Cancer Active
Cancer Prevention Cancer Treatment Support Us Online Shop
Chris Woolmams / Catherine Woollams
Coconut oil vs Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
Is coconut oil good for you or not? 

The short answer is ‘No’.  About 5 or 6 years ago, several (American) health ‘experts’ started to tell people the advantages of coconut oil.  One asserted that there was research showing it reversed Alzheimer’s; another told the world it contained ‘good’ mono-unsaturated fat.  Co-incidentally both were selling this new wonder elixir.

My father had Alzheimer’s so I followed the links and read the original research study – It actually said coconut oil did not have an effect on Alzheimer’s, although another study was proposed; this has actually been discontinued through an inability to recruit trialists. See - Alzheimer´s Society, coconut oil

And then we come to the ´coconut oil is good saturated fat´ nonsense. Advocates talk of Lauric acid - how this is somehow good saturated fat. It isn´t. Don´t just take my word for it. A recent Dr. Walter C Willet review from the Department of Nutrition at Harvard Public Health said almost exactly what this article says. 

Mono-unsaturated fat in coconut oil? The populations of South East Asia being healthy because they cook with it? These claims are just not true.

The Biochemistry of coconut oil

Coconut oil is 8 per cent unsaturated and 92 per cent saturated fat.  Let’s put this in context.  Butter is 64 per cent saturated fat, and lard is only 40 per cent!

For years, saturated fat has had bad press. 

This is not entirely deserved. in 2010 and then 2014, there were meta-studies showing that high saturated fat consumers had no more cardiovascular disease than low saturated fat consumers.

Go to: Saturated fat has no influence on cardiovascular risk

But for cancer saturated fat really is bad news. There are a number of important research studies linking saturated fat to cancer, for example higher levels are linked to breast cancer, higher blood levels are linked to worsening lung cancer; and more metastases generally, and higher levels are linked to prostate cancer recurrence.

The biochemistry of saturated fat is complex. There are long-chain and medium-chain saturated fats - long chain fatty acids or LCFAs; and medium chain fatty acids or MCFAs - and they have very different properties. 

Lauric acid, mystic acid and palmitic acid are the chief long-chain fats of coconut and palm oils. They are also the highest fat ingredients in red meat, chicken and dairy products (milk, butter, cheese).  They are known to increase LDL in the blood stream.

And in coconut oil, those 3 fats are approximately 90 per cent of the total saturated fat.

Yes, one long-chain fat, stearic acid, has no effect on LDL (it is in chocolate too and that’s why eating chocolate doesn’t increase your LDL, while cheese does.)

Lauric acid is a 12 carbon fat. Somehow people claim this is good for you. It isn´t, although there is one study that concluded it can increase HDL slightly in the blood stream (but nothing like similar studies with Extra Virgin Olive Oil).

Next, there are medium-chain fats like caprylic acid, caproic acid and capric acid. These have no effect on LDL, but only comprise 10 per cent of coconut oil.

So almost 90 per cent of 92 per cent is bad saturated fat in coconut oil and this pushes your blood LDL levels up.

It gets worse though.  About 8% of virgin coconut oil is unsaturated.  If yours isn’t virgin but refined, the hydrogenation can turn the unsaturated fats into trans-fats. The worst thing you can consume.

Another problem is the lack of long-term research on coconut oil; all the studies (particularly the one on HDL increases) have been over short time periods.

And that´s the biggest problem. There are a number of studies on coconut oil proclaiming its health benefits but many are frankly very weak. Shall we talk about the benefits of coconut oil found in one Nigerian study on rats? No, I´d rather not.

Coconut oil and the gutI like to look at real science and especially how foods interact with the gut microbiome. In one study (Immunity Vol 44, Issue 4, 19 April 2016), the lauric acid commonly found in coconut oil was shown to negatively influence T-cell differentiation and proliferation in the gut. A second study in ´Immunity´, the previous October had shown the relationship was linear - the more lauric acid you consumed, the worse the problem. Instead of a normal immune response, lauric acid causes a highly inflammatory response in the gut.

It would thus appear that coconut oil can cause inflammation both in the gut and in the body and weaken the immune system. In mouse models the LCFAs of coconut oil also damaged the myelin sheath on nerves and worsened MS.    

Coconut oil vs Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)

This is the ultimate reality check for coconut oil.  Everybody knows and understands that EVOO contains a high level of unsaturated fat, and there is research study after research study on its health benefits, its synergistic effects with fish oils, its longevity and heart benefits in the Mediterranean diet and so on. In the above T-cell study, fatty acids from olive oil, reduced T-cell differentiation and reduced inflammation. Plus these short chain fatty acids in the same study reduced symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis.

But where is any comparable volume of research on coconut oil?

I live in Thailand, my daughter goes to school in Malaysia, both countries are packed with coconuts. But who eats coconut oil? No one. Who cooks with coconut oil? No one.

A few put it on their hair or skin, but that is rare too.

If coconut oil has such health benefits, don’t you find it a little odd that populations who have been surrounded by the coconuts for thousands of years DON’T consume the oil? And this is true for India, the Philippines, Borneo. Claims that the locals cook with it and it´s a major contributor to their health are just one big fat lie.

EVOO contains high levels of monounsaturated fatty acids or MUFAs, and good levels of polyunsaturated fats or PUFAs. According to the Mayo clinic, if you replace saturated and trans fats with MUFAs and PUFAs you get a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (I think from the research, that is more true for the trans fats). But it is clear that MUFAs lower LDL, and total cholesterol. They also seem to reduce insulin levels and improve blood sugar control.

