Is Organic Coconut Oil Bad for You?

by Erin Coleman, R.D., L.D.

Although coconut oil contains a large amount of saturated fat, sometimes referred to as the bad fat, consuming coconut oil in recommended portions may not be bad for you. Organic products -- such as organic coconut oil -- are free from genetically modified ingredients, pesticides and antibiotics. Consuming coconut oil in excess could be problematic, however.

Effects on Cholesterol

A 1-tablespoon portion of organic coconut oil contains about 12 grams of saturated fat, which is known for causing increases in low-density lipoprotein, the "bad" cholesterol. Consuming organic coconut oil may not negatively affect your blood cholesterol levels, however. A study published in 2011 in the “Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition” reports that coconut oil intake is actually associated with improved blood fat profiles, low LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels and increased high-density lipoprotein -- the "good" cholesterol -- in women.

Benefits of MCTs

A large percentage of the saturated fatty acids found in coconut oil are classified as medium-chain triglycerides. According to the University of Minnesota Extension, MCTs may boost satiety and metabolism -- which is beneficial when you're trying to lose weight -- are easily digested and may help support immune function. MCTs may also help slightly lower blood sugar levels, which could be beneficial for diabetics, according to a 2013 issue of "Nutrition Review."

Calorie Considerations

The publication "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010" suggests consuming 6 teaspoons of oils daily when eating 2,000 calories per day -- but ingesting too much organic coconut oil can lead to weight gain and obesity. A 1-tablespoon portion of coconut oil contains 117 calories. Because 1 pound of body fat equals about 3,500 calories, consuming an extra 250 calories daily from organic coconut oil can lead to a gradual weight gain of about 1/2 pound per week. Because coconut oil may boost satiety and energy expenditure, however, consuming it in recommended portions could be beneficial, even during periods of weight loss.

Effects on Aging

Though more research is needed to determine the effect of coconut oil on brain cell function, one pilot study showed promising results. This study, published in 2014 in the “Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease,” found that supplementation with coconut oil may have the potential to improve neurodegeneration associated with aging -- because coconut oil seems to improve neuron survival in the brain. Researchers who conducted this pilot study, however, note that more studies are needed before making definite conclusions pertaining to effects of coconut oil on brain neurodegeneration in the aging population.

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About the Author

Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in dietetics and has extensive experience working as a health writer and health educator. Her articles are published on various health, nutrition and fitness websites.