Coconut oil, an ally for weight control
In the 90s of the twentieth century began to talk about the harmful nature of fatty acids. Doctors point them as the main cause of the growing obesity in the world. But, given recent research, we ask ourselves: why is it said that coconut oil – despite being formed in 95% fatty acids – can help us in weight control?
Does coconut oil really “work”?
The coconut oil has been a controversial fat but is now considered as a source of good quality grease. It is extracted from coconut fruits, grown in the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Indonesia. These countries are the largest distributors of coconut oil in the world. Coconut oil is obtained by grating the copra, that is, the dried pulp of the coconut, boiling it and pressing (1).
Coconut Oil Composition
To be exact, we will analyse the Extra Virgin coconut oil, cold-pressed and unrefined. We find the following combination of fatty acids:
Fatty acids present in Extra Virgin coconut oil, cold-pressed (2):
Saturated fats: 85.0 – 95.0
C18: 0 stearic acid 2.5 – 3.5
C16: 0 palmitic acid 7.5-9.5
C14: 0 myristic acid 17.0-18.50
Medium Chain Fatty Acids (AGCM): 60 – 63
C12: 0 lauric acid 47.0 – 50.0
C10: 0 caprylic acid 5.0 – 7.0
C8: 0 capric acid 8.0 – 9.0
C6: 0 caproic acid 0.8-0.95
Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA): C18: 1 oleic 4.5 – 6.0
Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA): <2.0 C18: 2 linoleic 0.7 – 1.5 C18: 3 α-linolenic <0.5
Analysing the composition of coconut oil we can see that 60% of the fatty acids it contains are medium-chain fatty acids (AGCM), called medium chain triglycerides (TGCM – between 6 and 12 carbon atoms). They are the most beneficial for health; much more than long chain fatty acids (AGCL), present in most vegetable oils. Long chain fatty acids are not as healthy as medium chain ones. Why?
Why medium-chain fatty acids are healthier
For starters, medium chain fatty acids (AGCM) are smaller, which makes it easier for them to pass through cells and do not require the participation of enzymes. They are absorbed more easily and do not impair the proper functioning of our metabolism. On the contrary, they stimulate and help you lose weight (3).
Thanks to the composition of coconut oil and the presence of AGCM (medium chain fatty acids), it has been isolated from the oil and used as nutritional supplements for athletes, or as an ingredient in nutritional mixtures for people with digestive problems. Also, they are part of baby food. Why? Because of its properties: to digest them you don’t need so many enzymes and so much energy. Thanks to this they are better absorbed. Medium chain fatty acids are highly recommended for celiacs and in the case of some diseases: such as Crohn’s disease or mucoviscidosis.
So, taking into account research, what is the relationship of coconut oil with obesity and overweight?
Recent research shows that one of the biggest benefits of coconut oil is its ability to stimulate metabolic processes. What is curious is the fact that these properties were discovered by some farmers already in the 40s of the twentieth century. These farmers were looking for a way to prime cattle, using cheap oils. They tried it with coconut oil and the result was totally opposite to what was expected – the bodies of the animals lost weight and became more defined. Years later, research came to explain that phenomenon.
There are several published scientific articles in which it can be seen that replacing long-chain fatty acids with medium-chain fatty acids produces a reduction in body fat. Its easy absorption and the fact of stimulating metabolism and providing energy make them the best allies of athletes. Medium-chain fatty acids can improve the physical condition and efficiency of the organism (4).
Another very important fact is the energy value of AGCM: it is 10% lower than that of long-chain fatty acids, which facilitates their oxidation in the liver and prevents fat accumulation. Besides, the rapid oxidation of medium-chain acids after meals increases thermogenesis and, therefore, speeds up the metabolism considerably (6).
All these data allow us to conclude that we can currently recommend the consumption of virgin coconut oil in our diet, based on its nutritional benefits. Of course, it should be noted that the complexity of obesity is not reduced only to weight loss: there are other very important factors related to lifestyle. It is absolutely necessary to modify eating habits and increase physical activity. However, coconut oil will be a great ally in the fight against obesity and overweight.
- Howard BV, Manson JE, Stefanick ML, Beresford SA, Frank G, Jones B, Rodabough RJ, Snetselaar L, Thomson C, Tinker L, Vitolins M, Prentice R. JAMA. 2006 Jan 4; 295 (1): 39-49.
- Marina AM et al., Trends Food Sci Technol, 2009, 20, 481-487
- Guo W et al., J Nutr, 2003,133,2512-2518
- White MD, Am J Clin Nutr, 1999,69,883-889