Q. Can Coconut Oil Help You Lose Weight?

By Joyce Hendley, M.S., 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.

Download a FREE 5-Day 1,500-Calorie Meal Plan to Lose Weight!


I started taking coconut oil about 3 months ago a tablespoon in my coffee twice a day. Haven't changed anything else in my diet. I do have more energy and have increased my exercise ( I bike about 8 miles 4x a week and walk a few miles a week - that's all!) I have lost 20 lbs in 3 months.


10/24/2013 - 4:12pm

Some of you who claim they lost weight on account of coconut oil, also have been dieting at the same time, adding it to smoothies et... so how can you justify the weight loss saying it was from coconut oil??


10/18/2013 - 11:51pm

I was doing pretty good " weight loss-wise " with coconut oil, until I ran out. I replaced it with butter for about a week or so. Yikes! the pounds started amassing like an army preparing for battle. Never again. I'm sticking with coconut oil.


10/14/2013 - 1:07pm

My coconut oil supplements have only 1g of fat. Where do you get 12g?


10/04/2013 - 2:19pm

My hdl has been 38 for years of taking fish oil. I tried coconut oil for one month, it is now 48


10/03/2013 - 10:39pm

I've just started taking coconut oil after a friend recommended it, saying it has given her so much energy she didn't know what yo do with, and in such a short period she's also lost weight. I thought "l need to try this", so I went and purchased some from Holland & Barratt. Within a Very short time I've felt the benefit of more energy, which I'd been lacking in for months, I'm taking the recommended dose of up to 3 1/2 tbls throughout the day, and I'm experiencing loss of sweet cravings and feeling satisfied of smaller meal portions. I weighed myself before I'd taken the first spoonful, and also had my cholesterol taken, which was higher than it has been before but still in normal range. My aim is to have my weight and cholesterol taken again in 2 months to see if there's an improvement, so I'll post my results then. One big improvement I've already found is, my ibs symptoms have decreased. I'll leave my name so watch this space for my update in 2 months time. Jayne


09/27/2013 - 1:49am

I bought coconut oil from trader Joes, I put 1 tsp in my coffee daily havnt changed my diet or excersise routine and I've lost 8 pounds in a month. I know 8 pounds doesn't seem like a lot but for my size it is. 125 to 117! I feel more energized as well less caffeine intake.


09/22/2013 - 1:32am

I'm wondering if it cleanses the liver and that is what causes the weight loss


09/21/2013 - 11:15pm

I hate to be one to b*tch over a comment on a blog but this is something that has to be repeated apparently. If I read one more comment explaining that "coconut milk made me gain weight" I may go jump off of a bridge. Coconut milk WILL make you bloat and gain weight if you consume it in excess. No one on any of these comments is suggesting you drink coconut milk. COCONUT OIL is where the crazy benefits are hiding. Stop with the milk and switch to the oil!!! I you MUST drink milk (which I only suggest but milk EVER) then do it in small doses. My mother was using coconut oil for almost everything from cooking to cleaning for 15 years and I was always sceptic all of it because she had no knowledge of science behind it, she just swore it helped her physically. I have been using it for a few months now and have noticed how tight my skin is getting, I'm getting more toned, and I have a ton more energy. I would suggest this to anyone looking to help their organs work the way they were intended to. But not for weight loss, get excited about feeling good- not looking good for beach season. And for gods sake stop drinking coconut milk assuming it has the same benefits as the oil.


09/21/2013 - 3:03am

Would be nice if the entire story was told about saturated fat. Plant derived saturated fat is different than animal derived saturated fat and will affect the human body differently. Also, the propaganda that fat or saturated fat of any kind is the problem in a diet has been around for decades and the mantra hasn't changed much. Of course, over indulging in anything will have adverse effects. Look below the superficial argument. If the saturated fat in coconut was so bad, then there should be a lot more asian's expiring from heart disease and clog arteries. In fact the opposite is true, where they have the least amount of heart disease and cases of diabetes, regardless of the type.


09/16/2013 - 9:16pm

Get a full year of EatingWell magazine.
World Wide Web Health Award Winner Web Award Winner World Wide Web Health Award Winner Interactive Media Award Winner