Coconut Oil for Weight Loss: Review & Benefits

coconut oil for weight loss

Coconut Oil And Fat Burning

Coconut oil is one of the best types of oil that you can use to complement your healthy eating habits and increased physical activity to lose weight. Do you believe in this statement? Well, not many do. Simply because of the word “oil” at the end. But, do allow us to take your focus off of the coconut oil and focus instead on the second part of the statement which is the use of coconut oil as a complement to diet and exercise. Now, do we have your attention?

If you came here believing that drinking a bottle of the highest grade coconut oil will help you lose weight without making considerable changes in the way you eat as well as the way you exercise, then maybe it would be a lot better to look elsewhere. We are here to promote weight loss supplements that really work but only as a complement to an excellent, sensible, and very realistically achievable diet plan and exercise program.

Oh one more thing, if we say diet plan, don’t ever think that we mean those fad diets like the South Beach diet and other types of diet that celebrities and other people design to make more money than all of us combined. When we say diet plan we’re talking about making the right food choices, substituting an unhealthy ingredient for a healthier version. And since we’re talking about losing weight, we really do recommend sticking with a diet that’s high in protein and low in carbohydrates and fats. Please do understand, we didn’t say avoid fat at all cost. We simply said lower your intake of fats. If this is not possible, then choose food items that provide you with a healthier version of fats.

Yes, you read that right. There are good ones and bad ones. There are fats that easily clump together and clog the arteries. There are also fats that are easily converted and stored into our fat depots (and there are a lot of them, often predetermined by our genetics). These are your bad fats.

Of course, if there are bad ones, there should be good ones, too. There are fats that are readily used as energy so they don’t get stored in our fat depots (we really wish all fats were like these). These give us the energy we need and, boy! what an energy it is! Just imagine a small gram of these kinds of fat and we already have 9 calories of pure energy. There are fats, too that play a role in keeping the body a lot healthier by making sure free radicals and other metabolic waste products are removed from the body. There are also fats that combine a host of different properties that can help the body maintain its physiologic integrity or even help us lose weight.

One of these kinds of beneficial fats is medium chain triglycerides, or MCTs. You guessed it right. Coconut oil is rich in these kinds of fats.

What is Coconut Oil?

In other countries coconut oil is known as copra oil. It is a highly edible form of oil which can be used for a variety of culinary applications. Among the different vegetable oils used in cooking, coconut oil has one of the highest amounts of saturated fats, second only to cottonseed oil. We know what you’re thinking. Isn’t saturated fat bad as it increases the risk of heart disease?

It would be foolish to say that saturated fat is good for us especially with the recommendations of different organizations against the use of coconut oil. The WHO, FDA, ICN, DHHS, ADA, AHA, British NHS, British NF, and the Dieticians of Canada have advised against the regular intake of coconut oil. With these respectable organizations saying we shouldn’t take coconut oil, who isn’t going to listen?

But there have been numerous studies showing that while coconut oil contains one of the highest concentrations of saturated fats among the vegetable oils, its composition rather makes it very unique.

Coconut oil contains 62 to 65 percent MCTs with the rest as other types of saturated fats. MCTs are now known as medium chain fatty acids or MCFAs. Studies show that there are a lot of health benefits of MCTs or MCFAs which include the following.

  • Promote the more efficient oxidation of fat
  • Help reduce food intake
  • May help improve physical endurance
  • Excellent energy source for people with malnutrition and malabsorption syndromes

Let us look at the last item first as the first 3 will be tackled in the succeeding sections. Medium chain triglycerides or fatty acids are readily absorbed from the digestive tract and into the blood without having to undergo any form of modification. This means they don’t require emulsification with bile salts so that they will be digested properly. That is why studies have shown that patients with malnutrition and malabsorption syndromes can benefit a lot from MCTs. Because MCT is a saturated fat, it provides excellent energy for patients who are malnourished. And since MCFA or MCT does not require any special transformation, it is readily available to someone who may have problems absorbing fats. And since there are vitamins that depend on fat for absorption, this helps in establishing a more reliable nutrient profile for these kinds of patients.

Cool! Isn’t it?

Why is MCT or MCFA Helpful in Losing Weight?

We mentioned above that MCTs in coconut oil can help, with regards to weight loss, in three different ways:

  • Promote the oxidation of fats
  • Reduce food consumption
  • Improve physical endurance

The first entry is all about the thermogenic property of medium chain triglycerides. It has been shown, as we shall see later in the next section, that MCTs or MCFAs have the uncanny ability to increase the rate of metabolism of the body by increasing the core body temperature. Increasing the body’s core temperature will require a tremendous amount of energy. Say, we have a pot of water which is currently at around 90 degrees Celsius. If we want it boiling, then it must reach 100 degrees Celsius. There are 2 ways we can do this. We can simply wait for it to reach that stage or we can hasten the speed at which the water boils. How? We increase the energy or the heat on the pot. So, if the pot should have taken 10 minutes to boil, we can reduce it to 5 minutes, just for argument’s sake. In like manner, increasing the body temperature will lead to an increase in energy demand. The question now is where will the body get this energy?

