Coconut Oil Benefits and Risks

by Marek Doyle

A jar of coconut oil on a counter with fresh coconut.

yasuhiroamano/iStock/Getty Images

Coconut oil remains unique in the plant kingdom for its high concentration of medium-chain fatty acids. As pointed out by Dr. Bruce Fife, the physician that wrote “The Coconut Oil Miracle,” these compounds have a specific action in the body that can cause a range of reactions in those that consume them. While these remain overwhelmingly positive, detox reactions may occur.

Coconut Oil

Botanists from the University College of Los Angeles classify the coconut as a drupe, a sub-group of fruit. This helps to explain its unusual nutritional profile. The edible sections are 60 percent oil, and these fatty elements are highly saturated. What marks out coconut oil even more is the large proportion of medium-chain fatty acids, highly active compounds that make up three-quarters of the oil.


The medium-chain fatty acids demonstrate a potent anti-fungal effect. Research conducted by Nigerian scientists in 2007 found that the oil killed over 50 strains of the candida fungi, faring well against pharmaceutical agents traditionally used to clear candidiasis in sufferers. Their results featured in the “Journal of Medicinal Food” in the same year.


Researchers from the Weston A Price Foundation, a non-profit organization that champion the consumption of traditional foods, explain that coconut oil has a very positive effect on cardiovascular health. They note how comsuming the oil reduces measurements of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and lipoprotein, all considered markers of cardiovascular risk.


Dr. Fife points out that, in addition to the above benefits, coconut oil also has a role to play in weight loss. He explains that, because of the way medium-chain fats are both absorbed and burned more easily than other types, their consumption results in increased burning of fat in the liver and a larger overall energy expenditure. This can contribute to weight loss.

Detox Reactions

Dr. Fife points out that the anti-fungal effect of coconut oil can cause the death of fungal species in the body. Should this occur quickly, a wave of fungal toxins may accumulate in the bloodstream, which can cause inflammation and irritation; rashes, headaches and disturbed digestion are common symptoms of this detox reaction, also called a Herxheimer response. The physician suggests lowering the dose initially, before reintroducing the oil in larger amounts gradually.

Photo Credits

  • yasuhiroamano/iStock/Getty Images

About the Author

A London-based personal trainer, nutritional therapist and allergist, Marek Doyle runs and counts world champion athletes and TV personalities amongst his clientele. He has contributed to various publications, including Good Life magazine, Natural News and PTontheNet.