Coconut is one item that is popularly used in Asian and Indian food.
So that includes coconut oil, coconut meat and coconut milk. Oh and coconut water which is one awesome refreshing natural beverage.
The coconut fruit is botanically divided into 3 parts: exocarp, mesocarp and endocarp.
Exocarp and mesocarp comprise the husk and fibre while endocarp is the edible portion (flesh and water). 100g of coconut kernel has high calories whereas coconut water is a low calorie drink.
Despite of the fat content, coconut is rich in bioactive substances which is why you should include it in your meals once in awhile. Also coconut oil application can give you healthy hair and glowing skin.
This article presents to you research conducted with regards to coconut and its use in weight management.
We hope this will help you to make a healthy choice regarding use of coconut.
Table of Contents
- What is the controversy regarding coconut oil fat content?
- How does coconut help in obesity?
- Research Study – Coconut vs. Olive Oil
What is the controversy regarding coconut oil fat content?
Since a long time there has been a lot of confusion regarding the nutritive value of coconut fats.
The idea that has been advertised is that saturated fats are unhealthy while unsaturated fats are not harmful.
92 % of coconut fats are saturated fats.
Coconut water has low fat content; coconut milk has 24% of fat content of oil while coconut meat has 34%.
One study suggests that this fat content can cause atherosclerosis and the lack of essential fatty acids in coconut constituents should be the reason why we should avoid it.
Reduction of dietary saturated fat and replacement with unsaturated fat is proven to improve lipid and cholesterol levels.
So if coconut fat is harmful for health why are presenting this article to you in the first place!? Here is the catch.
Coconut oil and its products are rich in medium chain triglycerides. These fats are healthy since they are absorbed intact, do not get converted into harmful products and are used directly by the body as an energy source.
Recent scientific research weakens the link between saturated fat and heart diseases.
Interestingly polyunsaturated fats or ‘healthy fats’ also promote inflammation and other diseases. Also replacing saturated fats in diet with carbohydrates can contribute to obesity.
You will find many research articles that suggest saturated fat and especially those found in coconuts is not healthy.
Yet there is not much evidence suggesting that coconut oil and its products can cause weight gain.
How does coconut help in obesity?
Following facts based on scientific evidences suggest the different ways by which coconut can help in weight loss.
1. Coconut oil is rich in medium chain triglyceride
Most of the weight loss success that research has proven with regards to coconut oil is due to the presence of medium chain triglyceride.
So what exactly are these compounds? Their name is attributed to the fact that their molecular structure contains 6-12 carbon atoms.
Long chain triglycerides have more than 12 carbon atoms, hence the name.
Coconut oil is rich in MCTs.
Here is some awesome news! Apart from overall body weight reduction, coconut oil fights the most dreaded fat- abdominal obesity.
A clinical trial was conducted wherein women were asked to consume either soy bean oil or coconut oil along with a low calorie diet.
Within 12 weeks, the group consuming coconut oil experienced improvement in lipid profile and reduction in waist circumference.
Researchers concluded that food supplemented with coconut oil can effectively reduce abdominal obesity without hampering cholesterol levels.
What does this mean? Coconut oil reduces body fat especially abdominal fat and promotes overall weight loss.
2. Coconut oil boosts CLA ‘s body weight lowering effect
CLA or Conjugated linoleic acid is known to reduce obesity and is used popularly as a weight loss supplement. Interesting enough coconut oil is proven to enhance its anti-obesity effect.
An experimental study (on mice) was designed to evaluate whether lack of essential fatty acids in coconut oil is the reason behind this effect. Mice fed with coconut oil & CLA were found to be leaner than those fed with soya bean oil & CLA. Addition of essential fatty acids did not seem to affect the weight of the mice fed with coconut oil.
So then what could be the reason?
Another study demonstrated that degradation of fats by CLA was more pronounced in the group fed with coconut oil than soya bean oil as coconut oil favoured production of enzymes that help in burning fats. Lipogenesis or production of fats was decreased in the group fed with coconut oil.
What does this mean? If you are taking CLA supplements, consuming food coconut oil will increase your weight loss outcome.
3. Coconut consumption lowers cholesterol
- Increasing levels of antioxidant and fat degrading enzymes
- Decreasing the activity of genes involved in fat production
- Reducing cholesterol levels
- Improving liver functioning
Coconut water is found to reduce lipid deposition in tissues such as heart, liver and kidneys in animal studies.
Due to its lipid lowering effect, virgin coconut oil is found to be healthy for the heart.
