Coconut Oil

Coconut Oil vs Corn Oil: Food or Gas?

Corn oil global market size was valued at USD 5.7 billion in 2022, higher than coconut oil market size at USD 4.9 billion.

Coconut oil and corn oil have diverse applications across various sectors. Coconut oil is favored for its unique flavor and high heat tolerance in cooking, and its moisturizing properties in cosmetics. In pharmaceuticals, coconut oil’s antimicrobial potential is explored, while corn oil finds use in industrial applications. Both oils play roles in animal feed and biofuel sectors. Understanding their individual strengths allows for informed choices in leveraging them appropriately.

Coconut Oil vs Corn Oil: Chemical Profile & Origin

Coconut oil is extracted from the kernel of mature coconuts and has a distinctive composition that sets it apart from other oils. On the other hand, corn oil is derived from the germ of corn kernels. Here is the comparison between the two’s fatty acid compositions.

Fatty AcidCoconut Oil (%)Corn Oil (%)
C6 (Caproic acid)~0.5~0.0
C8 (Caprylic acid)~7.0~0.0
C10 (Capric acid)~9.0~0.0
C12 (Lauric acid)~49.0~0.0
C14 (Myristic acid)~16.5~1.7
C16 (Palmitic acid)~8.0~11
C18 (Stearic acid)~2.5~2.9
C18:1 (Oleic acid)~5.830.1 – 48.8
C18:2 (Linoleic acid)~1.834 – 56.3

Coconut Oil: Saturated with medium-chain fatty acid

Coconut oil is rich in saturated fats, containing primarily medium-chain fatty acids, such as lauric acid, caprylic acid, and capric acid. The oil is well known for its antimicrobial properties.

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Coconut oil, historically utilized in tropical regions like Southeast Asia where the coconut palm is native. Coconut oil holds deep cultural and historical significance in Indonesia, a tropical country renowned for its lush coconut plantations. For generations, coconut oil has been an essential part of Indonesian life, playing a central role in various aspects of their daily routine.

From traditional cooking, where it imparts a unique flavor to local dishes, to traditional medicine, where it is believed to possess healing properties, coconut oil has been cherished for its versatility and health benefits. Moreover, coconut oil has found its way into religious ceremonies and cultural practices, further solidifying its place in Indonesia’s rich cultural heritage. Its enduring value and multipurpose applications continue to make it an integral part of Indonesian traditions and way of life.

Corn oil: Rich in Oleic & Linoleic Fatty Acid

Corn oil is primarily composed of unsaturated fatty acids oleic and linoleic acid, also known as omega-9 and omega-6, respectively. Some corn oil has higher oleic acid content, while others have higher linoleic acid content instead, depending on the corn breed. Corn oil’s fatty acid composition is quite similar to sesame oil‘s.

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The historical origin of corn oil can be traced back to the indigenous peoples of the Americas, who cultivated corn (maize) as a staple crop for thousands of years. The process of extracting oil from corn kernels was practiced by Native American tribes long before the arrival of Europeans. They would grind corn kernels and separate the oil-rich germ to create a crude form of corn oil, which they used for cooking, as a base for medicinal ointments, and in ceremonial practices. With the expansion of corn cultivation and trade after the European colonization of the Americas, the production and use of corn oil spread to other parts of the world. Today, corn oil remains an important edible oil globally, reflecting its long and diverse historical origins.

Food Industry: Coconut Oil vs Corn Oil

Coconut oil and corn oil, with their differing fatty acid compositions and market prices, offer distinct advantages in the food industry, extending beyond their use as cooking oils. Coconut oil, primarily composed of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) and lauric acid, is well-regarded for its unique properties, making it sought-after in various culinary applications, especially in tropical and Asian cuisines. These properties also find usage in certain packaged foods like baked goods and confectionery items. Refined coconut oil is widely used in the manufacture of biscuits, chocolates, ice cream, and margarine. Coconut oil’s high saturated fat content help create a chocolate bar with harder texture which will not easily melt.

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On the other hand, corn oil, primarily composed of unsaturated fatty acids like linoleic acid, serves as a versatile and cost-effective option for frying, baking, and blending into packaged foods like salad dressings, sauces, shortening, margarine, and snacks, where its mild characteristics and neutral properties complement a wide array of culinary creations.

