Consuming coconut oil leads to higher levels of LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol compared with other vegetable oils and holds no benefits with regards to body fatness, inflammation, blood sugar, or heart health, reports the Cardivascular Research Foundation’s TCTMD website.

The findings were the result of a new meta analysis conducted by researchers at the National University of Singapore of 16 international trials comparing the effects of at least two weeks of coconut oil consumption with other non-tropical vegetable oils or palm oil on cardiovascular risk factors.

Senior author Rob van Dam said the researchers conducted their study because of how widely coconut oil was promoted as being beneficial.

“Compared with non-tropical vegetable oils, coconut oil significantly increased total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and HDL cholesterol but not triglycerides, body measurements, glycemia, or C-reactive protein,” TCTMD wrote on 16 January.

Compared with palm oil, coconut oil also significantly increased total cholesterol by 25.57 milligrammes per decilitre (mg/dL), LDL cholesterol by 20.50mg/dL, and HDL cholesterol by 2.83 mg/dL but did not impact triglycerides.

“Our results on the adverse effects of coconut oil as compared with alternative cooking oils on LDL cholesterol concentrations thus align with dietary recommendations to replace saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat,” the authors wrote.

Van Dam said coconut oil consisted of about 90% saturated fat, higher than the proportion of saturated fat in butter or lard.

“High coconut oil consumption increases blood LDL cholesterol concentrations and may thus increase risk of heart disease,” he added, although limited use of the oil for taste in cooking was unlikely to have a substantial detrimental effect.

Deidre Mattina of the Henry Ford Health System’s Women’s Heart Center told TCTMD that claims over the anti-inflammatory properties of coconut oil had been based on smaller studies form geographically isolated populations.

“A lot of that we sort of took out of context and from what other components are available in those populations’ diets. And then people are just always looking for something that’s marketed as being natural or different in processing.”