The present study was carried out to evaluate the effects of virgin coconut oil (VCO) compared with copra oil, olive oil and sunflower-seed oil on the synthesis and oxidation of fatty acids and the molecular regulation of fatty acid metabolism in normal rats. Male Sprague-Dawley rats were fed the test oils at 8 % for 45 d along with a synthetic diet. Dietary supplementation of VCO decreased tissue lipid levels and reduced the activity of the enzymes involved in lipogenesis, namely acyl CoA carboxylase and fatty acid synthase (FAS) (P< 0·05). Moreover, VCO significantly (P< 0·05) reduced the de novo synthesis of fatty acids by down-regulating the mRNA expression of FAS and its transcription factor, sterol regulatory element-binding protein-1c, compared with the other oils. VCO significantly (P< 0·05) increased the mitochondrial and peroxisomal β-oxidation of fatty acids, which was evident from the increased activities of carnitine palmitoyl transferase I, acyl CoA oxidase and the enzymes involved in mitochondrial β-oxidation; this was accomplished by up-regulating the mRNA expression of PPARα and its target genes involved in fatty acid oxidation. In conclusion, the present results confirmed that supplementation of VCO has beneficial effects on lipid parameters by reducing lipogenesis and enhancing the rate of fatty acid catabolism; this effect was mediated at least in part via PPARα-dependent pathways. Thus, dietary VCO reduces the risk for CHD by beneficially modulating the synthesis and degradation of fatty acids.