The world, especially within social media, loves coconut oil. Beauty brands put it in everything from their face packs to hair masks to skincare routines. Recently, coconut oil is making its way into weight loss circles. However, common sense dictates that oil and weight loss should not go together.
So, should you pay any attention to the latest coconut oil weight loss trend and add it to your healthy meal plan regimen?
It all started back in 2003 with the work of Marie-Pierre St-Onge, a professor of nutrition at Columbia University. Two studies were published claiming that eating foods with medium-chain fatty acids type of molecule found in coconut oil can help adults burn fat.
From there, the trend took off. People started adding coconut oil to morning coffee and protein shakes. Health magazines and dieting blogs praise coconut oil as a “fat-burning diet miracle” and even recommend as much as a tablespoon of oil with a morning glass of hot water.
Even though oil and weight loss usually don’t go together, followers of this trend say that the plant origins of the oil make it healthier than oils derived from animals. So, coconut oil is used as a substitute for butter and other saturated fatty acids. Believers also claim that coconut oil promotes a feeling of satisfaction after eating.
Despite the believers’ claims, limited research has been done to establish the correlation between coconut oil and weight loss. Whatever research is available is short-term or suggests that coconut oil does not have any measurable effect on effective weight loss.
Weight loss has been studied extensively by scientists. Healthy weight loss has one firmly established principle — you must maintain a negative calorie balance, aka you have to burn more calories than you eat. This is where the coconut-oil-weight-loss trend starts losing steam.
Coconut oil contains 12 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon. When you take a tablespoon of coconut oil, you consume around 120 calories, almost 90% of the daily recommended amount of saturated fats. So, if you add extra coconut oil calories to your daily diet, you must balance it somewhere throughout the day. If you don’t, you gain weight. So, you either have to do regular exercises or control the use of fats, which includes coconut oil.
In an academic article, Dr. Walter C. Willet of Harvard School of Public Health says that even though the HDL-boosting effect that coconut oil has may make it less harmful than high saturated fat content, it’s still not the best choice among oils to reduce heart disease risk.
Unfortunately, trends do get the best of us; but that’s not to say that coconut oil does nothing. Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are metabolized more efficiently than long-chain triglycerides (LCTs) present in dairy, milk, meat and other common oils. In short, MCTs in coconut oil are metabolized by the body more quickly than products with LCTs to be used as energy. Also, plant-based oils may contain many antioxidants and vitamins, boosting “good” HDL cholesterol. Coconut oil is also a good source of fats and instantly adds a tropical touch to a dish, so there’s no problem using coconut oil occasionally.
However, using coconut oil for weight loss today would be, at best, a gamble. So, instead of basing your weight loss journey on an unsubstantiated trend, use established principles of weight loss — perform regular exercises, control the calories you eat, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, drink a lot of water and avoid stress. Most importantly, always surround yourself with like-minded and positive people who support and empower you to make the changes you need to succeed.
About the Author
Juliette Wooten is the founder of a virtual gym on Youtube. Her mission is to inspire and motivate others to live healthy and active lives. She aims to provide the public with free high-quality workout videos so everyone can achieve long-lasting results.