Coconut oil is high in saturated. According to the Nutrition Data website it contains 86.4% of saturated fat, (Nutrition Data 2014) but unlike other oils, coconut oil is comprised primarily of Medium Chain Fatty Acids (MCFAs).
Many of the health benefits of MCFAs are now being proven. MCFAs, sometimes known as Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) provide excellent source of Lauric Acid making up about 50% of the fatty acid content of coconut oil (Khoramnia et al. 2013). Lauric acid has antimicrobial effects against bacteria and viruses as well as preventing infection.
St-Onge and Jones explore the link between increases in energy expenditure after short-term consumption of MCFAs, relative to Long Chain Fatty Acid (LCFA) consumption (2002). They go on to explain that this increase in energy expenditure and alteration of the metabolic rate may explain the potential benefits of coconut oil as a means of weight loss, it is a fat which is quickly converted into energy rather than deposited on the hips. There is only limited evidence to show a direct correlation between coconut oil consumption and weight loss in the studies that have been undertaken thus far.
Due to its high level of saturated fat, coconut oil is a very stable oil for cooking at high temperatures and with a delicious delicate flavor it is a good oil to cook with compared with other less stable cooking oils.
Khoramnia, A., Ebrahimpour, A., Ghanbari, R., Ajdari, Z. and Lai, O-I. (2013) Improvement of Medium Chain Fatty Acid Content and Antimicrobial Activity of Coconut Oil via Solid-State Fermentation using a Malaysian Geotrichum candidum. BioMed Research International. 2013(7) ID 954542.
St-Onge, M-P. and Jones, P.H. (2002) Physiological Effects of medium-chain tryglycerides: potential agents in the prevention of obesity. The Journal of Nutrition. 132(3) p.329-332.
Nutrition Data (2014) Nutrition Facts: Coconut oil. [Online]. Available at: http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fats-and-oils/508/2 [Accessed: 09 October 2014].