The side effects of coconut oil have not been fully studied as of 2015, warns WebMD, but they seem largely limited to the potential for weight gain and increased cholesterol levels. The benefits of coconut oil ingested as a medicine have not been proven, but it is considered safe to apply topically.
Coconut oil is not as heavily regulated as olive oil, states WebMD, and there is no industry standard for the terms "virgin" or "cold-pressed." Virgin usually means that the oil has not been bleached, deodorized, refined or processed in any way, while cold-pressed refers to a heat-less method of extraction.
Coconut oil is used by some people to treat heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, irritable bowel syndrome and a plethora of other illnesses, according to WebMD. Coconut oil is high in calories and contains saturated fat, but some evidence contradicts the assumption that consuming the oil leads to weight gain and increased cholesterol. As of 2015, little is known about how triglycerides, the kind of saturated fat in coconut oil, work, although preliminary evidence suggests they work differently from other saturated fats.
Coconut oil can be used as a moisturizer, says WebMD. It is sometimes used to treat psoriasis, head lice and dry skin. It is also safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women to use and eat.