There are two fundamental sources of energy for the body:

  • From the food that we eat
  • From stored energy molecules in the body

Ideally, the body must obtain its energy from the food that we eat. But since it takes us quite a while before we can get any food into our mouths and into our stomachs, the body will have to resort to Plan B – get energy from storage sites. This is why any excess calories from our previous meals are valuable as they are stored as glycogen or fat. Since fat is more energy-dense than glycogen, then the body favors using fat as its primary backup energy source in the absence of actual energy from food. So, the longer we don’t eat or take food by mouth, the more the body will have to use stored fats and glycogen. And even if we do eat, the fat present in food will have to be used as energy and none of it will be stored. Of course, this will not amount to weight loss but, at least, it also doesn’t lead to weight gain.

Keep in Mind: MCTs in coconut oil can help increase thermogenesis which can promote the more efficient breakdown of fat to be used as energy. If you want to maintain weight, combining MCTs with your normal diet may help. But, if you really want to lose weight, then use MCTs with a low-calorie diet so the body will be forced to use stored energy in the form of fats.

There have been quite a number of studies showing that MCTs can suppress the appetite. Unfortunately, there are no concrete explanations as to how specifically it does this. One can only assume that it has something to do with the MCT’s ability to produce ketones which, some studies have pointed, may be helpful in patients with Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and even epilepsy. The popular school of thought is that, if MCT can effect benefits in these patients, what more among individuals whose sole problem is their weight? Many of the clinical observations supporting the use of MCTs in weight loss has been directly related to appetite suppression. Exactly how MCT does this is still poorly understood, however. The good news is that, if, in case, MCT does suppress the appetite, then it will be a good way to lose weight.

Keep in Mind: MCTs have been shown to suppress the appetite through the production of ketone bodies. However, do take note that excessive ketones can also be detrimental to our health particularly the brain.

Regarding the ability of MCT to increase physical endurance, studies have been divided with some claiming it works while others clearly don’t seem to agree. If MCT can provide the body with a readily available source of energy, then it should be clear that athletes and bodybuilders can benefit from this as they are able to spare the use of proteins and amino acids as energy sources. Instead, the body will have to rely on the circulating levels of MCTs.

Keep in Mind: MCTs can help provide the energy needed to increase physical endurance and exercise performance. However, there is conflicting clinical evidence regarding this.

What do Studies Say about MCT?

We promised you to present the studies, right? It should be understood that many of these clinical studies involved the use of laboratory animals such as rats because it would be very unethical to subject one group of people to a treatment while the others don’t. Of course, this is where the controversy lies. Animal physiology is not the same as human physiology. True. The point is, if it is successful in animal studies, the implications are that it should necessitate further investigation, if possible among human participants. Nevertheless, we leave the judgment to you.

One particular study involved the forced-feeding of laboratory rats with MCTs and long chain triglycerides or LCTs. The study revealed that those rats fed on MCTs had 20 percent less weight than rats fed with LCTs. Moreover, it was found that MCT-rats had 23 percent less body fat than LCT-rats. While the study did show that MCTs can lead to less weight and less body fat, both groups of rats nevertheless showed weight gain. The only difference is that LCT-rats gained more weight and body fat. Now, imagine the implications to human consumption with the addition of exercise and low calorie diet.

Other studies showed that 15 to 20 grams of MCTs consumed on a daily basis can increase the total amount of energy expenditure by 5 percent. This may not mean much but this should roughly be equivalent to 120 calories per day.

Regarding appetite suppression, one study showed that the study participants reported a reduction in their daily calorie intake by as much as 256 calories. There’s also a study about men who took MCTs at breakfast and consumed substantially fewer calories during lunch. Unfortunately, both of these studies had a very small sample rendering their generalizability highly invalid.

Is It Safe?

A saturated fat is still a saturated fat. There is a mountain of evidence showing that saturated fats are one of the chief reasons for the development of atherosclerosis which can lead to heart attack and stroke. As such, if you have a heart problem, it usually is a lot better to consult with your doctor first before taking any coconut oil. This is also true if you have a family history of heart diseases. It’s better to err on the side of safety than be sorry.

The Bottom Line

The MCFA or MCT in coconut oil can help you lose weight but only if you add this to a low calorie diet and increased physical activity. However, if you have a family history of heart problems, better talk to your doctor first.

Make sure you read our 2016 Diet Pill Guide for essential information on effective slimming supplements.


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