Life Extension Magazine®

Opened coconuts that have health benefits of cardiovascular risk


The benefits of unsweetened coconut help reduce cardiovascular risk, improve cholesterol, scavenge radicals, and treat scaly skin.

Scientifically reviewed by: Holli Ryan, RD, LD/N, in August 2023. Written by: Garry Messick.

When singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson comically touted the medicinal properties of a certain tropical fruit in his 1971 hit song, “Coconut,” he wasn’t too far off the mark.

Popularly used as an ingredient in various desserts, candy bars and sweetened drinks, the flesh, oils, and water (or “milk”) of the coconut have health benefits when consumed without all that added sugar. In its basic forms, coconut has been a beneficial staple of the diets of tropical and subtropical populations for centuries.

Let’s take a look at some aspects of the coconut’s nutritional value as uncovered by scientific research.

What you need to know

From lowering heart disease risk and improving cholesterol levels to protecting DNA from oxidative damage and combating a common skin condition, coconut makes an excellent addition to the healthy diet.

Lower Cardiovascular Risk

Studies of groups of people who consume large amounts of coconuts have found an association with low rates of heart disease. Cases of stroke and ischemic heart disease are rare in the coconut-loving inhabitants of the island of Kitava, near Papua, New Guinea.1 Similarly, vascular disease has been found to be uncommon in Polynesians on the island of Tokelau, who obtain 60% of their caloric intake from coconuts.2

Improves Cholesterol Levels

Research shows the saturated fats in coconut oil may raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol while lowering harmful LDL cholesterol. In one study, 40 female subjects with abdominal obesity and similar diets were divided into two groups of 20. On a daily basis, one group was given coconut oil, the other soybean oil. After 12 weeks, the coconut oil group had higher HDL and lower LDL compared with the soybean oil group.3 Another study employing 116 subjects with coronary artery disease found that a diet rich in extra-virgin coconut oil increased their HDL as well as decreased their waist circumference and body mass.4

Oxidant Reducer

Research shows that the proteins in coconuts demonstrate good radical-scavenging activity and could help protect DNA from oxidative damage.5

Skin Care

Researchers have found that coconut oil works well to combat xerosis, a common skin condition characterized by rough, dry, scaly, itchy skin.6 Coconut oil was also found to do a better job than mineral oil in relieving mild-to-moderate eczema.7


  1. J Intern Med. 1993;233(3):269-75.
  2. Am J Clin Nutr. 1981;34(8):1552-61.
  3. Lipids. 2009;44(7):593-601.
  4. Nutr Hosp. 2015;32(5):2144-52.
  5. Molecules. 2018;23(3).
  6. Dermatitis. 2004;15(3):109-16.
  7. Int J Dermatol. 2014;53(1):100-8.