FTC Disclosure: Delicious Obsessions may receive comissions from purchases made through links in this article. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.Read our full terms and conditions here.
UPDATE 7/24/17: It has been almost 5 years since I originally wrote this post. I really need to do an update to this post but have just not had time, nor have I quite figured out how to write the update that I want. You see, my views on weight loss and health have shifted quite a bit over the last few years and I no longer am a fan of promoting “weight loss strategies”. I am now a certified nutritional therapist and mind body nutrition coach and I work with clients on things like disordered eating, poor body image, etc. As you can imagine, weight is a touchy subject for those I work with and it’s an area that has required me to acquire a higher level of wisdom about.
The education I have received has really shifted my views on weight loss and everything that goes with it. Weight is a complicated and deeply personal thing and must be addressed on a deeper level than just “take this”, “eat that”, etc. We have been fed lie after lie by the diet industry and Western medicine and our health is paying the price for it. Weight loss is far more than what we eat, it’s what we think, how we process emotions, what our environments are like, what our health status is, etc. For more info on my shifts in thinking, you can visit my other site here.
Ironically, I started developing an aversion to coconut oil a couple years ago and I think it was partially due to the fact I was eating SO much of it for that period of time. I do still use it because I believe it’s one of the healthiest oils out there, but when I do it’s in small amounts like cooking and baking. I can’t tolerate eating it by the spoonful anymore.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE, PUBLISHED AUG. 2014
If there’s one thing you guys know I’m crazy about, it’s coconut oil! That’s why I have an entire section of my site dedicated to the subject!
I love coconut oil for many reasons — it’s great for cooking and baking, it’s great for skin care, it promotes wellness in the body, and much more.
But, coconut oil holds a special place in my heart because it helped me lose 40 pounds.
Back in 2012, when I started to get serious about my health, I was 60 pounds overweight and had just been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease. I knew it was time to put my health first and start fixing my body. I’m not going to go into all of that here, but one of the main things I focused on was healing my body so I could lose the excess weight.
I upped my coconut oil A LOT (which I talk about in this post) and within 6 months I had dropped 40 pounds. I attribute the coconut oil to my weight loss, because I was not doing any sort of hard exercise — just walking and gentle yoga — as I worked on healing my adrenals. I was also eating a clean diet, but eating a lot of food (to support my thyroid and adrenals). I have also read countless other people’s stories where coconut oil has helped them drop weight, whether it be a lot or a little, so I know I am not alone in my experience.
I am not saying that coconut oil is a magic pill, but it is an excellent food to keep in your wellness toolbox and if you’re thinking about dropping a few pounds, consider checking it out. I still have some more weight that I want to lose, but I know that will come with time. I have to keep healing my body and the weight will then come off.
If you’re wondering how and why coconut oil can help you lose weight, then this is a must read post. It’s all well and good to say coconut oil helps with weight loss and boosting the metabolism, but why does it?
If you want to learn more about coconut oil, then you simply must check out my Coconut Oil Health section.
Afraid that the high-calorie content of fat will make you fat? Don’t be! Read this post.
How Coconut Oil Can Help You Lose Weight
Coconut oil is the world’s most weight loss friendly fat.
It contains a unique combination of fatty acids with powerful effects on metabolism.
Several studies show that just by adding coconut oil to your diet, you can lose fat, especially the “dangerous” fat in the abdominal cavity.
Let me explain how that works…
Coconut Oil is High in Medium Chain Triglycerides, Fatty Acids That Boost Metabolism
Coconut oil is vastly different from most other fats in the diet.
The thing with these medium chain fatty acids, is that they are metabolized differently than the longer chain fats.
They are sent straight to the liver from the digestive tract, where they are either used for energy right away or turned into ketone bodies.
There is also some evidence from animal studies that medium chain fats are stored less efficiently than other fats.
In one study, rats were overfed with either long chain or medium chain fats. The rats fed the medium chain fats gained 20% less weight and 23% less body fat (3).
Bottom Line: Coconut oil is high in Medium Chain Triglycerides, which are fatty acids that are metabolized differently than most other fats, leading to beneficial effects on metabolism.
How Coconut Oil Can Boost Metabolism, Making You Burn More Calories at Rest
A calorie is not a calorie.
Different foods and macronutrients go through different metabolic pathways.
The different types of foods we eat can have a huge effect on our hormones and metabolic health.
Some metabolic pathways are more efficient than others and some foods require more energy to digest and metabolize.
One important property of coconut oil is that it is “thermogenic” – eating it tends to increase energy expenditure (fat burning) compared to the same amount of calories from other fats (4).