Cosmetic and Personal Care Industry

Coconut oil and corn oil exhibit differences in their chemical characteristics, leading to distinct usage in the cosmetic and personal care industry. Coconut oil, rich in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) like lauric acid, has a lower melting point, making it solid at room temperature and easily melt on contact with the skin. This property allows coconut oil to be used in solid skincare products like balms and body butters, providing a smooth and creamy texture. Moreover, lauric acid in coconut oil possesses antimicrobial properties, making it beneficial for products that target acne-prone or sensitive skin.

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On the other hand, corn oil, primarily composed of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) like linoleic acid, has a higher melting point, remaining in liquid form at room temperature. This attribute makes corn oil suitable for use in liquid skincare products like lotions and serums. Linoleic acid in corn oil is known for its ability to strengthen the skin barrier and help maintain skin moisture, making it suitable for hydrating and soothing formulations.

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Due to these distinct chemical characteristics, coconut oil is preferred for solid formulations, such as lip balms and body butters, while corn oil is favored for liquid skincare products like lotions and serums. Furthermore, the antimicrobial properties of coconut oil may be advantageous for specific skin concerns, while corn oil’s ability to moisturize and strengthen the skin barrier makes it a valuable ingredient in many skincare products. Ultimately, the selection of coconut oil or corn oil depends on the desired texture and benefits of the cosmetic and personal care products being formulated.

Biofuel Industry

In the biofuel industry, both coconut oil and corn oil can be used as feedstocks for biodiesel production, a renewable and sustainable alternative to conventional diesel fuel. Coconut oil, with its high energy content and relatively low freezing point, is well-suited for warm-weather biodiesel applications. However, due to its high saturated fat content, coconut oil may require further processing or blending with other vegetable oils to address cold flow issues, making it more suitable for use in regions with milder climates.

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On the other hand, corn oil can also be used to produce biodiesel with the proper treatment and modification. Its higher unsaturated fatty acid content poses challenges for stability, but with hydrogenation or other stabilization processes, corn oil can be converted into biodiesel that meets quality standards and performs well in various climate conditions, including colder environments. However, as of now, the oil is more prevalent in the food industry rather than as biofuel due to its price.

Pharmaceutical Industry

The usage of coconut oil and corn oil in the pharmaceutical industry varies due to their differing chemical characteristics, particularly in terms of fatty acid composition and melting points.

Coconut oil, primarily composed of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) and lauric acid, has been explored for various pharmaceutical applications. MCTs are easily absorbed and metabolized, making coconut oil a potential carrier oil for certain medications and dietary supplements.

Moreover, lauric acid in coconut oil has shown antimicrobial properties, making it suitable for formulations in products like antiseptics and creams for skin infections. Lauric acid can be processed into monolaurin, which is available as a dietary supplement. Monolaurin has antimicrobial effects, may boost the immune system, and may help balancing the gut bacteria. However, coconut oil’s relatively low melting point may impact the stability and consistency of certain pharmaceutical formulations, particularly in warmer climates.

What is Corn Oil Used for in Pharma?

Corn oil can be utilized as carrier for drug molecule and solvent in pharmaceutical industry. As an example, the Super Refined Corn Oil by Croda Pharma, is utilized as a solvent for intramuscular injections and as a vehicle for topical preparations in the pharmaceutical industry. It serves as a carrier oil in tablets and capsules for oral dosage, improving the taste of oral liquid medicines. Additionally, certain grades of corn oil are available without preservatives, ensuring safer and purer pharmaceutical formulations. Its multifunctional properties make corn oil a valuable excipient, enabling efficient drug delivery and formulation of palatable medications.

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Industrial Applications

Coconut oil can be used as industrial lubricants, albeit with some limitations. Traditionally, industrial lubricants were petroleum-based. Good industrial lubricants need to meet several requirements, such as viscosity, lubricity, thermal stability, oxidative stability, low volatility, and compatibility with the lubricated materials.

