Variations in natural polyphenols determine the anti-inflammatory potential of virgin coconut oils

J Food Sci. 2021 May;86(5):1620-1628. doi: 10.1111/1750-3841.15705. Epub 2021 Apr 16.


Virgin coconut oil (VCO), an edible oil prepared from fresh coconut kernel by natural or mechanical means without undergoing chemical refining, has been in the limelight of research as functional food oil. The phenolic components in VCO have been accredited with these pharmacological benefits. The present study compared the phenolic constituents of freshly prepared fermentation processed (FVCO) and hot-pressed VCO (HVCO) and their anti-inflammatory efficacies. The biochemical analysis documented quantitative variation in the phenolic content, being higher in HVCO than FVCO (40.03 ± 5.8 µg and 25.55 ± 5.8 µg/mL of oil, respectively). In vitro studies observed nitric oxide radical scavenging efficacy (IC50 value of 14.84 ± 0.81 µg/mL) for HVCO polyphenols, which shows higher inhibition efficacy than FVCO (29.41 ± 1.7 µg/mL). In dextran and formalin mediated acute and chronic inflammation in mice, HVCO displayed more protective efficacy (40.5 and 46.4% inhibition) than FVCO (33.3 and 43.8% inhibition), which is similar to the standard diclofenac (55.6 and 59.8% inhibition). The study, thus, concludes that compared to FVCO, HVCO is a more active anti-inflammatory agent. PRACTICAL APPLICATION: Virgin coconut oil, a widely used edible oil in South Asian countries, has been shown to have health benefits possibly exerted by the natural phenolics it contains. However, different modes of preparations of VCO determine the phenolic combinations and efficacy as well. Our study compared two different VCO preparations and suggests that the VCO prepared by the traditional way (HVCO) is pharmacologically potent than that prepared by simple fermentation process (FVCO) in reducing inflammation. The efficacy is attributed to the variations in phenolic profile revealed by LC-MS analysis. Hence, the current study suggests HVCO as a potential food supplement that can reduce the incidence of degenerative diseases.

Keywords: anti-inflammatory; inflammation; polyphenols; virgin coconut oil.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Coconut Oil / chemistry*
  • Coconut Oil / pharmacology*
  • Food Handling / methods
  • Food Technology / methods
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Polyphenols / analysis*
  • Polyphenols / pharmacology*


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Antioxidants
  • Polyphenols
  • Coconut Oil