In one study, 15-30 grams (1 to 2 tablespoons) of medium chain fats per day increased energy expenditure by 5%, totaling about 120 calories per day (5).
Therefore, a calorie from coconut oil is NOT the same as a calorie from olive oil or butter (although these fats are perfectly healthy too).
Bottom Line: Many studies show that medium chain triglycerides can boost metabolism, in one study increasing energy expenditure by 120 calories per day.
Coconut Oil Can Reduce Appetite, Making You Eat Less Without Trying
“Weight loss is all about calories in, calories out.”
Even though I think this is a drastic oversimplification, it is mostly true.
If your body expends more energy (calories) than it takes in, then you will lose fat.
But even though it is true that we need to be in a calorie deficit to lose weight, it doesn’t mean that calories are something that we need to count or be consciously aware of.
Humans are very capable of remaining lean and healthy in their natural environment. The obesity epidemic didn’t start until 1980 and we didn’t even know what a calorie was back in the day.
Anything that reduces our appetite can make us take in fewer calories without having to think about it. It appears that coconut oil has this effect.
Many studies on medium chain fatty acids show that, compared to the same amount of calories from other fats, they increase feelings of fullness and lead to an automatic reduction in calorie intake (7).
This may be related to the way these fats are metabolized. It is well known that ketone bodies (which the liver produces when you eat coconut oil) can have a powerful appetite reducing effect (8, 9, 10).
Whatever the mechanism is, it works. In one study of 6 healthy men, eating a high amount of MCTs caused them to automatically eat 256 fewer calories per day (11).
In another study of 14 healthy men, those who ate MCTs at breakfast ate significantly fewer calories at lunch (12).
So… coconut oil boosts fat burning (increases “calories out”) and it also reduces the appetite (reduces “calories in”).
Bottom Line: Many studies show that people who add Medium Chain Fatty Acids to their diet have reduced appetite and start eating fewer calories automatically.
Coconut Oil Can Help You Lose Fat, Especially The “Dangerous” Abdominal Fat
If coconut oil can boost metabolism and reduce appetite, then it should help you lose fat over the long term.
In fact, there are several studies that support this.
In one study, 40 women were given either 30 grams (2 tablespoons) of either coconut oil or soybean oil for 28 days.
They were instructed to eat fewer calories and walk every day. These were the results (13):
- Both groups lost weight (about 2 pounds).
- Only the coconut oil group had decreased waist circumference (belly fat) while the soybean oil actually had a mild increase in belly fat.
- The coconut oil group had increased HDL (good) cholesterol levels, while the soybean oil had reduced HDL and increased LDL.
In this study, coconut oil did not cause overall weight loss compared to soybean oil, but it did lead to a significant reduction in belly fat.
In another study in obese men, 30 grams of coconut oil for 4 weeks reduced waist circumference by 2.86 cm, or 1.1 inches (14).
The weight loss effects of coconut oil appear to be fairly mild, except for the abdominal fat.
Abdominal fat, also called visceral fat or belly fat, is the fat that tends to lodge around your organs and cause inflammation, diabetes and heart disease.
Any reduction in abdominal fat is likely to have very positive effects on your metabolic health, longevity and drastically reduce your risk of chronic disease.
These results are far from being dramatic, but consider that all these people are doing is adding coconut oil to their diet.
Therefore, coconut oil can support a healthy, real-food based weight loss diet, but don’t expect it to work any miracles on its own.
If you’re interested in even more research on coconut oil, then you can find a very impressive collection of studies here.
Bottom Line: Eating coconut is particularly effective at reducing the harmful belly fat in the abdominal cavity, which is strongly associated with disease.
What About The Calories?
It’s important to keep in mind that coconut oil is fat.
Fat has 9 calories per gram… and coconut oil is no exception.
Therefore, if you are eating a fixed amount of calories and then add coconut oil on top of that, then it’s likely to make you gain weight, not lose.
However, most people aren’t counting calories and eating a fixed amount per day.
In these cases, adding coconut oil to your diet will reduce your appetite and probably make you eat less of other foods instead.
So this really is not about adding fat calories to your diet, it is about replacing some of your other cooking fats with coconut oil.
It’s also important not to go overboard and think you need to add tons of coconut oil to your diet to reap the benefits. The studies above used about 30 grams per day, which equals 2 tablespoons.
Even if coconut oil is good for cooking and has some powerful health benefits, your diet should still consist primarily of whole, nutritious foods like plants and animals.
You can read more about the other amazing health benefits of coconut oil here.
Looking for more coconut oil info? I’ve got you covered! Click the link below.