Obesity sometimes has been termed as one of the biggest health challenges of this century.
Unhealthy lifestyle, low exercise levels and processed food have been instrumental in promoting weight gain across countries.
If stats speak anything - more than 50% of total population in America is overweight. This is like a time bomb ticking.
Why is obesity considered such a big problem? This is almost a no-brainer as obesity is one the key reasons for several major body disorders such as heart disease, blood pressure, bone disorders such as arthritis, cancer and several more. Many of these diseases prove to be fatal.
Some reasons why we gain weight?
As we have mentioned above that what we eat and lifestyle is an important factor regarding weight gain.
Our body is a great machine and a wise one too. We eat food to run this machine but when we eat more than what is required by our body stores it as fat for future use. These fats are then burned whenever the energy we take from food is not enough.
How does this machine decide how much to store? It is based on our Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). In simple terms, this is the energy required by our body to do maintenance tasks.
Higher BMR means more calorie consumption by the body. If one consumes more food than is required to take care of maintenance tasks of body and physical activity it is stored as fat.
Role of oils and weight loss
Fats and oils are essential components of our diet, but controlled intake is required. It is important to note which fats are we consuming and in what amount.
Coconut oil can be considered a healthy source of fats and oils if taken in modulated amounts. The fats in coconut oil are healthy and aid with the weight loss process.
It predominantly contains saturated fats (91%) of which 72% are Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs). The fatty acids present are lauric acid, palmitic acid, capric acid, caprylic acid, oleic acid, linoleic acid, myristic acid and stearic acid.
Let's understand how coconut oil promotes weight loss.
Coconut Oil for Weight Loss
Coconut oil can help in weight loss in several ways. More than 70% of coconut oil is Medium chain triglycerides which are great for fat metabolism and are not deposited by the body (thus no weight gain). Coconut oil also helps in reducing appetite and help maintain a favourable lipid profile thus reducing chances of weight gain.
Now let us see how coconut oil helps in losing weight. There are several reasons based on various opinions and research conducted.
1. Presence of MCTs and LCTs aids in Weight Loss
Coconut oil’s efficacy in decreasing body weight is due to the presence of Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) in it.
A study was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, in which 49 overweight women and men were treated with Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) oil and olive oil for 4 months.
It was found that people who consumed MCT oil lost more weight and fat mass from their body than those who were given the olive oil. It was concluded that this oil should be included in the diet of people aiming at weight loss.
In another study, coconut oil was considered more favourable than soybean oil in combating obesity, diabetes, weight gain and insulin resistance.
The Journal of the American College of Nutrition and The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics report several trials that prove a decrease in body weight and body fats on the substitution of Long Chain Triglycerides (LCTs) with MCTs.
What does this mean?
Coconut oil is more effective in weight loss than other oils as it contains Medium Chain Fatty Acids.
2. It helps in maintaining a favourable lipid profile
The Lipid profile of the body is directly related to weight gain. Increased fat intake results in excessive fat deposition in the body.
This leads to increase in body weight. Hence it is important to consume foods that do not contribute to fat deposition and help in decreasing lipid levels in the body.
The LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) is responsible for fat deposition in liver, adipose tissues, and other body parts. They lead to increase in weight.
On the other hand HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) does not get deposited in the form of fat as it is readily oxidized.
A study conducted on 116 adults suggests that virgin coconut oil consumption led to decrease in body weight, waist circumference and increased the HDL cholesterol levels.
Another study reported decreased LDL levels and abdominal obesity in 20 women who were given coconut oil supplements.
The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports a study on 112 people treated with MCTs and LCTs. Individuals who consumed MCTs showed a significant reduction in weight, body mass index (BMI), waist and hip circumference and triglyceride levels.
What does this mean?
Coconut oil helps in maintaining optimum lipid levels and preventing weight gain.
3. Coconut oil helps in burning fat instead of being stored as fat
Fatty Acids with long carbon chains cannot be metabolized efficiently and accumulate in the body.
Coconut oil contains Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) that are water-soluble and can be readily hydrolyzed and absorbed by the body, without getting deposited as fats.
They get absorbed more easily than Long Chain Triglycerides (LCTs) and are transported to the liver directly, where they get oxidized.
Medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) constitute more than 60% of coconut oil (lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid).
MCFAs are NOT processed and metabolized in same manner as long chain fatty acids. MCFAs are easily broken in out stomach and by the time they reach intestine they are fully absorbed. Then they reach liver where they are burned into energy.
What this has to do with weight loss? right question. Here is the answer -
When we take long chain fatty acids, they do not follow the same process. Firstly, they require pancreatic enzymes/bile for breaking them down. These are absorbed b intestine wall.
