Coconut oil weight loss: are the rumours true?

Over the past decade, there has been a shift in our thinking when it comes to foods responsible for weight loss. Thanks to nutritional authorities that championed the cause of consuming mass quantities of carbs over protein and fats, the proportion of overweight and obese individuals in our society has exploded over the past 30 years.

Meanwhile, a closer look into the role of fats in our diet has revealed that they weren’t the villains that we thought they once were. Consumed in moderation, an ironic truth emerged: certain fats could actually help us lose weight!

Alternative ways of eating have emerged, emphasizing the consumption of healthy fats and protein, and discouraging the consumption of white carbs. The results have vindicated their authors so far, showing the old guard that actively consuming healthy amounts of oils and fats was the path to health, not disease.

Despite all this, old habits die hard. Coconut oil, a saturated fat that has been championed for its properties with respect to weight loss, has achieved great results for many people. Still, some in the scientific community cling stubbornly to the idea that the mass consumption of coconut oil isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.

Who’s right? Are the coconut oil weight loss people onto something big, or does the scientific community have a point to make? In this in-depth post, we will explore both sides of the debate, and at the end, we will render our final judgment based on the available evidence.

Why has coconut oil become a favored food for those seeking coconut oil weight loss?

One of the big drivers behind weight gain are foods that cause blood sugar levels to spike and crash quickly. Meals largely consisting of simple carbs are often guilty of this, causing a vicious cycle of frequent meals that are high in calories, but low on satiety (that is, they don’t produce a feeling of fullness that lasts).

When saturated fats are added to the mix, those that eat it receive an immediate boost of energy without having to deal with blood sugar crashes. Coconut oil are among the best of the saturated fats, as they are a medium chain fatty acid (1).

Unlike longer chain fatty acids, they are less likely to end up being stored in adipose tissue as excess fat. Consuming it also boosts metabolism, leading to weight loss for those that consume it intelligently (2).

Quickly becoming a replacement for olive oil

For many years, olive oil was viewed as being one of the healthiest oils on the market. However, this stance was challenged by a 1994 Lancet study, which found that the types of fatty acids found in adipose tissue were predominantly mono-unsaturated, of which olive oil is one.

As much as Mediterranean diets have been promoted as healthy by nutritionists, it is thought that there might be a role between weight gain in middle age and the unabated consumption of mono-unsaturated fats such as olive oil.

As such, many people concerned about their weight in middle age have been looking for ways to replace uses of olive oil and other monounsaturated fats in their diet. For them, medium chain fatty acids such as coconut oil have become a favored replacement.

What makes sources of medium-chain fatty acids (like coconut oil) so different?

Is a fat a fat, in the same way that a rose is a rose? We think you already know the answer to that question: not all fats are made the same. Unlike longer chain fatty acids, which are more likely to end up getting stored in adipose cells, medium chain fatty acids differ in that they are sent to the liver directly from the digestive tract.

These are either used as fuel for the liver immediately, or they are converted to ketone bodies for future use (3). As a result of how medium chain fatty acids like coconut oil are metabolized by the body, the use of this type of nutrient is very popular among those that follow the ketogenic diet, a popular weight loss regime that has been shown to be successful by many studies.

Medium chain fatty acids also cause the body to work harder in order to break them down. They have a thermogenic effect on the body, causing the body’s temperature to increase while they are being metabolized.

When coconut oil is being broken down by the digestive system, the overall caloric expenditure of the body increases, which is a fact which can only help those that are eagerly attempting to lose weight. Studies conducted in previous years have found that consuming between 15-30 grams of coconut oil per day increased overall body energy expenditures by 5%, for an average of 130 additional calories burned per day (4).

Note that these gains were only established by replacing certain quantities of fats/foods with coconut oil. If you are looking to replicate these results, you would do well to examine your diet and find where you can replace the calories you are currently consuming with fats that contain medium chain fatty acids.

