Coconut oil is a popular edible oil that made from the kernel of ripe coconuts obtained from the coconut palm. The fatty acid profiles of the two primary forms of coconut oil— copra oil (CO) and virgin coconut oil (VCO)—have similar fatty acid profiles; however, the latter includes more nutrients (e.g., vitamin E) and dietary bioactive compounds (e.g., polyphenols). The extraction techniques for the two oils are different. Copra oil is produced by crushing dried coconut kernels to extract the oil, which is then typically refined, bleached, and deodorized (RBD). This is commonly used in shortening and for frying applications.
On the other hand, Virgin coconut oil is made by pressing shredded wet coconut kernels to extract the oil and coconut milk, which form an emulsion that is separated using various methods. Virgin coconut oil, unlike RBD-CO, is not refined. In recent years, virgin coconut oil has grown in popularity.
According to a meta-analysis of 16 trials, coconut oil consumption significantly raised low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol concentrations as compared with vegetable oils low in saturated fat and trans-fat (nontropical vegetable oils).
Although coconut oil consumption improved high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels, efforts to reduce cardiovascular disease risk by improving HDL cholesterol have been unsuccessful.
There was no evidence that coconut oil had any benefits over nontropical vegetable oils in terms of adiposity, glycemic, or inflammatory indicators.
Is coconut oil just a fad?
That’s hard to say. Clearly, there’s been an upsurge in its use recently. But we’ll need more and better research to understand whether its newly found popularity is well-deserved or just the latest flavor of the day.
Despite the rising popularity of coconut oil because of its purported health benefits, these results raise concerns about high coconut oil consumption.
Coconut oil should not be considered a healthy oil for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, and its consumption should be limited due to its high saturated fat content.