Coconut oil is high in saturated fat, which is also true of fatty cuts of meat, whole-milk dairy products, and butter, all of which are associated with higher risk of coronary disease. However, it is not clear that coconut oil has the same deleterious effects on cholesterol and heart disease as animal products high in saturated fat. Virgin coconut oil has been shown to have antifungal, and antioxidant properties (virgin coconut oil is produced using chilling and fermentation whereas commercial coconut oil is refined, bleached and deodorized). The antioxidant capacity of virgin coconut oil appears to be due to phenolic compounds, including ferulic acid and p-coumaric acid. Coconut has been shown to greatly reduce the incidence and number of colon tumors when added to the diet of rats treated with a carcinogen known to cause colon cancer.
Breast cancer-related effects of eating coconut
Coconut milk contains kinetin riboside, a substance that has been shown to curb the growth of multiple myelomas and is thought to have the potential to inhibit the progression of many other cancers, including prostate, colon, parathyroid adenoma, certain lymphomas and breast cancer. One study found that carcinogen-induced mammary tumors in mice were reduced as much by coconut oil (which is low in omega-3 fatty acids) as by menhaden oil (which is high in omega-3 fatty acids) compared to a corn oil diet.
On the other hand, coconut oil is a source of myristic acid, an omega-5 fatty acid that has been found to be associated with increased breast cancer risk. One population study in the Philippines (which has a high rate of breast cancer compared to other Asian countries) found a strong positive association between boiling food in coconut milk and the risk of breast cancer. Another study reported that women in Crete with high levels of myristic acid in their fat tissue were at higher risk of breast cancer than women with low levels. In addition, high intake of saturated fat has been linked in several studies to increased breast density, a risk factor for breast cancer and recurrence.
While it is clear that coconut oil is preferable to corn oil for breast cancer patients, survivors and those at high risk for breast cancer, canola oil or olive oil are still better choices. Based on the available evidence, coconut meat and coconut milk can be enjoyed in moderation. However, coconut milk brands listing carrageenan (a breast carcinogen) as an ingredient should be avoided. In addition, food cooked in coconut milk (such as some yellow curries) should be limited or avoided.
Note that while we are continually searching for new evidence specifically concerning this food, there is not much interest in it among breast cancer researchers, so few studies are available.