Coconut Oil for Weight Loss
Coconut oil has gained popularity over the past few years, with its claims of promoting weight loss and having other benefits, all of which will be explored in this article.
There are lots of different oils available on the market, but recently, ‘coconut oil’ has become increasingly popular in households, particularly those wanting to improve their diet and lead a healthy lifestyle. As well as allegations of being a healthier alternative to other types of oil, there are claims of many other health benefits and a large number of different uses for coconut oil.
This article will explore any potential benefits of coconut oil, looking especially at its weight loss claims. Here, we’ll discuss how to use it, where to buy it, potential side effects associated with it and any clinical evidence that supports it.
What is Coconut Oil?
Coconut oil refers to the ‘fruit’ of the coconut plant, and oil is extracted to be used in cooking, for medicine and in cosmetic products. Coconut oil has become very popular, especially amongst those looking to lose weight and eat healthily.
Most supermarkets stock coconut oil, and it’s becoming a popular alternative to other cooking oils, gaining success from its claims of promoting weight loss, amongst other things.
While coconut oil is believed to have many cosmetic uses, it’s often consumed orally either as cooking oil or in capsules for weight loss purposes. The standard coconut oil that is used in the diet generally comes in a jar in a solid state that can be melted, and it’s usually known as ‘raw virgin coconut oil’. This is said to be because the coconut oil is natural and unaltered and is unrefined, without any chemicals or artificial ingredients being added to it.
How Does Coconut Oil Aid in Weight Loss?
Coconut oil is said to possess many different medicinal and cosmetic properties, but arguably the reason why it’s so popularly used is because of its claims of promoting weight loss. It’s believed that while coconut oil is made up of triglycerides and is therefore calorific and high in saturated fat, it can actually reduce levels of cholesterol and may actually cause weight loss.
Compared to other oils, coconut oil contains an unusual blend of nutrients, and it’s made up from ‘medium-chain fatty acids’. Research by an organisation called the ‘Weston A Price Foundation’ has suggested that consumption of coconut oil may have a positive effect on cardiovascular health, and this is said to potentially reduce levels of total and bad (LDL) cholesterol in the body, as well as triglycerides and lipoprotein.
Some say that coconut oil may boost metabolism and raise energy levels. As coconut oil is plant-based, it’s said to contain different types of fat to other oils and dairy products. Specifically, one of the medium-chain triglycerides found in coconut oil is known as ‘lauric acid’.
Allegedly, when medium-chain fats such as lauric acid are digested, they aren’t stored in the body as fat. Instead, it’s believed that they are transported to the liver and are converted into energy.
Coconut oil is also said to aid in fat burning in a similar way. As the medium-chain fats supposedly aren’t stored as fats, they are believed to be burned faster, meaning that the fat burning is potentially most prevalent in the liver, because that’s where they allegedly transport to. Coconut oil is also said to allow the body to absorb nutrients and digest food quicker, which may also promote weight loss.
Other Claimed Benefits of Coconut Oil
As well as its alleged weight loss properties, coconut oil is said to have numerous other benefits to the body. For example, it’s used as a more natural ingredient in cosmetic/beauty products. This is because it’s believed to moisturise the skin, remove makeup, treat blemishes, clean and whiten teeth and improve, repair and strengthen nails and hair, amongst others.
Coconut oil is also said to have various medicinal functions, such as possessing alleged anti-fungal properties. Furthermore, people use it to treat diabetes, heart failure, chronic fatigue syndrome, Crohn’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome and thyroid conditions. It’s also said to boost the immune system and to increase energy levels .
Some claim that coconut oil can balance hormone, and one in vivo study looks at the polyphenols and medium-chain fatty acids that make up coconut oil and any potential anti-stress or anti-oxidant properties within them.
A sample of mice that each had a stress-inducing injury were used in the study, and they were given 10ml/per kg of body weight of virgin coconut oil and were put on a swimming exercise. Results found that the mice ‘reduced immobility time’ and ‘restored oxidative stress’, as well as displaying ‘higher levels of brain antioxidants’, as well as reduced triglycerides, blood sugar and cholesterol.
Clinical Studies on Coconut Oil
An animal study examined the effects that virgin coconut oil had on a sample of rats who were fed oil for 45 days. Researchers looked specifically at the oil’s effects on bad (LDL) cholesterol oxidation, as well as its impact on lipid levels, both of which are said to potentially cause weight gain or prevent weight loss. Results found that consumption of virgin coconut oil seemed to lower lipid levels, as well as reducing triglycerides and bad (LDL) cholesterol. In fact, the coconut oil appeared to increase levels of good (HDL) cholesterol. These results may indicate that coconut oil could have the potential to encourage weight loss and reduce cholesterol, but more human evidence is required.
Using a sample of 1,839 pre-menopausal Filipino women aged between 35-69 years old, one study also examined the relationship between coconut oil and lipid levels. Subjects were put on a 12-hour fast overnight night before beginning the study. Most participants (92%) used coconut oil in cooking to fry or sauté meals, and they were instructed to record roughly how much oil they used, estimating that 5g of oil would be used per 30-50g of food.