Losing your addiction to overeating and snacking

One of the great tragedies of eating in the 21st century is that many of the meals that we eat are tasty in the moment, but ultimately, they don’t satisfy us. This leads us to crave snack foods a short time later that only reinforces a vicious cycle of simple carb consumption.

Fortunately, not only has coconut oil been found to boost overall metabolism, but they also promote feelings of fullness that have been confirmed by scientific studies. Taken before or during a meal, coconut oil and other medium chain fatty acids have been shown to promote feelings of satiety for prolonged periods after a meal (5).

As a result, less food is consumed at the dinner table, fewer calories are consumed at subsequent meals, and there is little or no urge to snack between meals, resulting in a considerable drop in caloric intake.

Coconut oil might reduce dangerous abdominal fat

There are also studies that suggest that the consumption of medium chain fatty acids like coconut oil have a role to play in reducing the amount of adipose tissue in the abdominal region. Pitting soybean oil against coconut oil, it was found that coconut oil achieved significant reductions in the amount of fat in the belly region of both men and women, while soybean oil actually resulted in an increase in this same area (6).

Abdominal fat is considered dangerous because it has long been associated with an increased risk of diabetes, insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease. Could coconut oil put you on the path to better health? It certainly seems so!  

The other side of debate: a dissenting opinion weighs in

Lumped together with an increase in metabolic function and the creation of ketone bodies, it would appear that coconut oil is a new superfood in the making. However, not all in the scientific community are convinced that it is a cure-all for those seeking easy coconut oil weight loss.

One criticism of coconut oil is that it is a highly energy dense food, just like all other fats. If those taking coconut oil are not careful to swap out a portion of their existing diet to account for the increase in calories that this fat will bring into one’s system, then they will simply add weight. Many people are not that diligent when it comes to this sort of thing, making it a bad idea for them to implement coconut oil to their diet without professional guidance.

However, this criticism is easily refuted by simply replacing the cooking oil that you already use with coconut oil. If you don’t use cooking oil very often, then taking a week to document everything that you typically eat will give you an idea of what you can replace with coconut oil.

It doesn’t have to be much, as a small amount of this medium chain fatty acid is all that is needed to suppress appetite and light a fire under your metabolism. As little as 30 grams per day (2 tablespoons) is all that you need to achieve the positive effects of coconut oil weight loss. With 9 calories contained in every gram of fat, that’s only 270 calories worth of food that you need to swap out of your current diet to make room for this wonder food in the making.

Others in the establishment have noted that studies done on coconut oil only show that its consumption can only be correlated with reduced waist sizes, but not overall weight loss or reduced body mass index (BMI).

On this point, we understand where they are coming from. Coconut oil can achieve a lot for people that consume it, but it isn’t the complete answer. Those that are using coconut oil to overhaul their diet still need to embrace foods that contain a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, and they also need to increase their overall level of physical activity as well.

However, the fact remains that coconut oil weight loss targets visceral fat in the abdominal region, which is exactly the kind that poses a direct threat to people later in life. Furthermore, body mass index (BMI) is considered to be a flawed stat by many, as it can’t tell the difference between weight gained through fat accumulation, and weight gain through the addition of lean muscle tissue.

If you have been adding a lot of protein to your diet, and you have been hitting the weights hard lately, this statistic might have you believing that your health is heading in reverse, when in fact the opposite is likely true.

Another criticism of coconut oil revolves around the considerable amount of saturated fat it contains compared to other products such as soybean oil. This is largely a non-starter, as the dangers of saturated fats were overstated back in the 1970’s.

A flawed study that failed to take into account a variety of other health markers was erroneously held up as an authoritative guide, leading to the creation of a food pyramid that emphasized the heavy consumption of grains over all other food groups. Fats were targeted as the enemy, with the pyramid urging people to keep its consumption to a minimum. As a result of this tragic mistake, America’s obesity crisis has exploded over the past generation.

