There are many different types of coconut oil, with different fatty acid components, and different levels of non-saponifiable (non-fatty acid components such as tocopherols and tocotrienols fat soluble vitamins). Thus, consumers should understand what they are consuming. The various types are explained below:
Organic Coconut Oil: oil that is extracted with organic solvents or more commonly pressed; and from organically grown coconuts.
Expeller-Pressed Coconut Oil: Any coconut oil that is pressed, as opposed to extracted with solvent. If the original coconut meat or kernel was dried in non-sanitary way, then the unrefined coconut oil could contain undesirable contaminants, and should be further refined.
Virgin and Extra-Virgin Coconut Oil: typically an unrefined, pressed oil that is not necessarily organic. No official standard exists. Extra virgin (EV) oil is typically obtained from the first press and is highest in non-saponifiable antioxidants, as in EV olive oil.
RBD Coconut oil: Refined, bleached, deodorized coconut oil. Steam is used to deodorize the oil, the oil is filtered through bleaching clays to remove impurities, and sodium hydroxide is typically used to remove free fatty acids to prolong shelf life and improve odor. Refined coconut oils were traditionally produced by physical and mechanical refining, but today, solvents may also be utilized.
Hydrogenated Coconut Oil: This can refer to partially-hydrogenated oil that may contain negative trans fatty acids (TFA); or fully hydrogenated (fh) oil with all saturated fatty acids (SFA) and no TFA. Hydrogenated varieties of coconut oil are not common today for nutritional oil purposes, but were developed for use in the tropics, to keep coconut oil solid in some food applications. Hydrogenated coconut oils (and coconut oil itself) is also used experimentally to produce hypercholesterolemia (elevated cholesterol leading to atherosclerosis) and Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency in experimental animal models.
Fractionated Coconut Oil (also known as Liquid coconut oil or MCT oil): An intact coconut oil that has been separated by heat into glycerol and free fatty acid fractions. Here, the TAG fractions containing higher melting point C12, C14, C16 and longer chain fatty acids can be removed, leaving behind TAGS containing C8 and C10. C8 MCTs are not manufactured by fractionation of the intact TAGs.