According to
research from the Cleveland Clinic (Feb 2016), a compound called trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) has been linked to a higher risk of heart attacks, atherosclerosis and strokes. TMAO is linked to greater deposits of cholesterol in heart artery walls and it interferes with the process that kicks LDL out of the body.

It is now known that certain gut bacteria can convert two specific compounds (l-carnitine and choline) into trimethylamine which is subsequently converted in the liver to TMAO. Choline and l-carnitine are found in high-saturated fat dairy products, red meat and eggs. 

What is clear is that further research from Cleveland showed that a compound DMB could keep TMAO in check. DMB is found in both Extra Virgin Olive Oil and also in Red wine. And a colourful Mediterranean Diet is associated with lower rates of cardiovascular risk and strokes. Is it found in coconut oil? No.

As we at CANCERactive constantly tell readers, fat is good for you. But ideally your consumption should be 70:30 in favour of MUFAs - and foods like olive oil. 
Research vs the Anecdote

Of course, there will always be the chap down the road who drank a ton of coconut oil and cured his arthritis.  There may be a few hundred who have seen long-term health benefits.  Even if we forget about the placebo effect, hundreds of anecdotes don’t equate to research, epidemiology studies or populations who through the eons have benefited from EVOO. The populations of Indonesia and Isaac have not benefited from cooking with coconut oil - they don´t. No, not even Thai food - which uses coconut milk - sometimes.

Sorry, but you consume coconut oil at your own risk. I wouldn’t. I consume Extra Virgin olive oil, red wine, fish oils, walnuts, almonds, avocados and so on.

Go to: The colourful Mediterranean Diet, the healthiest diet in the world


Want the latest news on this?
Print This Page
  Search Website
Follow us on:
Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter

Heal Your Gut  
Part 1:  The importance of the microbiome 

More info? See

CANCERactive Website Appeal

Thank you for helping us to raise a fantastic £19,708 for our new CANCERactive website which will be launched in 2018

Select a donation amount:
Enter a donation amount:

Gift Aid:
So that CANCERactive can claim back 25p for every £1 donated, I confirm that I am a UK tax payer, who has paid over enough tax for you to reclaim this amount

Sign up for icon


Our icon magazine is available free in over 500 UK hospitals, cancer centres and libraries. Full of great articles and the very latest cancer information, you can have it sent to your own home.

Buy online

The CANCERactive Patient Group (CAPG) – Run by Patients, for Patients

  • Tell your Story
  • Start a Blog
  • Start a Diary Blog
  • Start a Discussion
  • Ask a Question

Search Drugs


Quick search for YOUR DRUG here  

Search Drugs


Quick search for a COMPLEMENTARY THERAPY here 

Search Complementary Therapies



Search Alternative Therapies

Important Notice

At CANCERactive we provide information that is already in the public domain.  It is not our intention to provide advice. It is up to the reader to decide if any of the matters to which any article refers might be suitable for them.


Follow CHRIS WOOLLAMS, the UK's number 1 cancer researcher, on his free e-news and keep right up to date with the very latest cancer information and research

 click here

  click here

click here


CANCERactive information and publications (books, magazine and leaflets)

CANCERactive compiled books

Heal Your Gut Heal Your Body

A real paradigm shift - this book will help you really understand exactly what to do to be in great health.

Click here to find out more.

The Brand new 4th edition of Everything You Need to Know to Help You Beat Cancer

"This book is head and shoulders above the rest". Geoffrey Boycott

Click here to find out more.

The Rainbow Diet - and how it can help you beat cancer

"At last the definitive book on a diet to fight cancer". Mrs BS Devon.

 Click here to find out more...

Brand new 3rd edition of Oestrogen The Killer in our Midst

"Learn how to take control of your oestrogen levels"

 Click here to find out more...

CANCERactive magazine (free in hospitals and complementary cancer centres)


Free downloadable prevention leaflets


Buy online

Donate to Us

We can only help people like you - if people like you help us!

Buy online

Fund Raising


Interested? Click here for more information

Click here to see all our fundraising events.

Click here and see what events are taking place and perhaps sponsor one of our supporters. 

Click here for other ways to raise money for CANCERactive.

Or if you want more information about our other fun activities, the Peru trek, our sky diving etc. click the button below.

Click here for our Just Giving page and see what our supporters are doing for us.

Click here for our Virgin Money Giving page.

Buy online

Visit a Catherine Corner

Catherine Wollams

Buy online

Need a Support Group?  

Find a cancer support group near you, now.
Buy online

So what is the truth behind mammograms, drug clinical trials, the PSA test and prostate surgery, and the stories you read in the press?Go to Junk Science to read the unbiased truth. Click Here.


Do you have a problem with our factual content?

If you have research which conflicts with ours, just address it to 'The Medical Board'. Ever since we started this site we have had an 'open-mind' policy and have expert oncology doctors and professors who will address your concerns.

© Copyright 2018 CANCERactive. All Rights Reserved. This content may be copied in full, with copyright, contact, creation and information intact, without specific permission, when used only in a not-for-profit format and provided, where used to publish on a website, that website provides a link to If any other use is desired, permission in writing from CANCERactive is required.
All content and images © Copyright 2018 - Website design and maintenance by a Web design and Search engine marketing company