Effects on Cholesterol and Heart Health

Effects on Cholesterol and Heart Health

Because coconut milk is so high in saturated fat, people may wonder if it’s a heart-healthy choice.

Very little research examines coconut milk specifically, but one study suggests that it may benefit people with normal or high cholesterol levels.

An eight-week study in 60 men found that coconut milk porridge lowered “bad” LDL cholesterol more than soy milk porridge. Coconut milk porridge also raised “good” HDL cholesterol by 18%, compared to only 3% for soy (15Trusted Source).

Most studies of coconut oil or flakes also found improvements in “bad” LDL cholesterol, “good” HDL cholesterol and/or triglyceride levels (12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source, 17Trusted Source).

Although in some studies LDL cholesterol levels increased in response to coconut fat, HDL also increased. Triglycerides decreased compared to other fats (18Trusted Source, 19Trusted Source).

Lauric acid, the main fatty acid in coconut fat, may raise “bad” LDL cholesterol by decreasing the activity of the receptors that clear LDL from your blood (20Trusted Source).

Two studies on similar populations suggest that the cholesterol response to lauric acid may vary by individual. It may also depend on the amount in your diet.

In a study in healthy women, replacing 14% of monounsaturated fats with lauric acid raised “bad” LDL cholesterol by about 16%, while replacing 4% of these fats with lauric acid in another study had very little effect on cholesterol (20Trusted Source, 21Trusted Source).

SUMMARY
Overall, cholesterol and triglyceride levels improve with coconut intake. In cases where “bad” LDL cholesterol increases, “good” HDL typically increases as well.

Other Potential Health Benefits
Coconut milk may also:

Reduce inflammation: Animal studies found that coconut extract and coconut oil reduced inflammation and swelling in injured rats and mice (22Trusted Source, 23Trusted Source, 24Trusted Source).
Decrease stomach ulcer size: In one study, coconut milk reduced stomach ulcer size in rats by 54% — a result comparable to the effect of an anti-ulcer drug (25Trusted Source).
Fight viruses and bacteria: Test-tube studies suggest that lauric acid may reduce the levels of viruses and bacteria that cause infections. This includes those that reside in your mouth (26Trusted Source, 27Trusted Source, 28Trusted Source).
Keep in mind that not all studies were on the effects of coconut milk specifically.

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