Coconut oil consumption improves fat-free mass, plasma HDL-cholesterol and insulin sensitivity in healthy men with normal BMI compared to peanut oil

Clin Nutr. 2019 Dec;38(6):2889-2899. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2018.12.026. Epub 2018 Dec 29.


Background & aims: The existing scientific evidence on coconut oil consumption and its health effects remains inconclusive due to varied reasons. In this context, we conducted a well-controlled metabolic study, eliminating some of the confounding factors and assessed the effects of the consumption of coconut oil-based diet on various anthropometric, biochemical and inflammatory markers and compared with peanut oil-diet.

Methods: Nine healthy male volunteers with BMI ≤25 kg/m2 were enrolled for this study and given balanced diets prepared with coconut oil (CO; ~35 g) for a period of eight weeks. After a wash-out period of six weeks, the same subjects were provided with diets prepared with peanut oil (~35 g) for eight weeks. Except fat source, the composition of the diets was identical in all aspects.

Results: Compared to basal values, there were significant increases in fat-free mass (p ≤ 0.022), plasma HDL-cholesterol (HDL-C) (p ≤ 0.047) and insulin sensitivity of the subjects at the end of CO-consumption. Further, compared to peanut oil, increase in plasma HDL-C was significant (p = 0.004) in CO treatment. On the other hand, plasma inflammatory markers-associated with cardiovascular diseases (CVD), namely soluble vascular cell adhesion molecule 1 (sVCAM1) and matrix metalloproteinase levels were reduced significantly by CO-intake. Further, these subjects displayed elevated levels of myristic acid (14:0) in plasma phospholipids at the end of CO-consumption, which correlated positively with HDL-C and negatively with sVCAM1. However, no such changes were observed after peanut oil diet consumption.

Conclusions: In conclusion, compared to peanut oil, the consumption of coconut oil in a balanced diet resulted in increased fat-free mass, plasma HDL-C, elicited favourable changes on insulin sensitivity and CVD risk-associated parameters in healthy men with normal BMI.

Keywords: Atherosclerosis; Dyslipidemia; Inflammation; Medium chain triglycerides; Obesity; Saturated fatty acids.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Composition / drug effects*
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood*
  • Coconut Oil / administration & dosage
  • Coconut Oil / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Peanut Oil / administration & dosage
  • Peanut Oil / pharmacology*
  • Reference Values


  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Peanut Oil
  • Coconut Oil