Subjects had their blood taken before the study as well as a number of measurements including BMI, energy intake and level of energy expenditure at work, as well as answering more personal questions such as their number of pregnancies, education level and menopausal status. Results found that consumption of coconut oil had a positive impact on good (HDL) cholesterol compared to those who either consumed less oil or none at all. This improvement on the good cholesterol appeared to be more significant in younger, pre-menopausal women than it was for post-menopausal women.
Aiming to find a relationship between consumption of coconut oil and fat reduction, a third study used a smaller sample of 20 obese but otherwise healthy volunteers who consumed virgin coconut oil for a total of 4 weeks. Participants were aged between 20-60 years old and had a BMI of over 23kg/m². Measurements were taken 1 week prior to the 4 week study, and the same measurements were taken 1 week after the study was completed. The results found that although there was no apparent change in lipid levels, waist circumference of the subjects reduced significantly, with a mean reduction of 2.86cm from the original measurement.
Side Effects Associated with Coconut Oil
As coconut oil is a food product that is growing in popularity and is available to buy from supermarkets and a range of other reputable retailers, it’s generally believed that it’s safe to be consumed orally daily. WebMD’s page for coconut oil agrees that it should be safe to consume in amounts found in food, or when used as an ordinary cooking agent. They do warn that due to the fat content, it could cause weight gain or increase cholesterol when consumed in excessive quantities.
However, this doesn’t refer to just using it as a healthier alternative to other cooking oils, because all oils contain fatty acids. Furthermore, they say that while coconut oil may elevate levels of bad (LDL) cholesterol in high doses, there’s evidence to suggest that it might also increase levels of good (HDL) cholesterol, but more research is needed.
They also state that coconut oil should be safe to ingest by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, when consumed in the normal quantities found in food, but evidence regarding larger quantities is very limited.
One study investigates the safety of coconut oil and its ‘related ingredients’, and concludes that it should be safe for cosmetic use as a fragrant, hair conditioning agent or as a moisturiser for the skin. In terms of using coconut oil for weight loss, this study found that in a sample of 20 obese but healthy human volunteers, the coconut oil caused no adverse effects, and the researchers concluded that it was safe to be consumed by humans. However, more varied evidence may be required.
How to Use Coconut Oil
Allegedly, there are many different uses for coconut oil: it’s said to be good for moisturising the skin, repairing and strengthening hair, whitening teeth and removing makeup, amongst many others. However, coconut oil is also said to promote weight loss, and this can be incorporated into your diet as a substitute to other oils in cooking, acting as a healthy alternative.
To use as a beauty agent, you generally ‘melt’ clumps of the coconut oil between your hands. In cooking, however, coconut oil is to be melted properly until it’s turned into a clear liquid. This can be done simply in a pan before frying, or in the microwave for no more than 30 seconds if you’re using it to roast, or in a baking recipe.
Some people suggest consuming coconut oil on its own before each of their meals to allow its claimed metabolism boosting effects work on the body before food is consumed. This can either be achieved by consuming coconut oil capsules, or by ingesting coconut oil straight from the jar.
It’s believed that you can melt the coconut oil with hot water or herbal tea before drinking it to create a drink, or you can simply spoon it out of the jar and let it melt in your mouth, if you want to eat it straight-up.
It’s said that people should consume different amounts of coconut oil before meals depending on their body weight. It’s advised that those who weigh 90-130lbs should consume 1 tbsp of coconut oil before meals, people who weigh 131-180lbs should take 1.5tbsp and those weighing more than 180lbs should ingest 2tbsp before each meal.
Where to Buy Coconut Oil
Coconut oil can be purchased from most high street supermarkets at varied prices, ranging roughly from £2 – £15 per jar, depending on the brand and the size of the jar. Coconut oil for cooking generally comes in a jar and is solid, requiring users to spoon it out and melt before using. You can also buy coconut oil online from an array of different retailers and websites. For example, Holland and Barrett sell a variety of different coconut oil products, ranging from standard jars to capsules to beauty products with coconut oil as an ingredient within them.
Drugstores such as Superdrug and Boots also sell coconut oil-based products, but these aren’t the same and are not to be consumed, as they contain other ingredients, and they’re fragranced. For those who just want their bodies to benefit from coconut oil’s potential benefits, without using it in cooking, coconut oil capsules can also be purchased online from a selection of different retailers. These include online marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay, who also sell standard coconut oil, too.
In conclusion, coconut oil may have potential benefits, and evidence implies that it could aid in weight loss, and it can easily be added to your diet as a healthy substitute to other oils. Coconut oil can be added to smoothies and other recipes to allegedly make them healthier, and it can even be consumed on its own or in capsules before meals. Although more clinical evidence may be needed, there appear to be no obvious side effects associated with coconut oil both orally and when applied to the skin or scalp. However, as always, coconut oil should be consumed in moderation and is likely to only be effective when combined with a healthy diet and regular exercise.
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