl (95% confidence interval [CI], 3.01-17.94; n = 16) and HDL-C by 4.0 mg/dl (95% CI, 2.26-5.73; n = 16) with no difference in triglycerides. These effects remained significant after excluding nonrandomized trials, or trials of poor quality. Coconut oil consumption did not significantly affect markers of glycemia, inflammation, or adiposity as compared with nontropical vegetable oils. Coconut oil, which contains 90% saturated fat, increased LDL-C by 20 mg/dl compared to tropical palm oil containing 50% saturated fat.


Coconut oil consumption results in significantly higher LDL-C than nontropical vegetable oils. This should inform choices about coconut oil consumption.


As with many claims with scanty evidence, coconut oil has been promoted to be a healthy oil, and better than other vegetable oils regarding lipids, glucose control, inflammation, and body fat. Considering this study was primarily in healthy volunteers of whom five were normolipidemic, the effect on lipids may be underestimated. The impact of a 10 mg/dl increase in LDL-C would have a significant impact on atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease events in a population.

Clinical Topics: Diabetes and Cardiometabolic Disease, Dyslipidemia, Prevention, Hypertriglyceridemia, Lipid Metabolism, Nonstatins

Keywords: Adiposity, Atherosclerosis, Blood Glucose, Cholesterol, LDL, Cholesterol, HDL, Fatty Acids, Inflammation, Lipids, Obesity, Primary Prevention, Risk Factors, Triglycerides, Vegetables

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