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Surprising Side Effects of Using Coconut Oil, Says Science

Stay on your toes when using this culinary staple—it has some benefits and some negative side effects.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

Whether you've been looking for vegan alternatives to your favorite animal-based fats or just love adding a touch of tropical flavor to your dishes, odds are you've considered—or tried—incorporating coconut oil into your cooking.

And it's not just coconut oil's trendiness that makes it deserving of a spot on your menu—there's some evidence that this flavorful fat packs an impressive résumé when it comes to your health and wellbeing. However, there is some bad that comes along with the good, and there are some not-so-pleasant side effects of eating coconut oil you should be aware of. Before you prepare your next meal, read on to discover the surprising side effects of using coconut oil, according to science.

Keep in mind while reading: while there are both benefits and negatives of consuming ingredients like coconut oil, experts recommend not relying on only one type of healthy fat when you're cooking. Rather, by rotating your oils (throw some olive oil in there!), you'll get a range of nutrients and moderate your intake of each oil, helping to minimize the chance of overdoing it on one or the other and potentially experiencing the not-so-pleasant side effects. And for more great additions to your diet, check out The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.

You may experience higher cholesterol levels.

medical device for measuring cholesterol with stethoscope on the table.

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S., and consuming excess coconut oil in your diet may play a role in increasing your risk of high cholesterol, a common contributor to heart health issues.

According to a 2020 meta-analysis published in the journal Circulation, researchers found that coconut oil consumption "significantly" increases levels of LDL, or "bad," cholesterol. Coconut oil is high in saturated fat, a fat that has consistently been linked to increased cholesterol levels.

For ways to get your cholesterol into healthier territory, check out these 17 Foods That Lower Cholesterol.

It may help you lose weight.

man stepping onto digital scale
Shutterstock / Andrej Safaric

If you're eager to shed a few pounds, making coconut oil part of your regular routine may help. A 2015 meta-analysis published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), a type of fat abundant in coconut oil, were associated with reductions in body weight.

Just make sure you're not eating too much coconut oil. Per tablespoon, coconut oil contains 120 calories and 13 grams of fat—that's 20 calories and 5 grams of saturated fat more than what you'll find in the same serving size as butter. Consuming more calories than you burn may lead to weight gain, so it's important to not overdo it.

For more simple ways to shed those extra pounds, check out these 15 Underrated Weight Loss Tips That Actually Work.

It may help you shed abdominal fat.

woman measuring inches around belly

Losing belly fat is no easy feat, but adding coconut oil to your cooking routine may help you trim down that midsection. According to the aforementioned Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics study, in addition to weight loss, MCTs are also associated with reductions in waist circumference and total body fat.

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It may improve your oral health.

Young Man Cleaning His Teeth In Front Of Mirror

Those healthy teeth you've always wanted may be easier to achieve than you think—and coconut oil could be the key.

A 2016 study published in the Journal of International Society of Preventive & Community Dentistry found that, among a group of 50 children between ages 8 and 12, swishing with coconut oil was as effective at reducing counts streptococcus mutans, the bacterium most commonly associated with cavities, as chlorhexidine mouthwash.

And for more, don't miss Coconut Oil vs. Olive Oil: Which is Healthier?


Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more about Sarah