What does this mean? Coconut products, especially virgin coconut oil reduces cholesterol.
4. Coconut controls blood sugar
In other words they effectively control blood sugar which warrants their use in treating diabetes.
As we know every food we consume affects our blood sugar and insulin levels.
The amount by which it affects our blood sugar levels is measured as glycemic index. Low glycemic index foods promote satiety and control appetite.
Research proves that food products made from coconut flour are low in glycemic index and high in fibre which can serve to be healthy for diabetic patients.
D-xylose a compound derived from coconut suppresses post meal rise in blood sugar and insulin by inhibiting carbohydrate metabolising enzyme, sucrase.
What does this mean? Coconut products lower blood sugar which can help in treating diabetes and controlling appetite.
5. Antioxidant potential of coconut
Oxidative stress or imbalance between pro-oxidant and antioxidant agents in the body, is a common feature of most diseases.
It leads to excessive degradation of lipids (lipid peroxidation) and proteins which leads to cell death and tissue damage.
Most obese individuals have a poor antioxidant status making them susceptible to diseases like diabetes. The antioxidant potential of coconut products is useful in treating diabetes.
Coconut water has good antioxidant potential such that it can protect from oxidative damage caused by reactive compounds.
It increases the level of antioxidant enzymes and decreases lipid peroxidation.
Arginine is an amino acid (building block of proteins).
High content of arginine present in coconut kernel is thought to be responsible for the antioxidant and therapeutic effect of coconut kernel protein.
Virgin coconut oil is proven to improve antioxidant status better than copra oil, olive oil and sunflower oil by increasing activity of antioxidant enzymes and reducing oxidative stress.
What does this mean? Coconut water, oil and kernel can help replenish or boost your natural antioxidant status.
6. Hydrating your body with coconut water
Exercise definitely makes you lose weight but it also depletes your body fluids.
So what most people look forward to is a sports drink. But science has something else to offer.
In fact coconut water is better since it is sweeter, easier to consume in large amounts and does not cause any stomach upset.
The plus point is that coconut water is low in calories. So coconut water is a good alternative to other calorie dense drinks you might be consuming.
What does this mean? Coconut water is a healthier, low calorie alternative to sports drinks.
Research Study – Coconut vs. Olive Oil
One great way to keep eating foods you love is to prepare them with healthy ingredients.
One essential ingredient is cooking oil. Oil is a source of fat in the diet. FDA recommends that 30% or lesser calories should contribute to daily fat intake.
Olive oil is considered to be one of the healthiest oils.
Despite its touted benefits, is olive oil the best oil for weight loss?
A research study states that consumption of medium chain triacylglycerol oil leads to better weight loss than olive oil.
Medium chain triacylglycerol oils (MCT) have 6-12 carbon atoms in their structure and hence the name. Triacylglycerol is basically a group of 3 fatty acids (basic constituents of fat).
Coconut oil and palm kernel oil are the top sources of MCTs. Dairy products also provide MCTs but they are higher in saturated fats which isn’t healthy.
What happened in this study?
49 overweight individuals participated in a 16 week weight loss program.
Each subject received muffins cooked in olive oil or MCT oil and the same oil was given to the subject to be used for daily cooking.
What was the outcome?
Subjects consuming MCT oil lost on an average of 1.7 kg more than olive oil group. No difference was observed in waist circumference in both groups.
Total body fat and total body lean mass was found to be lower in MCT group. Muscle area and fat tissue near the abdomen turned out to be higher in those consuming olive oil.
How did this happen?
MCTs have lower calorie content than other fats and aid in burning more calories. Long chain triglycerides (LCT) are larger molecules which makes it difficult for the body to break them down.
MCTs on the other hand are smaller and hence digested easily. They are utilised immediately by the body as a source of energy and hence not easily deposited as fat.
MCTs are also found to control appetite and enhance satiety in comparison to LCT. This can help to reduce overall intake of calories and thus aid in weight loss.
What does this mean?
According to the study, it means that great weight loss and loss of fat mass can be achieved by consuming a weight loss diet cooked in moderate amount of MCT oil rather than one cooked in equivalent amount of olive oil.
Fats in any form are unhealthy if consumed in excess.
Science has very well busted the age old myth of coconut fat being unhealthy.
Replacing your cooking oil with coconut oil is one option for losing weight and replacing your high calorie beverages with coconut water is a healthy start.
Drinking coconut water alone will not help with weight loss.
Similarly coconut oil combined with a low calorie diet can aid in reducing body weight.
Additionally consuming other coconut products once in a blue moon can provide you with a number of health benefits.