Fatty acid composition and possible health effects of coconut constituents

West Indian Med J. 2000 Jun;49(2):128-33.


The link between excessive consumption of dietary saturated fats and coronary heart disease (CHD) is now well established. Because of its high content of saturated fatty acids, the consumption of foods containing coconut oil may therefore be a risk factor for CHD. While the fatty acid composition of coconut oil is well established, relatively little is known about the other constituents of coconut: the milk, water, cream and meat fractions. In this study, we show that while the water fraction is low in lipid content, the milk contains about 24% of the fat content of oil and the cream and meat fractions about 34%. The other coconut constituents contain significant amounts of medium-chain triglycerides that are formed from fatty acids of chain length 8:0 to 14:0. It is these fatty acids, primarily 14:0, that are thought to be atherogenic. On the other hand, medium-chain triglycerides may be advantageous under some circumstances in that they are absorbed intact and do not undergo degradation and re-esterification processes. As a result, medium-chain triglycerides provide a ready source of energy and may be useful in baby foods or in diet therapy. Nevertheless, the possible negative effects of the saturated fatty acids and the absence of the essential fatty acid linolenic acid from all coconut constituents suggest that the coconut milk, oil and cream should not be used on a regular basis in adults.

MeSH terms

  • Cocos / chemistry*
  • Coronary Disease / epidemiology
  • Coronary Disease / etiology*
  • Dietary Fats / analysis
  • Dietary Fats, Unsaturated / classification
  • Fatty Acids / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Lipids / analysis
  • Lipids / blood
  • Risk Factors
  • Trinidad and Tobago


  • Dietary Fats
  • Dietary Fats, Unsaturated
  • Fatty Acids
  • Lipids