Coconut oil is associated with numerous health claims, ranging from keeping your skin soft and supple to lowering your blood sugar levels.
Weight loss is also one of the many advantages of using coconut oil. As a result, many people who want to lose weight add this tropical oil to their meals, snacks, and beverages, such as coffee and smoothies.
However, like most ingredients marketed as a miracle weight loss solution, coconut oil may not be as simple as it appears.
This article investigates whether coconut oil can aid in weight loss.
Why is coconut oil considered weight-loss-friendly?
While there is no doubt that coconut oil is a healthy fat, it is unclear whether this popular product is as effective as many people claim for weight loss.
Coconut oil vs. MCT oil
The belief that this oil aids in weight loss stems primarily from the claim that it may reduce hunger, as well as the fact that coconut products contain specific fats known as medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs).
MCTs are metabolized differently than LCTs, which are found in foods such as olive oil and nut butter. MCTs include capric, caprylic, caproic, and lauric acid, though the inclusion of lauric acid in this category is debatable.
In contrast to LCTs, 95% of MCTs are rapidly and directly absorbed into the bloodstream — specifically the portal vein of the liver — and used as immediate fuel.
MCTs are also less likely to be stored as fat than LCTs.
Although MCTs naturally account for approximately 50% of the fat in coconut oil, they can also be isolated and manufactured as a separate product, implying that coconut oil and MCT oil are not the same thing.
Coconut oil has a lauric acid content of 47.5% and less than 8% capric, caprylic, and caproic acids. While most experts classify lauric acid as an MCT, in terms of absorption and metabolism, it behaves more like an LCT.
Because only 25-30% of lauric acid is absorbed through the portal vein, as opposed to 95% of other MCTs, it does not have the same health benefits. This is why its classification as an MCT is debatable.
Furthermore, while some studies found that MCT oil increased feelings of fullness and improved weight loss, the oils used were high in capric and caprylic acid and low in lauric acid, which is not the case with coconut oil.
For these reasons, experts argue that coconut oil should not be promoted as having the same effects as MCT oil, and that results from MCT weight loss studies cannot be extrapolated to coconut oil.
May enhance feelings of fullness
Coconut oil has been shown to increase feelings of fullness and improve appetite regulation.
According to research, adding fat-rich foods like coconut oil to meals may increase stomach volume, resulting in greater feelings of fullness than low fat meals.
Some studies have also found that eating foods high in saturated fats causes more fullness than eating foods high in monounsaturated fats. Other studies, however, have concluded that fatty acid saturation levels have no effect on feelings of fullness.
As a result, it’s unclear whether choosing coconut oil over other types of fats is any better for inducing feelings of fullness.
Finally, food companies and the media frequently cite MCT oil studies to support claims about the fullness-promoting properties of coconut oil. However, as previously stated, these two products are not the same.
What does the research say?
Consuming coconut oil may reduce inflammation, increase levels of heart-protective HDL cholesterol, and improve insulin sensitivity, according to research.
Nonetheless, while many studies link MCT oil to weight loss, research on the effect of coconut oil on weight loss is lacking.
Numerous human studies have found that consuming MCT oil may increase feelings of fullness and that replacing LCTs with MCTs may result in minor weight loss.
However, keep in mind that the results of MCT oil studies should not be applied to coconut oil.
In fact, only a few studies have looked into whether coconut oil can help you lose weight or curb your appetite, and the results aren’t promising.
Effects on fullness
The claim that coconut oil can significantly reduce hunger and increase fullness levels is not supported by research.
For example, one study of 15 obese women discovered that eating breakfast with 25 mL of coconut oil was less effective at reducing appetite 4 hours later than eating the same amount of olive oil.
Another study in 15 obese children found that consuming 20 grams of coconut oil did not result in greater feelings of fullness than consuming the same amount of corn oil.
Furthermore, a study of 42 adults discovered that coconut oil was significantly less filling than an MCT oil rich in caprylic and capric acids, but slightly more filling than vegetable oil.
Researchers concluded that MCT study results should not be applied to coconut oil and that there is little evidence to support using it to promote feelings of fullness.
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Effects on weight loss
While many people believe that eating coconut oil is a healthy and effective way to lose excess body fat, there is little evidence to back up this claim.
The few studies that have looked into the potential of this oil to help with weight loss have not yielded promising results.
A 4-week study of 91 adults, for example, discovered no significant differences in body weight between groups that consumed 1.8 ounces (50 grams) of coconut oil, butter, or olive oil per day.
However, some research indicates that coconut oil may help to reduce belly fat. A 4-week study of 20 obese adults found that taking 2 tablespoons (30 mL) of this oil daily reduced waist circumference in male participants.
Similarly, some rodent studies have suggested that coconut oil may help reduce belly fat. However, research in this area is still in its early stages.
Another 8-week study in 32 adults found that taking 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of coconut oil daily had no effect on weight loss or gain, implying that this oil may have a neutral effect at best.
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The bottom line
Coconut oil is not the weight-loss miracle ingredient that it is portrayed to be, and more research on its ability to promote fat loss and feelings of fullness is needed.
Despite the fact that it does not promote weight loss, it is a healthy fat that can be consumed as part of a well-balanced diet and used for a variety of other purposes.
However, it is important to note that coconut oil, like all fats, is high in calories. When trying to lose weight, use it in small amounts to enhance the flavor of your foods while keeping your calorie intake under control.
In general, rather than focusing on single ingredients to lose weight, it’s better to focus on the overall quality of your diet by eating whole, nutrient-dense foods and practicing portion control.