Is Coconut Oil Bad For Your Heart?

  • FDA Disclaimer
    The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. We do not aim to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease. Information is shared for educational purposes only. Learn More
  • Affliliate Disclosure
    In compliance with the FTC guidelines, please assume the following about links and posts on this site: Many of the links on are affiliate links of which I receive a small commission from sales of certain items, but the price is the same for you. If I post an affiliate link to a product, it is something that I personally use, support and would recommend without an affiliate link. Learn More
  • Privacy Policy
    Please read the Privacy Policy carefully before you start to use By using or by clicking to accept or agree to Terms of Use when this option is made available to you, you accept and agree to be bound and abide by the Privacy Policy. Learn More
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

coconut oilIs Coconut Oil Bad?

Maybe you’ve noticed, or maybe you haven’t, but the American Heart Association (AHA) just released a statement on coconut oil that just has to be addressed. While the statement was made about saturated fats and cholesterol in the diet, a huge focus on the internet right now is coconut oil and whether or not it is healthy. There are claims being made that coconut oil is contributing to cardiovascular disease and that instead we should opt for so called “heart healthy vegetable oils.” So, is coconut oil bad or are we being misled?

This is such a controversial topic (although it shouldn’t be as you will see in the article!!) that it has been all over the press lately!  In fact, I was surprised to see that one of our website readers saw that Dr Oz did a feature on his show on the various media outlets covering this topic.  He really enjoyed this article you are reading here (which you will see in the top right corner of the pic below) as a well-referenced, science based report on the topic.

So What’s the Deal With Coconut Oil?

With the rapid rise in the popularity of coconut oil as a healthy fat in recent years, the AHA stance on the matter can be downright confusing. While it can be disconcerting to hear such a stance from an apparently authoritative and reliable source, this is where living in the era of information really empowers the consumer!

In this article, we will dive into the research to understand why this organization would label coconut oil bad.  You will also see my feeling about coconut oil and why my patients have for years nicknamed me, “Dr Coconut!”

Brief History Of The AHA

The American Heart Association was founded in the 1920’s by cardiologists. The mission of the AHA was to drive research and public health policy in a way that would reduce heart disease and stroke. I think everyone would agree that this is a great mission that our heart-diseased society needs now more than ever.

The problem with the setup of the AHA, however, is that it relies on corporate sponsorship to remain funded. Current sponsors of the AHA include Subway and Cheerios as well as pharmaceutical company Bayer (who is now teamed with biotech giant, Monsanto).

The problem with this is that the ultimate goal of these huge corporations is their bottom line. If the AHA conducts research that exposes negative aspects of these company’s products, they can swiftly cut funding and make the AHA obsolete.

With this is mind, the average consumer should already have a healthy skepticism about the claims made by the AHA and unfortunately their claim to make coconut oil bad only further discredits them in the nutritional world.

The AHA’s Dietary Recommendations 

The AHA has a history of dietary recommendations that, based on current research, are downright questionable. For example, the AHA recommends replacing saturated fats (coconut oil bad/butter is considered terrible) with omega-6 fats like vegetable oils and margarine. Omega-6 fats consumed in abundance have been repeatedly shown to contribute to chronic inflammation, which is one of the real causes of heart disease (I’ll touch on this again later).

The AHA’s recommendation to avoid saturated fats is based primarily on research done in the 1960’s that has been largely disproven since. In order to draw the conclusion that saturated fats and cholesterol were leading to heart disease, the AHA had to essentially ignore the vast majority of research since then that has shown just the opposite.

As you can see here, in the past 5 years alone there has been a mix of meta-analyses and literature reviews all showing no causal link between CVD and saturated fats or cholesterol.  So where is the mountain of evidence (that we are led to believe) proving saturated fat and coconut oil bad for the heart?

