The Impact of Virgin Coconut Oil and High-Oleic Safflower Oil on Body Composition, Lipids, and Inflammatory Markers in Postmenopausal Women

J Med Food. 2017 Apr;20(4):345-351. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2016.0114. Epub 2017 Mar 9.


This randomized crossover study compared the impact of virgin coconut oil (VCO) to safflower oil (SO) on body composition and cardiovascular risk factors. Twelve postmenopausal women (58.8 ± 3.7 year) consumed 30 mL VCO or SO for 28 days, with a 28-day washout. Anthropometrics included body weight and hip and waist circumference. Fat percent for total body, android and gynoid, fat mass, and lean mass were measured using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. Women maintained their typical diet recording 28 days of food records during the study. Results were analyzed with SPSS v24 with significance at P ≤ .05. Comparisons are reported as paired t-test since no intervention sequence effect was observed. VCO significantly raised total cholesterol, TC (+18.2 ± 22.8 mg/dL), low-density lipoprotein (+13.5 ± 16.0 mg/dL), and high-density lipoprotein, HDL (+6.6 ± 7.5 mg/dL). SO did not significantly change lipid values. TC and HDL were significantly different between test oils. The TC/HDL ratio change showed a neutral effect of both VCO and SO. One person had adverse reactions to VCO and increased inflammation. VCO decreased IL-1β for each person who had a detected sample. The impact of VCO and SO on other cytokines varied on an individual basis. This was the first study evaluating the impact of VCO on body composition in Caucasian postmenopausal women living in the United States. Results are suggestive that individuals wishing to use coconut oil in their diets can do so safely, but more studies need to be conducted with larger sample sizes, diverse populations, and more specific clinical markers such as particle size.

Keywords: adiposity; cholesterol; cytokines; fatty acid.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Body Composition*
  • Body Weight
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Coconut Oil
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Diet
  • Dietary Fats / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / drug therapy*
  • Lipids / blood*
  • Lipoproteins, HDL / blood
  • Lipoproteins, LDL / blood
  • Middle Aged
  • Plant Oils / administration & dosage*
  • Postmenopause*
  • Safflower Oil / administration & dosage*
  • Triglycerides / blood
  • Waist Circumference


  • Dietary Fats
  • Lipids
  • Lipoproteins, HDL
  • Lipoproteins, LDL
  • Plant Oils
  • Triglycerides
  • Safflower Oil
  • Cholesterol
  • Coconut Oil