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COMMENTS
BY Alyse

Eat Coconut Oil and Lose Weight?

Can eating more fat make you skinny? According to some, adding a specific type of fat (coconut oil) to your diet can promote weight loss. This highly saturated fat has gained exposure as being able to suppress appetite and boost metabolism, both of which can lead to weight loss. Is there any validity to these claims? If so, should you swap the olive and canola oils in your cabinet for coconut oil to lose those extra few pounds?

NUTRITIONAL FACTS AND FIGURES

What makes coconut oil so special?

Although coconut oil is rich in unhealthy saturated fat, there is a chemical difference between coconut fat and the fat found in most other saturated fats. While coconut oil is composed mostly of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), many other saturated fats (such as butter and bacon) predominantly contain long-chain triglycerides (LCT). While MCTs are quickly digested and immediately used for energy, LCTs are slowly digested and once absorbed, they are transported directly to adipose (fat) tissue for metabolism and storage.

Proponents of Coconut Oil

Those in favor of coconut oil argue that its unique chemical structure allows the calories in coconut oil to be immediately utilized for energy. Proponents also claim that consuming coconut oil can influence metabolism. This belief is supported by some research suggesting that MCT boosts the levels of thyroid hormones (which control metabolism) in people with low levels of those hormones.

Two researchers at McGill University published a review of the literature on MCT and LCT and their effects on weight loss in the March 2002 issue of the Journal of Nutrition. The review of these preliminary studies suggested that MCT oils produced an increase in energy expenditure and resulted in a decrease in food intake, both of which provide the potential for weight control.  More recent studies conclude that MCT oil (but not necessarily coconut oil) may improve weight loss when part of an overall weight loss plan, compared to olive oil (LCT).

Further popularizing the theory that coconut oil is healthy is the author of Eat Fat Look Thin, Bruce Fife, ND. Fife agrees with the above research and recommends adding coconut oil (and substituting it for polyunsaturated oils) in your diet to feel satisfied sooner and eat less. However, he does warn that you cannot counter the effects of eating too many calories by consuming extra coconut oil; you still have to watch your total calorie intake. Fife’s advice is to use about three tablespoons of natural coconut oil, either virgin or processed, daily.

Critics of Coconut Oil

Those against coconut oil consumption have a different argument. Critics state that despite the potentially small effect that coconut oil may have on weight loss, there is no getting around the fact that coconut fat is highly saturated and very caloric. Regarding the research…they contend that there is simply a lack of it! There are only a limited number of studies examining the thermogenic effect of coconut oil and similar oils high in MCT, such as palm kernel oil and milk fat.  No definitive results have been found.

Just like all other oils, coconut oil contains 120 calories per tablespoon so the recommended 3 tablespoons of coconut oil a day adds 360 calories to ones diet…for people on a calorie-restricted diet- this is a large portion of their daily calorie allotment and will likely hamper their efforts at weight loss.

ALYSE’S ADVICE

Coconut oil is being touted for its potential ability to boost metabolism and promote weight loss over the long haul. Does this mean that you should add coconut oil to your diet to lose weight? No! Until there is further research on coconut oil’s effects on heart health and weight loss, my advice is to stick to a diet that is moderate in fat and get most fats from monounsaturated and omega-3 polyunsaturated sources. If you are still looking for a way to boost your metabolism and lose weight, EXERCISE and watch your total calorie intake…these are the most sure fire ways to drop those extra pounds!