Is coconut oil really a superfood, or just glorified anal lube?

It’s time we had a little talk about coconut oil.  A lot of people have been sucking coconut oil’s proverbial dick for the past few years.  Specifically, here’s what I’ve seen people say about it:

  • Coconut oil will boost your sex drive.
  • Coconut oil enhances fat-burning, potentially even allowing you to lose fat in a caloric surplus.
  • Coconut oil specifically helps you burn belly fat.
  • Coconut oil is a brain hack that will enhance mental performance, especially if you mix it into your coffee and drink it while laying on a bed of magnets.  You all know who I’m talking about here.
  • Coconut oil will jack up your LDL cholesterol and make you drop dead of a heart attack.
  • Coconut oil is a great anal sex lube, better than KY jelly. 
  • Coconut oil has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties that allow it to fight acne and cure diseases.
  • Coconut oil tastes amazing.

First, let’s make one thing clear: it does taste amazing.  But how about those other things?  Is coconut oil really a superfood, or is it so unhealthy that you’re better off just using it to facilitate a little backdoor action with that cougar you met at Nordstroms who swears she’s divorced and just wears her wedding ring so guys won’t hit on her?

Let’s look at the research.

How healthy is coconut oil really?

Coconut oil is pure fat, like any other oil.  Whereas other vegetable oils consist mainly of monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, coconut oil is around 85% saturated fat, which is the reason why it’s generally solid at room temperature. 

This makes coconut oil one of the few good vegetable sources of saturated fat, since saturated fat is mostly found in animal products. 

An important consideration in assessing the benefits and drawbacks of one specific food is which foods it’s replacing.  In other words, when asking whether coconut oil is good for you, the first question to ask is “compared to what?”  Is it displacing other saturated fats, unsaturated fats, or is it displacing protein or carbohydrate? 

With that clarified, let’s review the literature on coconut oil.

Medium-chain triglycerides for fat loss?

Most of the fat in coconut oil consists of medium-chain triglycerides, which promote fat oxidation.  As such, it has been hypothesised that MCT consumption may lead to greater fat loss via enhanced energy expenditure and lipid oxidation. 

Even more incredibly, it has also been widely claimed that these effects preferentially target belly fat.  That would be awesome, both so that you can have washboard abs that make you look like a human cheese grater, and because visceral fat is associated with greater health risks that subcutaneous fat.  But what does the research say?

One meta-analysis of studies comparing medium- to long-chain triglycerides did indeed find that MCT consumption lead to greater fat loss.  However, the difference was slight, averaging only .51 kg of body weight and .39 kg of body fat per subject.  Given that fat loss studies generally last 2-6 months, that isn’t very much.

However, the analysis also found an average of 1.46 cm reduction in waistline circumference, and .55 kg of visceral fat loss.  In other words, the included studies did tend to find that diets heavy in MCT oil cause a disproportionate amount of fat loss to come from the abdominal region.  However, the authors did note some commercial bias in the underlying studies (Big Coconut has their fingers in everything, man), as well as flawed data reporting that made it hard to assess the methodological soundness of some of those studies.  Given that there isn’t a clear, plausible mechanism for coconut oil selectively burning belly fat, this result should be taken with a grain of salt.

Another study confirmed the fat loss advantage of MCT oil, and suggests that it is dependent on subjects’ starting body weight.  MCT oil consumption stimulated greater energy expenditure and fat loss in leaner men, while offering little advantage in obese men.  Based on this study, the fat loss benefits of coconut oil may only become apparent  once you’re already pretty lean.

Ultimately, it’s important not to get so hung up on the details that you can’t see the forrest for the trees.  Studies comparing high-fat to low-fat diets have found very mixed results, with high-fat diets having a small advantage on average.  Ultimately, the main factor behind the success of a fat loss diet is adherence.  Coconut oil does seem to offer a bit of an advantage, but it still only makes sense to incorporate it into your diet to the extent you can do so without making the diet harder to stick to.

Does coconut oil boost testosterone?

