Coconut Oil May Be the Latest Weapon in the Battle of the “Bulge”

Americans seem to be on a constant battle to lose weight and inches from the waistline, and it seems coconut oil is the latest weapon touted to help win this war. This leaves one questioning is coconut oil as great as its wondrous and miraculous promotion? There have been only a few small studies on the benefits of coconut oil and weight loss, and for the most part, the jury still seems out.

Coconut oil is extracted from the flesh or meat of ripe coconuts and when the oil is in its raw form, it turns into a hardened mass resembling lard. Consumers are likely to see two forms of coconut oil on store shelves – “Virgin” and “Refined.” Virgin coconut oil is extracted from the flesh without the use of chemicals or high temperatures. Refined coconut oil is extracted from dried coconut flesh that is usually deodorized and chemically treated. Another form of further processed coconut oil used in the processing of food is partially hydrogenated coconut oil.

It is best to know the nutritional makeup of any foods consumed on a diet and coconut oil is no exception.

Coconut oil is high in saturated fat, those found in animal fats and tropical oils, and has a higher saturated fat content than butter and is considered a solid fat. The oil’s basic nutritional properties are:

  • One tablespoon equals 117 calories
  • 13.6g total fat (11.8g saturated fat, 0.8g monounsaturated fat, 0.2g polyunsaturated fat)
  • 0 grams protein
  • 0 grams carbohydrates
  • 0 grams of cholesterol
  • Trace amounts of Vitamins E & K, Iron

Due to its high content of fat and calories, dieters should add coconut oil into their diets in moderation and by eliminating another fat. As one can see, it wouldn’t take long to consume a vast amount of fat and calories from coconut oil. On a brighter note, coconut oil contains some antioxidant properties, phenolic compounds, derived from its plant-based nutrients.

Concerning cholesterol and coconut oil, Walter C. Willett, M.D. from the Harvard School of Public Health gives us another positive note about the oil,

“What’s interesting about coconut oil is that it also gives “good” HDL cholesterol a boost. Fat in the diet, whether it’s saturated or unsaturated, tends to nudge HDL levels up, but coconut oil seems to be especially potent at doing so.”

Kathy Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. further explains, “Short-term studies have suggested medium-chain fatty acids, such as lauric acid, do not raise serum low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol as much as do long-chain fatty acids. However, there are few long-term studies looking at the relationship between coconut oil and heart health.”

She goes on to caution dieters, “Consuming too much will give you extra calories — and that can signal to your body that it’s time to store more fat. Even if the stored fat doesn’t come directly from the coconut oil, high doses of coconut oil could still indirectly contribute to the very problem you are trying to address.”

Besides being tasty, it does seem that coconut oil does have some healthy benefits when used in moderation. It also seems more research is needed on the actual benefits of coconut oil and weight loss. As with everything in life and it stands true with coconut oil, too much of any good thing can be bad.