Other Faulty Dietary Recommendations By The AHA:

  • The high consumption of processed carbohydrates like cereals (Contributing to blood sugar imbalance, inflammation, obesity, and ironically, increased risk of heart disease)
  • The reduced intake of dietary sodium (This study shows that following the AHA sodium intake guidelines actually increases your risk of suffering a fatal heart event)
  • The consumption of foods with the AHA Heart Healthy Check Mark (Which includes Subway Sandwiches and Cheerios, of course)

Nutrition Research Is Tough

It can be hard to draw solid conclusions from nutrition research for one key reason, a heavy reliance on epidemiological evidence. What this means is that instead of controlling for specific factors in a lab, much of our nutrition research is simply based upon surveys and questionnaires sent out to the public. Here’s what’s wrong with that.

Not only is there no way to verify the accuracy of an individual’s answers, but the data extracted only allows for correlation. What this means is that among the massive pool of data, the only thing we can do is look at the relationship between trends.

A classic example of this shortcoming is the correlation between ice cream sales and violent crimes. As you can see on the graph below the correlation between ice cream sales and violent crimes is very high. Does that mean that ice cream causes violence?

The more accurate conclusion may be that during the summer months when the temperature is elevated (and ice cream sales are coincidentally higher) violent behavior is more prevalent. Coincidentally, research has also shown that hotter temperatures consistently correlate with an increase in violent crimes.

This is the type of critical analysis that must go on when looking at our nutrition data. The deeper factors involving blood sugar, inflammation, and differentiating types of cholesterol all need to be further evaluated (1).

Current Data On Coconut Oil

Despite the AHA’s recommendation to ditch your coconut oil, current research just doesn’t agree.  To claim coconut oil bad is a mistaken view of the scientific literature.

Not only have recent reviews highlighted the CVD prevention benefits of coconut oil, but have even shown positive effects for those who already have CVD (2, 3). Specifically, coconut oil supplementation improved lipid profiles while promoting sustainable decreases in bodyweight and waist circumference (which are both risk factors for CVD).

Additionally, in a controlled mouse model, it has been shown that the replacement of coconut oil with soybean oil (an apparently healthier alternative according to the AHA) had overall negative effects on metabolic health. The mice fed higher amounts of soybean oil and less coconut oil experienced higher rates of obesity, diabetes, inflammation, mitochondrial dysfunction, and cancer (4).

So why is coconut oil bad but soybean oil is still approved by the AHA?

Healthy Fats, Top 3 Healthy Fats & Which Fats to NEVER Eat

Misleading Conclusions On LDL

Most people know LDL as the bad cholesterol while HDL is the good cholesterol. This is somewhat true but there is more to the story. There are actually two primary types of LDL, high density and low density. What we know now is that low-density LDL cholesterol is not harmful while high-density LDL may contribute to CVD, depending on HDL levels and other factors.

Many of the AHA’s dietary fat recommendations revolve around the fact that saturated fat raises LDL. What continues to go unaddressed is that they are blanketing all LDL as bad. Saturated fat does increase LDL, but only the good, large particle size that is associated with a lower risk of heart disease (5). Additionally, saturated fats increase HDL, which is also a negative risk factor for CVD.

These are picturesque changes you are looking for to decrease your risk of CVD!  So how is coconut oil bad if it helps improve the lipid profile?

coconut oil bad

The Overlooked CVD Risk-Factor: Inflammation

Past research focused on weak epidemiological evidence to determine the link between saturated fats, cholesterol, and CVD. Newer research shows that one of the primary contributing factors for obesity, atherosclerosis, and CVD-related conditions is actually chronic inflammation.

One reason for this is the presence of oxidative stress, which is a primary contributor to inflammation. Oxidative stress damages the lining of arterial walls while oxidizing cholesterol, changing its structure and promoting atherosclerosis.

Coincidentally, the high consumption of omega-6 polyunsaturated fats and refined carbohydrates contributes to this type of inflammation.  These things also cause a decrease in both HDL and large LDL particles and an increase in the small, dense LDL particles that are associated with higher risk of heart disease (5).

