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.
This article explains how coconut oil can help you lose weight and belly fat.
Did you know that coconut oil has earned its reputation as the world’s only natural, low-calorie fat?
If you pick a few brands of virgin coconut oil and calculate their energy value (calories) contained in one gram of fat, you would have gotten a range of 9 kcal +/- few percent, which has pretty much the same calorie per gram (i.e. 9 kcal/g) as animal fats and other vegetable oils.
In fact, coconut oil carries fewer calories because it contains medium-chain fatty acids that are smaller in size than the fatty acids in animal fats and other vegetable oils.
For example, MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) oil has an effective energy value of 6.8 kcal/g. It carries only caprylic and capric acids – the 2 medium-chain fatty acids that are also found in coconut oil. But because coconut oil also contains the relatively longer medium-chain lauric acid and other long-chain fatty acids such as myristic, palmitic and oleic acids etc (these fatty acids have energy values ranging from approx. 8 to 9.4 kcal/g), the overall actual energy value of coconut oil becomes roughly 8.6 kcal/g.
That’s just a few percent lower than the actual energy values in animal fats and other vegetable oils, which I think is the reason why coconut oil manufacturers simplify the caloric calculation by rounding it up to 9 kcal/g and make coconut oil appear as having somewhat similar energy value as those in animal fats and other vegetable oils.
Apparently, this small discrepancy in energy value is not significant enough for coconut oil to get its low-calorie reputation as a fat. It actually attributes to coconut oil’s inherent fat-burning characteristic that makes it well-known as a low-calorie fat. Let me explain.
Suppose your daily diet contains 500 kcal of fat coming entirely from olive oil. (Olive oil comprises entirely long-chain triglycerides, aka LCTs.) Coconut oil is vastly different from most other fats in the diet.
Whereas most foods contain predominantly long-chain fatty acids, coconut oil consists almost entirely of Medium Chain Fatty Acids. 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. These fats are often used by epileptic patients on a ketogenic diet, in order to increase ketone levels while allowing for a bit more carbs in the diet.
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.
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.
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.
Several other studies confirm these findings. When humans replace the fats they are eating with MCT fats, they burn more calories.
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).
How to Use Coconut Oil for Weight Loss?
I’ve had people asking me whether they can use coconut oil topically by massaging the oil into their skin and get the same fat-burning effect as eating the oil.
Well, I do come across people who rub coconut oil on their belly get 1-2 inches off after many weeks of sheer topical application. But not all get the same result. Some reported the exact same waistline before and after the rub but almost all experience the same thing – their belly skin feels smoother and softer than before.
That’s because coconut oil speeds up the removal of dead cells on the outer surface of our skin, allowing new cells to quickly take their place. So when you use coconut oil on your skin, it actually benefits your skin more than it does for weight loss.
For those who do really get some inches off their waistline, I think the act of massaging itself is more likely the “culprit” that helps to “scrape” some inches off as massage might break down the fibrous tissue that holds the fat in place, dispersing (not burning) the fat as a result. Additionally, repetitive massaging encourages your lymph glands to flush out excess fluid, which might also have a slimming effect on your belly.
Having said that, don’t be surprised to rub off some belly inches even when you use other oils or just normal cream on your skin instead of coconut oil because it is essentially the act of massage that works.