Coconut oil may alter metabolism and cause obesity, according to a mouse study.

Coconut oil may alter metabolism and cause obesity, according to a mouse study.

Is Coconut Oil Really Healthy? New Study Suggests Otherwise


Coconut oil has long been hailed as a health-conscious choice, but a recent study has challenged this perception. The study, conducted on mice, suggests that coconut oil may actually contribute to obesity by disrupting the body’s ability to use two critical hormones: leptin and insulin. These findings have raised questions about the health benefits of coconut oil and prompted nutritionists to recommend alternative oils, such as unsaturated or polyunsaturated oils. In this article, we will explore the insights from the study and delve into the effects of coconut oil on the body.

The Study: How Coconut Oil Affects Mice’s Metabolism

The study involved administering low doses of coconut oil to mice over an eight-week period. The results showed that these mice experienced metabolic alterations that led to the development of obesity and related health issues. The coconut oil distorted the mice’s ability to utilize leptin and insulin effectively – two hormones crucial for regulating energy expenditure, hunger, and lipid and glucose metabolism.

Leptin resistance, a condition where the body becomes less responsive to leptin, was observed in the mice. This resistance coincided with a decrease in the responsiveness of white adipose tissue, the body’s fat storage tissue. The researchers concluded that these findings support the hypothesis that a diet high in saturated fatty acids, like coconut oil, can contribute to leptin resistance and disrupt metabolic balance.

The study builds on previous research that showed coconut oil’s contribution to weight gain, increased fat percentage, reduced energy expenditure, and anxious behavior in mice. It is believed that the inflammatory response triggered by the intake of coconut oil affects signaling pathways in the brain and other tissues, thereby disrupting hormonal communication.

Dr. Taylor Wallace, a nutrition scientist, explains that coconut oil could make it harder for the body to respond efficiently to hormones that regulate hunger and energy use. Consequently, this disruption may contribute to problems like obesity and insulin resistance, a key factor in diabetes.

The Relevance of the Study to Humans

While the study was conducted on mice, its implications for humans remain unclear. Nonetheless, similarities between mice and humans in terms of genetics indicate that these findings provide a strong starting point for further research.

It is essential to consider the limitations of rodent studies, however. Factors like biological differences, variations in dosage, controlled experimental environments, genetic uniformity, and simpler systems in rodents raise questions about the direct applicability of these findings to humans. Dr. Wallace highlights the need for rigorous, controlled human trials before definitive conclusions can be drawn.

Identifying Healthier Oils

Given the doubts surrounding the health benefits of coconut oil, it is worth exploring alternative oils that may be healthier options. Registered dietitian Kristin Kirkpatrick suggests extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, sesame oil, flaxseed oil, and walnut oil as beneficial choices. These oils, which are monounsaturated or polyunsaturated, have shown positive effects on blood sugar management, fat storage, and inflammation reduction.

Replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats has been shown to provide health benefits, according to Kirkpatrick. Coconut oil, with its high percentage of saturated fats, falls behind other common dietary fat sources like butter, palm oil, palm kernel oil, and cocoa butter. Dr. Wallace advises against consuming coconut oil, adding that it has been falsely marketed as a health food.

Canola oil, on the other hand, stands out as a favorable option due to its low saturated fat content. The American Heart Association echoes the importance of opting for unsaturated fats and warns against the consumption of high saturated fat foods like coconut oil, which may increase LDL cholesterol levels.


The recent study on the effects of coconut oil on mice has cast doubt on the notion that coconut oil is a healthy choice. While the findings of rodent studies are not directly applicable to humans, they provide valuable insights that warrant further investigation. In the meantime, nutritionists recommend opting for oils like extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, and canola oil, which have proven health benefits. The coconut oil craze may need to be reassessed, and consumers should be cautious about the health claims attributed to it.