Many consumers are interested in coconut oil pills because of their purported health benefits. While some claims appear to be backed by limited and preliminary research, most doctors believe more studies are needed before conclusions are drawn.
Limited studies show that the benefits of coconut oil may include helping to reduce cognitive decline and fight fungal infections.
Coconut Oil for Cardiovascular Health
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health states that epidemiological studies have found that people in some parts of the world where coconuts are an integral part of the diet, such as India and the Philippines, have a low incidence of cardiovascular disease.
However, this presumed association may be due to residents of these countries eating a diet plentiful in fiber and low in sugar and processed foods. In addition, instead of consuming refined coconut oil, they eat coconut meat and cream.
An April 2016 study published in Nutrition Reviews evaluated 21 research papers that explored the effect of coconut oil on cardiovascular health. The results from epidemiological studies were both positive and negative. Individuals who consumed higher quantities of coconut oil had higher HDL, or good, cholesterol, but they also had elevated total cholesterol and triglycerides.
The study in Nutrition Reviews also assessed clinical trials that compared the effects of a diet rich in coconut oil with those of a diet that included butter or unsaturated fat. Compared with unsaturated oils, coconut oil intake was associated with higher levels of HDL, but it was also linked to raised LDL, or bad, cholesterol and total cholesterol.
Moreover, coconut oil and saturated fat, such as beef fat, increased LDL and total cholesterol to the same extent. The authors concluded that coconut oil isn't heart-healthy.
American Heart Association Position
In a June 2017 news release, the American Heart Association issued an advisory detailing their position on fat in the diet. The organization stated that it continues to advocate replacing saturated fat in the diet with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oil to help prevent heart disease. This stance was based on several studies that showed coconut oil, which is mainly saturated fat, increased LDL in the same manner as other saturated fats.
The American Heart Association recommended that the public limit saturated fat, including coconut oil. People at risk of heart disease should derive not more than 6 percent of their daily caloric intake from saturated fat. This proportion of a 2,000-calorie diet would be 13 grams. To illustrate what this amount looks like in the diet, 1 tablespoon of coconut oil has 12 grams of saturated fat.
Coconut Oil and Weight Loss
One purported benefit of coconut oil is weight loss. According to the Mayo Clinic, results from the few studies that have looked at coconut oil's effect on weight have been inconsistent. Some findings show the oil might be linked to a smaller waistline and lower body mass index, but others don't.
Furthermore, all studies examining the topic have been short-term. It's important to evaluate the effects of coconut oil as part of a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise and a reduced-calorie diet rich in fruits, vegetables and other plant foods.
Evidence fails to show that merely adding coconut oil to the diet or taking coconut oil pills will result in weight loss, notes the Mayo Clinic. If you enjoy the flavor, use it sparingly as part of a nutritious eating plan. Although it isn't likely to assist in weight management, eating a reasonable amount won't greatly harm your health.
Other Possible Benefits
Evidence of other possible health benefits of coconut oil capsules is very minimal. Nonetheless, findings from some investigations suggest the oil might offer wellness advantages.
A March 2017 clinical trial published in Nutricion Hospitalaria evaluated the effect of coconut oil on Alzheimer's disease patients. Half of the 44 participants received 40 milliliters ( less than 3 tablespoons) of coconut oil daily in divided doses. Before and after taking the oil, they underwent cognitive testing. Results showed that the oil appeared to improve cognition.
In a March 2016 study featured in Scientifica, researchers compared the antifungal effects of coconut oil to those of the antifungal medication ketoconazole. While the investigation used test tubes of Candida albicans colonies, the research merits notice because of the promising results. The antifungal activity of the coconut oil proved roughly comparable to that of the medication.
Coconut oil has value as a hair and skin moisturizer too. To moisturize dry hair, apply a small amount, leave it for a desired length of time and then wash it out. For dry skin, gently massage in a small amount.
Shopping and Use Recommendations
When shopping for coconut oil or coconut oil pills, look for the virgin variety. An August 2009 study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition compared the antioxidant capacity of virgin coconut oil with that of refined, bleached and deodorized coconut oil. The virgin oil, produced by a chilling method, had a greater phenolic content and a stronger antioxidant capacity.
The T. H. Chan School suggests storing coconut oil either in the refrigerator or in a cool dark place to prolong shelf life. Virgin coconut oil lasts two to three years if stored away from a heat source. An off odor or yellow tint indicates spoilage.
Harvard Health Publishing says coconut oil is neither a superfood nor a poison. The institution states that it's best to limit intake to small amounts as an occasional alternative to heart-healthy oils such as olive oil.
When substituting the oil for shortening or butter, use 25 percent less than the quantity listed in the recipe. To include coconut oil in the diet, use a tablespoon to saute vegetables or add a tablespoon to sauces.
Remember to keep your daily intake within the recommended saturated fat intake. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans advises consuming no more than 10 percent of your daily calories from saturated fat. In a 2,000-calorie diet, this would be 21 grams, which is less than the 24 grams of fat in 2 tablespoons of coconut oil.
- Keck Medicine of the University of Southern California: "The Truth About Coconut Oil"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Coconut Oil"
- Nutrition Reviews: "Coconut Oil Consumption and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Humans"
- American Heart Association: "Replacing Saturated Fat With Healthier Fat May Lower Cholesterol as Well as Drugs in Context of a Healthy Diet"
- Mayo Clinic: "Coconut Oil for Weight Loss: Does It Work?"
- Nutricion Hospitalaria: "How Does Coconut Oil Affect Cognitive Performance in Alzheimer's Patients?"
- Scientifica: "Comparison of Antimicrobial Activity of Chlorhexidine, Coconut Oil, Probiotics, and Ketoconazole on Candida Albicans Isolated in Children With Early Childhood Caries: An in Vitro Study"
- International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition: "Antioxidant Capacity and Phenolic Acids of Virgin Coconut Oil"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Is There a Place for Coconut Oil in a Healthy Diet?"
- Health.gov: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020: Executive Summary"