Coconut oil is widely touted as a sex drive booster.  So what’s the deal- will it allow you to achieve rock-hard, diamond-cutting boners on demand? 

Total fat intake, and saturated fat in particular, have been shown in many studies to correlate positively with testosterone production, both in men and in women

Most research is non-experimental, but one controlled study did find that men fed a high-fat diet had 13% higher average testosterone levels than men fed a low-fat diet.  Another study also found that putting men on a low-fat diet decreased their testosterone levels.

A high intake of dietary fat also makes your body more resistant to injury, likely because of the anabolic effects of testosterone and estrogen. 

However, all of this research pertains to either total fat intake or saturated fat intake, not coconut oil specifically.  There is very little data on the effect of coconut oil on testosterone levels in humans.  One study did find positive benefits in rats, however the other treatment arms were all fed unsaturated oils, so this still isn’t a study of coconut oil vs other saturated fats. 

So if you want a dick that can make it through a bona fide Roman orgy, the data suggests that you should eat more saturated fat, but doesn’t necessarily point to any specific benefit of coconut oil.  However, a special note should be made here regarding vegetarian diets.  Controlled experiments have generally found that vegans and vegetarians have lower testosterone levels than people eating a healthy omnivorous diet.  Emphasis on healthy- veganism usually looks pretty good when compared to the standard American fast food diet.  Since coconut oil is far and away the best vegetable source for saturated fat, the recommendation of saturated fat does become a de facto endorsement of coconut oil for vegetarians.  If you don’t eat meat, start cooking with coconut oil

But won’t it skyrocket your cholesterol levels and blow up your heart?

In short, no, although it might raise them a bit, but that might not even be a bad thing. 

Cholesterol levels are indeed positively correlated with risk for cardiovascular diseases, and coronary heart disease in particular.  However, there is actually a curvilinear relationship between cholesterol levels and all-causes mortality; to live as long as possible, you want your total cholesterol to be in the high-normal range between 180 and 200, not as low as humanly possible.

Even meta-analyses of the sum total of evidence reach conflicting conclusions.  Some suggest that reducing saturated fat intake leads to a small but significant reduction in heart disease risk.  Others find no effect.

This is almost certainly because it depends on what is being substituted for what– are you swapping overcooked fatty steak in place of chicken salad, or a coconut stir fry in place of a Taco Bell five dollar fill-up box?

The bottom line: coconut oil is fine as long as you don’t go full retard with it and drink several cups of Scienceproof Coffee a day.  The key here is that it isn’t displacing the really healthy shit you know you need to eat more of, particularly fibrous veggies.

Coconut oil on the ketogenic diet

The MCTs in coconut oil are converted to ketones more readily than other fats.  As such, consuming large amounts of coconut oil allows ketogenic dieters to eat more protein and carbohydrates.  Patients with severe epilepsy, which can be controlled via use of a ketogenic diet, may even want to consume more than half of their calories from MCTs.

This can help make the ketogenic diet more palatable, or allow you to consume some extra carbs to fuel your workout.  If I had to put a number on it, I’d say the combination of coconut oil and heavy gym workouts several times a week might allow you to eat as much as 50 grams of net carbs on rest days and 75-100 grams on workout days, whereas the ketogenic diet typically requires consuming under 30 grams of net carbs per day.

So yeah, fine, some people do have an excuse to straight-up drink coconut oil, if that’s the way you roll.

Mental performance benefits?  Actually…

Perhaps the most controversial claim about coconut oil is that consuming it will enhance various forms of mental performance, including intelligence, productivity, and overall energy level. 

I’ll put this bluntly: there are no studies supporting a direct cognitive benefit of coconut oil.  These claims are based entirely on a combination of anecdotal evidence and theorizing, not on direct research.  That’s not to say that coconut oil doesn’t enhance cognition; only that the question hasn’t really been researched.

There are some studies like this one showing that ketone supplementation or ketogenic dieting improve cognition in rats.  And, there is widespread anecdotal evidence that many people experience improved cognition on a ketogenic diet.

