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Q. Can Coconut Oil Help You Lose Weight?

By Joyce Hendley, January/February 2009

Can Coconut Oil Help You Lose Weight?

A. There is science to suggest that the tropical oil may cause a slight (temporary) boost in your metabolism.

Anytime you eat, the process of digesting food burns off about 10 percent of the calories you consume. For example, if you consume 500 calories in a meal, your body uses about 50 of those calories to transform food into the energy that fuels your body. But theoretically if you eat a 500-calorie meal and replace the fat from oils or butter with coconut oil, your metabolism will speed up and burn more like 15 percent, or 75 calories.

It comes down to the molecular structure of the oil and how the body digests it. The fatty acids in coconut oil (called medium-chain triacylglycerols, or MCT) are shorter and more water-soluble than those in other oils, such as olive or canola. “So they’re more directly routed to the liver, where they’re readily burned for fuel,” explains Peter Jones, Ph.D., professor of food science and nutrition at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada. Therefore, they have less opportunity to be deposited in fat stores.

But there is no scientific evidence to show that consuming coconut oil helps people lose weight. There is one recent study, however, using an MCT oil, which suggests coconut oil may work in the same way. In the study, 31 overweight men and women followed a low-calorie diet that included just over a tablespoon for women and just under two tablespoons for men each day of either an MCT oil or olive oil. After four months, the MCT-oil users lost an average of 7 pounds; the olive oil group just 3 pounds. The investigators suggested that the metabolic boost produced by the MCT oil likely played a role.

Even if coconut oil does help people lose weight, few nutrition experts recommend it, since coconut oil is loaded with saturated fat: 12 grams in 1 tablespoon versus 7 grams in a tablespoon of butter.

Bottom Line: The extra calorie burn produced by coconut oil might give you a slight edge, but only if you make room by eating less of something else. A tablespoon of any oil sets you back around 120 calories.

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COMMENTS POSTEDsort icon

Years ago, Mediteranians used to be very thin and healthy. Why? Coconut oil. They didn't have the health problems we Americans do either. Somewhere along the line someone talked the Mediteranians into thinking coconut oil was bad for them. I'll stick with my coconut oil.

Anonymous

04/09/2010 - 10:05am

In response to anonymous..i have read very recently that non hydrogenated margarines containing palm oils are very dangerous and should be avoided..although trans fat free , are very high in saturated fats and are being held responsible in part to our clogging arteries...manufactures are using this oil because they can legally claim it trans fat free .

Anonymous

04/08/2010 - 8:57pm

I don't know about the science of coconut oil and losing weight... However, I remember a Hawaiian gentleman I worked with when I was in the U.S. Air Force many years ago. He had the most beautiful, silky hair I have ever seen! One day I asked him what the secret was to his silky hair. He told me that he massaged a dab of coconut oil to his hair every day and that's what made his hair so wonderful.
So, if you got sucked into the Coconut Oil diet idea and now are having second thoughts about ingesting that oil--maybe you want to see what it might do for making your hair look healthy? Maybe a hot oil treatment for hair? --nuke it a few seconds first, for the hot oil effect. Just an idea! ;-)

Anonymous

04/08/2010 - 7:58pm

I use coconut oil as a healthy natural substitute for shortning in baking. My brother is chef of his own catering company and uses it for several of his best recipes. I gave him a subscription to Eating Well magazine and he is always trying the recipes! He is impressed as I am maintaining a weight loss of over 60 pounds by eating healthier than him!

lowewood

04/08/2010 - 4:44pm

Coconut oil used to be regarded as oil, high in saturated fat and therefore not good for our diet. But recent studies have shown that the coconut oil is a different sort of saturated fat that reacts differently in our bodies. It’s all to do with the type of fat molecule that is present in the oil. Since coconut oil is composed predominately of medium-chain fatty acids, most of the saturated and unsaturated fats found in our daily diet consist of long-chain fatty acids (LCFA). MCFA are very different from LCFA. They do not have a negative effect on cholesterol and actually help to protect against heart disease. MCFA help to lower the risk of both atherosclerosis and heart disease. It is primarily due to the MCFA in coconut oil that makes it so special and so beneficial. There are only a very few good dietary sources of MCFA. By far the best sources are from coconut and palm kernel oils.

Anonymous

04/08/2010 - 4:37pm

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