Coconut oil satisfy most of the requirements, plus it has biodegradable quality, making it an eco-friendly lubricant. However, coconut oil has low thermal stability, making it less suitable for high and low temperature applications. Therefore, additives are required to improve coconut oil performance as industrial lubricants. Alternatively, coconut MCT oil may be considered as lubricants for low-temperature environments.

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Aside from industrial lubricants, coconut oil can also be used as a medium in paint and varnish industries and as pesticides.

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Corn oil, on the other hand, is not a popular choice for industrial lubricant. Nevertheless, it can still be utilized as paint, inks, textile chemicals, chemical for rustproofing metal surfaces, and insecticides.

Animal Feed Industry

Coconut Products & Coconut Oil in Animal Feed

Coconut oil has been studied for its potential use as an animal feed. Here are some key points from the available search results:

  1. Dairy cows: Coconut meal, a byproduct of coconut oil production, is commonly used as a stock feed for dairy cows and hogs in the Pacific States.
  2. Pigs: Coconut oil has been found to reduce methane release in pigs without affecting nutrient digestion, by changing metabolic activity and rumen composition.

Coconut oil has also been used as a supplement in pig diets and has been shown to support growth performance and immune function.

  1. Cattle: De-oiled coconut cake, a byproduct of coconut oil extraction, can provide significant protein and energy in livestock diets and may be used to reduce feed costs.

Lambs supplemented with coconut oil have shown improved feed conversion and similar carcass characteristics compared to a non-supplemented group.

  1. Goats: Coconut oil has been shown to improve growth performance and ruminal fermentation in Hainan Black goat kids.

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Corn Oil in Animal Feed Industry

Corn oil has several applications in animal feed. Here are some key points from the available search results:

  1. Distiller Corn Oil (DCO): Distiller corn oil is a by-product of ethanol production and is used as an animal feed ingredient. It provides supplemental energy in livestock feed.
  2. Digestibility in dogs: Crude corn oil has been found to be highly digestible and well accepted by dogs. It can be included in dog food without affecting the overall diet.

  1. Corn gluten feed: Corn gluten feed, a by-product of wet milling, is used as animal feed for dairy and beef cattle, poultry, and hogs. It provides both protein and energy.
  2. Germ meal: The germ of the corn kernel, after the extraction of corn oil, is ground into meal and used as a source of protein and energy in animal feed.
  3. Effects on energy metabolism in beef steers: Feeding increasing concentrations of corn oil in finishing beef steers’ diets has been studied. It was found that corn oil inclusion increased the metabolizable energy (ME) to digestible energy (DE) ratio and decreased enteric methane production.

Soap and Detergent Industry

Coconut oil is often used as raw material to produce bars of soap. Generally, coconut oil is used up to 30% of the mixture, because too much of it could potentially be drying to skin. Moreover, coconut oil also an important ingredient in replacing petroleum-based surfactant. Surfactant is a compound in detergent that is responsible for extracting dirt and oil from cloth thanks to its chemical structure. Coconut oil surfactant is more eco-friendly than petroleum-based surfactant.

Read More: Coconut Oil Surfactant

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You need fat to make surfactant. By this premise, vegetable oil can be made into surfactant. So what about corn oil? Apparently, surfactants derived from corn oil are less common compared to those derived from coconut oil. Also, corn oil is not a popular material for soap. Both palm oil and coconut oi are more widely used to produce surfactants and soaps.

Bioplastics Industry

According to a study by Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati, coconut oil is a promising plasticizer. In this study, coconut oil is blended with polylactic acid (PLA), a bio-based polymer/plastic. PLA is a more sustainable alternative than fossil-fuel based polymers, but too brittle in form. By adding coconut oil, PLA becomes more stretchable. Hence, coconut oil can make PLA a more proper food packaging material.

PLA is a biodegradable polymer than is commonly derived from corn starch, sugarcane, and cassava. While corn starch can be processed into polymer, corn oil is not a preferable option for plasticizer. The reasons extend from chemical to economical.


While both oils have their unique qualities and applications, the choice between coconut oil and corn oil depends on specific industry requirements, cost-effectiveness, availability, and environmental considerations. Each oil has its advantages and can contribute to the diverse needs of various industries, from food and pharmaceuticals to renewable energy sources like biofuels.

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