Research Proven Weight Loss: Coconut Oil

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Can Coconut Oil Help with Weight Loss?

Almost everyone who is dieting wants to find a quick way to maximize the weight loss. We all know there are no magic bullets to weight loss, but there are some things that might help us increase our weight loss were assist with maintenance.  Could coconut oil be one of those substances that can assist with weight loss?  

Coconut oil on table

Coconut oil on table

Coconut oil is an liquid fat that is extracted from coconuts or Cocos nucifera fruit.  The oil has many uses in our society.  It is a food additive it is often added as a moisturizer to found in skin or hair products such as lotions, soaps, and shampoos.  Although it is added to food, there is not research to support adding it to foods to improve our skin.  

Nutrition of Coconut Oil

Nutrition of Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has been vilified in the past because it is mostly saturated fat – 12 of 14 grams.  In the past, research pointed toward avoiding saturated fats to avoid heart disease.  It si true that saturated fats are tied to increased heart disease and increasing bad cholesterol, but recent research has pointed toward the bigger culprit of partially hydrogenated fats or trans fats.   Proof is quite the opposite and research back it up because culture in the pacific that have a high coconut intake have less cardiovascular disease[1],[2],[3].

Coconut

Coconut

Even thought the fats from coconuts are high in saturated fats, nearly two thirds of the fatty acids are medium chain triglycerides (fats) (MCT).  MCT are triglycerides or fatty acids with carbon chain containing 6 – 12 carbon atoms.  Multiple studies suggest replacing calories with MCTs without exceeding daily caloric requirements can result in a small, but significant, increase in the rate of fat loss over time. This effect appears to be slightly more powerful in overweight people and less so in normal weight individuals.

Coconut oil may also temporarily increase metabolic rate and the speed at which fats are broken down to release fatty acids, a process known as lipolysis. This effect occurs when coconut oil is first added to the diet and disappears after two weeks. Coconut oil also creates more ketone bodies than longer chain fatty acids when it is broken down. One study has provided evidence that this mechanism is what causes coconut oil to provide obese people with a muscle preserving effect during caloric restriction. This effect has not been replicated in lean people.

Adding coconut oil to a diet is unlikely to cause noticeable fat loss effects, but it can replace other dietary fatty acids in order to fine-tune a diet plan.

Coconut.

Coconut.

Research on Weight Loss and Coconut Oil:  

  1. Coconut Oil and MCT May Increase Fat Loss.  One study looked at both abdominal obesity and cholesterol levels and found the both were reduced over a twelve week period in the group that received coconut oil supplementation[4].  Another study of rats (which should be similar in humans) found that overfeeding with MCTs reduced fat deposition by approximately 20% during the study[5].  One last study on body mass showed at MCTs not only reduce body fat, but also reduce lean body mass loss[6].  The loss of fat tissue and reduce lean body mass lost are both positives for weight loss and maintenance.  
  2. MCTs and Coconut Oil May Increase the Percentage of Calories Burned from Fat.  One study that looked at this compared MCTs to long chain fatty acid (LCT) diets and found that not only did MCT cause weight loss that was mostly body fat but a higher portion of the energy burned was from fat energy utilization[7].  
  3. Coconut Oil May Decreases Appetite.  We’ve already mentioned that medium-chain triglycerides go straight to the liver after digestion.  Not only does MCTs give the body an extended energy boost, the burning of MCTs form ketone bodies which have the added benefit of reducing hunger and cravings.  This is very similar to mechanism that depresses hunger in Adkin’s Diet. One study looked at MCT and food intake and found that the addition of MCTs redcued food intake[8].  Another similar study showed the intake gap on MCTs to be about 250 Kcal (Calories)/day[9] which would come out to about to a loss of a pound every 2 weeks.  Not bad for just manipulating your types of fats eaten.       
  4. Coconut Oil and MCTs are High in MCTs And May  Boost Metabolism.  One study looked at replacing fat within the diet of research subject with MCT and found that replacing fat in the diet increased the energy expenditures over this that ate a traditional diet low in MCT[10].  What is means is that if you replace some of you fat with MCT, you will burn more calories than if you do not.  The mechanism is unclear.  Another study that also looked at overfeeding with MCTs and found that it enhanced thermogenesis or increased metabolism[11].    
  5. Coconut Oil and MCTs Lower You Triglycerides and LDL Levels.  Contrary to prior teachings and research, we know know that  MCTs and coconut oil actually lower bad (LDL) cholesterol[12].
Shredded Coconut

Shredded Coconut

Recommendations on Coconut Oil: 

  1. Add the Coconut oil or Fresh Calories to your diet but reduce the rest of your calories accordingly.  Coconut is dense in calories.  The key point the take home from this article is the fatty acids from coconut oil or fresh coconut should replace calories already in your diet and not added calories.  This is not a magic bean that can grow you our of your calorie windfall from a Thanksgiving feast.  It’s important to keep in mind that coconut oil is fat.  All fats have 9 calories per grams.  Coconut oil is no exception and if you eat to excess, you will gain weight.  In other words, if you require 2000 calories to maintain your weight and you eat 2000 calories and then add coconut oil on top of that, then it’s likely to make you gain weight.  
  2. Fresh or dried Coconut is better than a supplement.  Coconut is high in calories but is also high in fiber.  It will keep you full longer.  
  3. Measure our your serving.  Eating fresh coconut can quickly add up.  
  4. Avoided added sugar.  Coconut has enough calories and flavor.  It does not need the added sugar.  

