It contains a high percentage of saturated fats, particularly from medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs).
Coconut oil has various applications in cooking, beauty, skin care, and health.
Along with these applications, it has been suggested that coconut oil increases testosterone levels and improves sexual function, but research on the topic is scarce.
This article discusses everything you need to know about coconut oilâ€™s effect on testosterone levels in men.
Testosterone is a powerful hormone.
While both men and women produce it, men produce 20 times more than women (1).
In men, testosterone plays an important role in muscle and body hair growth, bone health, and sexual function, among other areas (2).
Testosterone levels peak in men around the age of 19 and decline by approximately 16% by age 40, on average (3).
Most of the testosterone in your blood is bound to two proteins â€” albumin and sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG).
SHBG is strongly bound to testosterone, making the hormone unavailable for use by your body, whereas albumin is weakly bound and can be used by your body with some effort.
The remaining testosterone, which is known as free testosterone, is not bound to proteins and can be readily used by your body.
Free testosterone and albumin-bound testosterone make up your bioavailable or usable testosterone (4).
The sum of your bioavailable and SHBG-bound testosterone make up your total testosterone.
Testosterone is the predominant male hormone that increases muscle mass, maintains bone strength, and regulates sexual function.
Coconut oil and dihydrotestosterone (DHT)
While testosterone levels are influenced by a number of lifestyle factors, such as diet and exercise, coconut oilâ€™s effects on testosterone levels in humans remain largely unknown (5).
Still, coconut oil contains a high percentage of fat from MCTs â€” about 54% â€” in the form of lauric acid (42%), caprylic acid (7%), and capric acid (5%). These MCTs have been shown to affect a hormone similar to testosterone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) (6, 7).
Your body uses an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase to convert about 5% of free testosterone to DHT (8, 9).
DHT performs many of the same functions as testosterone but is thought to contribute to male pattern hair loss (10).
Interestingly, MCTs â€” especially lauric acid â€” have been shown to block the enzyme that converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in test-tube and animal studies (11, 12, 13).
Medications called 5-alpha reductase inhibitors, which are prescribed for the treatment of male pattern hair loss, work in the same way by blocking the 5- alpha reductase enzyme.
Still, studies in humans are needed to determine whether consuming MCTs from coconut oil helps prevent or treat male pattern hair loss, as the condition is also influenced by genetics (14).
Animal and test-tube studies have demonstrated that MCTs inhibit the enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT, a hormone linked to male pattern hair loss.
Low testosterone has been linked to erectile dysfunction (ED), the inability to get or maintain an erection (15).
The condition can be debilitating for men, cause embarrassment and low self- esteem, and lead to an unsatisfactory sex life.
The global prevalence of ED ranges from 3â€“77% and tends to become more common with age (16).
Specific foods, including coconut oil, have been suggested to increase testosterone and improve sexual function (17, 18).
Still, there is no evidence to suggest that coconut oil can directly increase testosterone or alleviate ED.
ED is common among people with diseases or conditions that affect the blood vessels, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and overweight or obesity (19).
If any of these are present, you may be able to reduce or improve ED with lifestyle changes, such as engaging in regular physical activity, consuming a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, maintaining a healthy weight, and not smoking (20).
There is no evidence to suggest that coconut oil increases testosterone or alleviates ED. Exercising regularly, consuming a healthy diet, and maintaining a healthy weight are lifestyle factors that may improve ED.
The bottom line
Coconut oil is an oil thatâ€™s extracted from the copra or meat of coconuts.
It contains a high percentage of MCTs, which animal and test-tube studies have shown can block the enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT â€” the hormone linked to male pattern baldness.
Still, evidence that coconut oil can help treat this condition is lacking.
While coconut oil has been suggested to alleviate ED and improve sexual function by increasing testosterone, there is no research to support this theory.