By replacing omega-6 fats and sugars with healthy saturated fats like coconut oil, this inflammatory response diminishes greatly (6). Not only does controlled research show no link between saturated fat, cholesterol, and heart disease, but there are several example populations that thrive on diets rich in these components.

coconut oil bad

How Inflammation Can Contribute To CVD

Cholesterol has been deemed dangerous for a long time. Originally this made sense because arterial plaques are primarily made up of cholesterol. But modern research has uncovered inflammation as a deeper underlying cause.

As I briefly mentioned already, inflammation and oxidative stress can damage the internal lining of the arteries. As a protective mechanism, the body sends cholesterol to bandage the area. So, cholesterol is not inherently bad, but can become harmful in the presence of chronic inflammation.

Our bodies actually heavily rely on saturated fats and cholesterol for the proper production of hormones, brain tissue, and nervous system health. By replacing healthy saturated fats with processed, genetically modified vegetable oils you may be doing yourself a disservice in many ways.

coconut oil bad


A 2017 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine concluded that carbohydrate and polyunsaturated fat (such as in vegetable oils) intake was more closely associated with coronary heart disease than was saturated fat intake (7).  Is coconut oil bad, not at all, instead it is the processed vegetable oils!

Based on what the current data shows, I will continue to recommend consuming coconut oil (organic, virgin or extra virgin) and healthy saturated fats from butter and animal products (pasture-raised and grass-fed).

Additionally, for protection against heart disease, we need to address the real underlying issues. By controlling inflammation, balancing blood sugar, reducing bodyweight, and balancing hormones, you drastically cut your risk of CVD.  For my general dietary recommendations, check out my guidelines for a healing diet.

coconut oil bad

Sources For This Article Include:

1. Calcagno, C., Lobatto, M. E., Robson, P. M., & Millon, A. (2016). The Evidence for Saturated Fat and for Sugar Related to Coronary Heart Disease., 28(10), 1304–1314. PMID: 24655651
2. Babu, A. S., Veluswamy, S. K., Arena, R., Guazzi, M., & Lavie, C. J. (2014). Virgin Coconut Oil and Its Potential Cardioprotective Effects. Postgraduate Medicine, 126(7), 76–83. PMID: 25387216
3. Cardoso, D. A., B Moreira, A. S., M de Oliveira, G. M., Raggio Luiz, R., Rosa, G., & Bello Moreira, A. (2015). A coconut extra virgin oil-rich diet increases HDL cholesterol and decreases waist circumference and body mass in coronary artery disease patients. Nutr Hosp, 32(5), 2144–2152. PMID: 26545671
4. Deol, P., Evans, J. R., Dhahbi, J., Chellappa, K., Han, D. S., Spindler, S., & Sladek, F. M. (2015). Soybean oil is more obesogenic and diabetogenic than coconut oil and fructose in mouse: Potential role for the liver. PLoS ONE, 10(7). PMID: 26200659
5. Dreon, D. M., Fernstrom, H. A., Campos, H., Blanche, P., Williams, P. T., & Krauss, R. M. (1998). Change in dietary saturated fat intake is correlated with change in mass of large low-density-lipoprotein particles in men. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 67(5), 828–836. PMID: 9583838
6. Lawrence, G. D. (2013). Dietary Fats and Health: Dietary Recommendations in the Context of Scientific Evidence. Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal, 4(3), 294–302. PMID: 23674795
7. Malhotra, A., Redberg, R. F., & Meier, P. (2017). Saturated fat does not clog the arteries: coronary heart disease is a chronic inflammatory condition, the risk of which can be effectively reduced from healthy lifestyle interventions. British Journal of Sports Medicine, bjsports-2016-097285. PMID: 23060172
Healthy Fats, Top 3 Healthy Fats & Which Fats to NEVER Eat
Was this article helpful?
Dr. Jockers

Dr David Jockers is passionate about seeing people reach their health potential in mind, body and spirit. He is the host of the popular “Dr Jockers Functional Nutrition” podcast and the author of the best-selling books, “The Keto Metabolic Breakthrough” and “The Fasting Transformation.”