Here they are packaged into lipoproteins (bundle of fat and protein). These are then circulated in our bloodstream.
During circulation, they release small fat particles. These fat particles are the ones which accumulate in our fat cells and leads to weight gain and various heart-related diseases.
So if one replaces their cooking oil with coconut oil, these fats will no more be accumulated and thus less weight gain
A study was published in The International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders in which 17 overweight women were given diets rich in Medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) and Long Chain Triglycerides (LCTs).
The results showed that MCTs improve metabolism by increasing the oxidation of fats and the energy expenditure. This helps in preventing weight gain over a long period of time.
Another study published in the same journal on 19 obese men reports that consumption of MCTs led to increase in the expenditure of energy and decreased fat storage, which further aided in weight loss.
The Obesity Journal reports that MCTs increase lipid breakdown and can contribute towards weight loss.
According to The Nutrients Journal, MCTs, in addition to aiding in lipid catabolism, also help in the modification of gut microbes by maintaining their optimal population and protecting the body from toxins released by them, which in turn improves the metabolic status.
MCTs also do not disrupt the metabolic profile, compared to olive oil.
What does this mean?
Coconut oil is good for fat metabolism and is absorbed with efficacy without being deposited as fats.
4. Coconut oil helps in decreasing appetite
Increased appetite leads to more food and calorie intake and contributes towards weight gain. Certain foods decrease appetite by promoting a feeling of satiety. Medium Chain Fatty Acids (MCTs)-rich coconut oil has this property.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports a study in which 2 healthy adult males were given diet containing Medium-Chain Triacylglycerols (MCTs) and Long Chain Triacylglycerols (LCTs).
The diet rich in MCTs decreased appetite and the amount of meal eaten. It also decreased the blood glucose and insulin levels.
Another study published in The International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders describes that 6 healthy men were given two types of diet, rich in MCTs and LCTs.
After 14 days, consumption of a diet rich in MCTs reduced food and energy intake significantly and controlled weight gain.
According to The European Journal of Nutrition, MCTs also increase satiety and decrease energy intake, which could further help in preventing or treating weight loss.
What does this mean?
Coconut oil helps in weight loss by decreasing appetite and providing a feeling of fullness.
5. Energy supplied by coconut oil is lower
Energy supplied by coconut oil per unit is slightly lower than other oils. Some estimates peg it at 8.6 calories per gram.
This is lower than 9+ calories per gm provided by other oils.
How to include coconut oil in your diet
So how can one include coconut in their diet to manage weight? This is not tough at all.
As such, there is no dosage of coconut oil for weight loss. The best part is you need not take coconut oil as "coconut oil" but you can get its benefits by including coconut meat and coconut milk in your diet too.
This is because both coconut oil and coconut milk are made using coconut meat. So here are some ways:
- Eating raw coconut: Coconut is delicious to eat and can be added after grating to salads and curries.
- Coconut oil for cooking: You can substitute your existing oil with coconut oil. This has two advantages - 1) you get the benefit of coconut oil 2) you avoid harmful effects of your other oil.
- Coconut milk: This is a great way to include coconut oil in your diet, especially if you are lactose intolerant. Read more about benefits of coconut milk and how to make it>
Which coconut oil to use and some tips
Always try to use virgin coconut oil and not RBD or refined coconut oil. Virgin coconut oil provides superior and diverse benefits as compared to RBD oil. If you do not get a good virgin coconut oil brand you can easily make it at your home (see the process here).
Some people think that just changing oil will reduce their weight. This is not correct. You need to alter your lifestyle too. Cut down on junk food and fats. Also start exercising regularly, if not exercise, at least walk for 20-30 min daily.
It is a combination of various changes one will be able to attain proper, just changing to coconut oil will not help too much.
Taking coconut oil is safe but if you are on specific medications, it is better to seek medical advice before including coconut oil in your diet, as it can interfere with the working mechanism of certain drugs and medicines.
Always use branded, organic and pure products. Virgin coconut oil is preferred because it is not refined. Hence, it is free from chemical treatment and has more intact nutrients.
One cannot ignore the possibility of coconut allergy, although it is very rare.
Always use coconut oil in moderation.
Dietary habits are an important factor in a weight-loss regime. Eating certain foods can significantly reduce body weight and prevent the risk of other diseases associated with it.
Coconut oil is rich in saturated fats and Medium Chain Fatty Acids which help in weight loss by maintaining favourable lipid levels in the body. They are metabolized and absorbed easily without getting deposited as fats in the body.
They also control the food intake and decrease appetite. Many studies suggest its inclusion in a diet aimed at weight loss. It also has no side effects and is a boon for people aiming to control body weight, if taken in moderation.