Thanks to more recent studies, it has been shown that saturated fat has a lot of benefits attached to it. It has been shown to promote good liver function, maintain a strong immune system, and boost sex drive, among other qualities (7). Clearly, saturated fat is not the bogeyman that it once was.  

Overall, the core argument against coconut oil revolves around the fact that it contains a lot of calories. Based on this, detractors claim that the addition of these extra calories trigger a hunger complex (never mind that these fats promote satiety, and trigger nowhere near the insulin response that simple carbs do) leading the body to store more fat in response. This argument is made despite the fact that medium chain fatty acids resist being stored in adipose cells  (unless consumed in excess), by the way.

However, we’re not going to claim that you can chug a container of coconut oil and as a result, the pounds will melt off your waist. It is true that your body will take all excess calories that it cannot use for maintenance and its physical activity, and store them in your fat cells. As long as you take an intelligent approach to your diet, coconut oil weight loss benefits can be realized.

So, what’s the verdict?

Both sides of the debate have valid points and concerns. However, given the evidence presented earlier in the article, we agree that the overall positive benefits taking on a coconut oil weight loss regime outweigh the potential drawbacks.

Certain criticisms are well warranted though, as dieters should know that coconut oil is only one tool in the overall set when it comes to weight loss. Pairing coconut oil consumption with consumption of healthy foods will go a long way towards achieving lasting results.

Along with a commitment to regular physical activity, the adoption of coconut oil and other medium chain fatty acids will help you get the body that you always dreamed of acquiring. What’s more, coconut oil weight loss has been shown to reduce levels of stored fat in the abdominal region, making it an effective tool for reducing risk factors for serious diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease later in life.

On this point alone, we can heartily recommend the introduction of coconut oil to your diet, provided that it replaces foods that are harmful to your long-term health. 

How to implement coconut oil in your diet

If you are convinced of the merits of coconut oil weight loss after reading this article, you might be wondering how to implement coconut oil in your diet. The first thing you should know about this product is that it it is solid at temperatures below 76 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius).

As a result, coconut oil will usually need to be warmed up in order to be used. The amount that you will want to heat up will depend on your body weight: scoop one tablespoon into a mug if you weigh between 90 and 130 pounds, 1.5 tablespoons if you weigh between 131 and 180 pounds, and two tablespoons if you weigh over 181 pounds.

Mix it together with hot water or tea, and consume it before having your normal meal. Doing so will promote better satiety and increase your metabolism. This will prevent you from snacking between meals, and will increase the amount of calories naturally burned by your body away from the dinner table.

Alternatively, it can be used as a replacement for your present cooking oil. Note that it does have a higher amount of calories by volume than most other oils, so using a smaller amount than normal for your stir-frying needs is advised.

Take special care to acquire coconut oil that is organic in origin. Coconut oil that is created through conventional means often uses solvents to extract it from the coconut. As a result, exposure to trace amounts of these chemicals could cause unanticipated problems with your body’s processes, so we recommend acquiring organic virgin coconut oil instead.

The added expense will get a product that is pure in its composure, so don’t be afraid to spend a few extra dollars, as it will be your health that will benefit in the end.

Conclusion

Coconut oil is a relative newcomer to mainstream diets, so there will be an adjustment period where there will be a great degree of uncertainty on whether it is beneficial, or whether it is just another ‘scam’. A lot of the latter sentiments stem from the lack of scientific research that has been conducted to date.

As time goes by and more evidence is gathered to confirm the anecdotal evidence that has been piling up, we are confident that the scientific establishment will eventually confirm what we have known for some time now: coconut oil weight loss works, and its use is a phenomenon that is here to stay.

References:

(1) http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/coconut-oil-blood-sugar-levels-12209.html

(2) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9570335

(3) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23305031

(4) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8654328

(5) http://jn.nutrition.org/content/132/3/329.full

(6) http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11745-009-3306-6/fulltext.html

(7) http://greatist.com/health/saturated-fat-healthy

 

    

 

 

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