Hot Topics Nutrition Oils


Take Control Of Your Health Today!

Subscribe to Dr. Jockers Newsletter & unlock FREE ACCESS to TWO of his MOST POPULAR eBooks instantly!

"Join my tribe today to discover hidden strategies to improve your energy, brain, digestion & metabolism."

Doctor David Jockers DMN, DC, MS
Functional Nutrition & Natural Health Specialist
Dr Jockers




  1. Dear dr Jockers, grapeseed oil? I thought it was healthy, ánd that it can stand high heat. (I live in South Africa) I have almost gotten bancrupt in my efforts to find some – it costs more or less the price of a farm – only to learn that I should not use it. Please, won’t you tell us more about it? Because of a multitude of allergies, I mix it with coconut oil to get something spreadable in winter. Everything else available in our shops is more or less straight from hell. If there is any way or hope that I can still use it, I dearly need to know. Thank you ever so much.

    1. Hey Anita, Unfortunately grapeseed oil is one of the highest oils in omega 6 fatty acids. When you eat much more omega 6 fats compared to omega 3, you are at a much higher risk of chronic inflammation. In very small amounts it is okay as long as it is a pure, protected source. You want your primary focus to be on omega-3 fatty acids and healthy, saturated fats from things like coconut oil, pasture-raised meats, and butter from grass-fed cows.

      I hope that clears things up!

  2. such an informative article. Great read. I would like to forward it to our local newspaper. Is it ok for them to publish it?

  3. Hey Dr. Kickers! What an informative article! Thank you! How much fat, protein, and carbohydrates should I be consuming? How should I calculate my macros to maintain my weight? I’m a 6’3″ 225 pound active, athletic male.


    1. Thanks for reading Darius! I don’t typically recommend being too strict on macros but I advocate for a higher-fat, low-carb diet. For protein I would say take your body weight and multiply by .5 and .7, this will give you the range of protein in grams you should consume. Hit the higher end of the range on heavy training days and lower on rest days. Otherwise I would shoot for around 70% of calories from fat and carbs consumed in moderation and strategically around workout times!

  4. Am I correct in understanding the ratio of potassium to sodium consumed is more important that the amount of sodium consumed by itself?

    1. Yes Michael, all of the electrolytes work in a balance with each other to regulate certain functions in the body. Balance is key so sodium intake alone is somewhat arbitrary. If you are consuming chemically synthesized table salt then it is more likely to cause problems. Using a natural himalayan or celtic salt provides an array of minerals.

  5. Hi Dr. Jockers. I enjoyed this article on Coconut oil very much and have been using it in bone broth smoothies for a while. I was watching a health video by Dr. Michael Gregor whom I greatly respect. In his opinion Cocunut oil is too high in Saturated fat and he told his viewers not to use coconut oil or coconut milk. He had nothing good to say about coconut oil other than it is being promoted by the coconut oil producers as a health food when it is not. Now I’m confused. Thank you for clearing this up.

  6. Hello Dr Jockers,

    Thank for the excellent informative article! I am confused about avocado oil. I thought it was a high heat cooking oil. My bottle of Chosen Foods brand says on the bottle, “high heat 500 degrees F”. You list it above as an oil to use cold only. Yikes! Have I been doing this wrong? Thank you!

    1. Hey Holly, The high smoke point for avocado oil makes it one of the better choices for high heat cooking. Although it does not oxidize as quickly as other oils do, valuable antioxidants can be lost when heated which is why I prefer to cook at high heats with tallow often. The same can be said for butter. Although it has a high smoke point and is good for cooking, I prefer to add butter to my food right after it is cooked so the cooking process doesn’t lose the beneficial nutrients. I hope that helps clarify the confusion!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.