Right now, the sum total of evidence suggests that ketogenic dieting may improve cognition in some people, but individual responses to ketosis vary widely.  If you do function better in ketosis, coconut oil will help you stay in ketosis.  However, there is no evidence that coconut oil per se enhances cognition outside of ketosis, nor is there a clear and plausible mechanism by which it would do so.

Anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties 

Coconut oil does have both anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.  But that isn’t necessarily always a good thing.

As that second study noted, coconut oil consumption can help fight candida and other intestinal infections.  However, your gut is full of good microbes that you don’t want to kill, so this property of coconut oil may not be a plus when you’re not sick.  As noted in that same study I linked to earlier about ketosis, people who consume massive amounts of coconut oil frequently get intestinal side effects like diarrhea and cramps.  That said, there is no evidence that coconut oil damages your gut microbiome when consumed in any kind of normal quantity. 

Ultimately, coconut oil is no substitute for medicine, but might be a helpful addition to your diet if you contract some kind of intestinal infection.

What about rubbing it on your skin?  Coconut oil has been shown to fight acne.  It also seems to promote wound healing.  Coconut oil may not be a superfood, but it does appear to be a super skin cream.

Okay, but can you use coconut oil as lube or not?

After looking at all the scientific research on the health benefits of coconut oil, I decided to take an unscientific look at it’s utility as a sexual lubricant.  So I invited my girlfriend to try a little experiment with me.

She said no, so I decided to just ask a bunch of porn stars on Twitter whether using coconut oil as lube is a good idea.  Johnny Sins came through for me:

I wasn’t convinced that he wasn’t fucking with me though.  I’m pretty sure this guy is lying about his name- could I really trust him?

Plus, there were three properties of coconut oil that made me question its usefulness as lube.

The first thing that jumped out at me in my research is that the antimicrobial properties of coconut oil might be counterproductive for vaginal sex, since the vagina has its own microbiome that you don’t want to kill off. 

The second issue I saw was that coconut oil soaks into the skin pretty quickly, so it would need to be re-applied.  But then, commercial lubes also dry out after a while, so it wasn’t clear that this makes coconut oil any worse than KY or AstroGlide.

Finally, coconut oil can weaken latex, so it doesn’t combine well with most condoms. 

After doing a bit more Googling, I found this article on Bustle where porn stars share their favorite lubes.  Long story short, six out of eleven chose coconut oil. 

So it looks like coconut oil is actually pretty fucking awesome for awesome fucking after all. 

My verdict on coconut oil

When I started this article, I knew that coconut oil wasn’t a superfood, because there’s no such thing as superfoods.  I really didn’t expect to find that coconut oil was all that good of a lube though.

Based on the sum total of the evidence, coconut oil is a hugely useful addition to your diet if you’re on a vegan or ketogenic diet- vegans benefit from the saturated fat, while keto dieters benefit from being able to eat more carbs and staying in ketosis. 

For the rest of us, coconut oil is nice, but offers few unique benefits compared to other sources of saturated fat.  It can be a tasty and healthy part of a balanced diet, but there’s little reason to force it into your diet in favor of butter, eggs or fatty meats if you don’t enjoy it.  And it shouldn’t be allowed to completely displace other oils, since unsaturated fats have their uses too.

On the other hand, apparently coconut oil is pretty amazing as a lube, both for vaginal and anal use.  There’s likely a fair amount of individual variation here- it’s possible it will irritate your skin, or soak in too fast- so everyone needs to just try it and experiment for themselves.  Also, it can’t be used with most condoms, which is a big strike against it.

The dark horse candidate here seems to be coconut oil’s use as a skin cream.  It has been shown to fight acne, improve skin elasticity, and even promote wound healing.  So far, I’m not even seeing any downsides here. 

I’m calling this match:  Coconut oil is great for both eating and greasing up your wiener, but its best use seems to be as a cosmetic.

Join the discussion on Facebook- what do you think about coconut oil?

P.S.  Please don’t take off your shirt, slather yourself in coconut oil, and run through the streets yelling AAAARGH! I am the coconut slime monster!  That’s my thing.