 

Footnotes
[1]Kumar, “The Role of Coconut and Coconut Oil in Coronary Heart Disease in Kerala, South India.”
[2]Prior et al., “Cholesterol, Coconuts, and Diet on Polynesian Atolls: A Natural Experiment: The Pukapuka and Tokelau Island Studies.”
[3]Assunção et al., “Effects of Dietary Coconut Oil on the Biochemical and Anthropometric Profiles of Women Presenting Abdominal Obesity.”
[4]Ibid.
[5]Geliebter et al., “Overfeeding with Medium-Chain Triglyceride Diet Results in Diminished Deposition of Fat.”
[6]Krotkiewski, “Value of VLCD Supplementation with Medium Chain Triglycerides.”
[7]St-Onge and Jones, “Greater Rise in Fat Oxidation with Medium-Chain Triglyceride Consumption Relative to Long-Chain Triglyceride Is Associated with Lower Initial Body Weight and Greater Loss of Subcutaneous Adipose Tissue.”
[8]Van et al., “Influence of Medium-Chain and Long-Chain Triacylglycerols on the Control of Food Intake in Men.”
[9]Stubbs and Harbron, “Covert Manipulation of the Ratio of Medium- to Long-Chain Triglycerides in Isoenergetically Dense Diets: Effect on Food Intake in Ad Libitum Feeding Men.”
[10]Dulloo et al., “Twenty-Four-Hour Energy Expenditure and Urinary Catecholamines of Humans Consuming Low-to-Moderate Amounts of Medium-Chain Triglycerides: A Dose-Response Study in a Human Respiratory Chamber.”
[11]Baba, Bracco, and Hashim, “Enhanced Thermogenesis and Diminished Deposition of Fat in Response to Overfeeding with Diet Containing Medium Chain Triglyceride.”
[12]Nevin and Rajamohan, “Beneficial Effects of Virgin Coconut Oil on Lipid Parameters and in Vitro LDL Oxidation.”
Assunção, ML, HS Ferreira, Santos dos, CR Cabral, and TM Florêncio. “Effects of Dietary Coconut Oil on the Biochemical and Anthropometric Profiles of Women Presenting Abdominal Obesity.” Lipids 44, no. 7 (July 1, 2009): 593–601. [PubMed]
Baba, N, EF Bracco, and SA Hashim. “Enhanced Thermogenesis and Diminished Deposition of Fat in Response to Overfeeding with Diet Containing Medium Chain Triglyceride.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 35, no. 4 (April 1, 1982): 678–82. [PubMed]
Dulloo, AG, M Fathi, N Mensi, and L Girardier. “Twenty-Four-Hour Energy Expenditure and Urinary Catecholamines of Humans Consuming Low-to-Moderate Amounts of Medium-Chain Triglycerides: A Dose-Response Study in a Human Respiratory Chamber.” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 50, no. 3 (March 1, 1996): 152–58. [PubMed]
Geliebter, A, N Torbay, EF Bracco, SA Hashim, and Itallie Van. “Overfeeding with Medium-Chain Triglyceride Diet Results in Diminished Deposition of Fat.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 37, no. 1 (January 1, 1983): 1–4. [PubMed]
Krotkiewski, M. “Value of VLCD Supplementation with Medium Chain Triglycerides.” International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders : Journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity 25, no. 9 (September 1, 2001): 1393–1400. [PubMed]
Kumar, PD. “The Role of Coconut and Coconut Oil in Coronary Heart Disease in Kerala, South India.” Tropical Doctor 27, no. 4 (October 1, 1997): 215–17. [PubMed]
Nevin, KG, and T Rajamohan. “Beneficial Effects of Virgin Coconut Oil on Lipid Parameters and in Vitro LDL Oxidation.” Clinical Biochemistry 37, no. 9 (September 1, 2004): 830–35. [PubMed]
Prior, IA, F Davidson, CE Salmond, and Z Czochanska. “Cholesterol, Coconuts, and Diet on Polynesian Atolls: A Natural Experiment: The Pukapuka and Tokelau Island Studies.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 34, no. 8 (August 1, 1981): 1552–61. [PubMed]
St-Onge, MP, and PJ Jones. “Greater Rise in Fat Oxidation with Medium-Chain Triglyceride Consumption Relative to Long-Chain Triglyceride Is Associated with Lower Initial Body Weight and Greater Loss of Subcutaneous Adipose Tissue.” International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders : Journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity 27, no. 12 (December 1, 2003): 1565–71. [PubMed]
Stubbs, RJ, and CG Harbron. “Covert Manipulation of the Ratio of Medium- to Long-Chain Triglycerides in Isoenergetically Dense Diets: Effect on Food Intake in Ad Libitum Feeding Men.” International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders : Journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity 20, no. 5 (May 1, 1996): 435–44. [PubMed]
Van, Wymelbeke, A Himaya, J Louis-Sylvestre, and M Fantino. “Influence of Medium-Chain and Long-Chain Triacylglycerols on the Control of Food Intake in Men.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 68, no. 2 (August 1, 1998): 226–34. [PubMed]
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About the Author

ChuckH

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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