Coconut Oil for Weight Loss
by Brian Shilhavy
Editor, Health Impact News
I would like to say that I have been on Virgin Coconut Oil for the past 2 months (4 tablespoons daily) and feel better than I have in a long time! My energy levels are up & my weight is down. I am never hungry anymore, & have incorporated a daily exercise routine & have lost 20 pounds. Paula (Coconut Diet Forums)
The above quote is quite typical of what we are seeing from those who are switching to Virgin Coconut Oil (VCNO) in place of less healthy oils in their diet. Many people are reporting that consumption of VCNO is bringing about increased energy levels, fewer cravings for carbs and sweets, and a more satisfied feeling of being “full” after meals.
Since beginning to use Tropical Traditions Virgin Coconut Oil, about 8 months ago, I have: experienced a noticeable increase in my energy, rid myself of cravings for carbs, cleared up my complexion (which has always been a problem) gotten the silkiest, most glorious hair from using it internally AND lost 16 pounds. This oil does all that it promises, and more! Sharon Elaine, author
So how does Virgin Coconut Oil provide these weight loss benefits?
Low-fat Diets Don’t Work
During the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States and rates remain high. In 2010, no state had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%. Thirty-six states had a prevalence of 25% or more; 12 of these states (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia) had a prevalence of 30% or more.
Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson stated ten years ago: “We’ve seen virtually a doubling in the number of obese persons over the past two decades and this has profound health implications. Obesity increases a person’s risk for a number of serious conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and some types of cancer.”1 Ten years later things are no better, but actually worse.
Obviously, low-fat diets have not helped Americans lose weight, as today nearly two thirds of all adults in the US are classified as overweight. We’ve been told for years that we should avoid fat as much as possible. Some people have been on a torturous low-fat regimen, trying to avoid all fat in their diet. Now we are learning about the dangers of low-fat diets. Certain fats are necessary and even healthy, but which ones?
My name is Kelly, and I have been on a quest for health for several years now. At one time I was severely obese. I have since lost 140 pounds. I read about the health benefits of coconut oil over a year ago, and added the oil to my daily regimen. Within a week, I had more energy, and was feeling like a different person. I love Tropical Traditions Virgin Coconut Oil, it is the best I have tried, and I will continue to use this oil forever. The quality cannot be matched. Kelly – Lander, WY
Fats in History
Fats have always been a part of human nutrition. Rex Russell, M.D. writes: “It was 1944, and World War II was roaring. A young mother was wasting away with an infection diagnosed as tuberculosis. Antibiotics were unavailable. Her doctor prescribed (1) isolation, (2) bed rest, (3) exercise (eventually) and (4) a diet high in fat. Surprising, but true! High-fat diets were often recommended by the medical profession during those years. Before you scoff, you might want to know that this lady recovered. She is my mother, and she has stayed on this diet through the years. Presently she is enjoying her great-grandchildren”2 So while the experts claimed “fats are good” prior to World War II, now we hear just the opposite.
So what actually constituted a “high-fat” diet back in the 1800s until the 1940s? Basically butter, eggs, nuts and animal fats such as lard and beef tallow. Margarines, which were introduced in the 1860s, were butter substitutes made with animal fats such as lard and tallow or the saturated vegetable oils from coconut oil and palm oils. These high-fat diets, considered then to be healthy, were rich in saturated fats, today seen by many as the worst possible fat one can consume. However, drastically reducing saturated fats from the modern diet has not solved any health problems, and statistics show that obesity rates are at an all-time high. The low-fat advice is losing credibility.
>Fats and oils are technically known as “lipids.” If a lipid is liquid at room temperature, it is called an “oil.” If it is solid, it is called a “fat.” Fats can be found in many food sources in nature: animal meats (such as tallow and lard), marine animals (fish oil), vegetables and fruits (such as olives, avocados, coconuts, etc.), nuts and seeds/legumes (soybeans, sesame seeds, peanuts, cashews, grape seeds, etc.), and whole grains (wheat, rice, etc. – must contain the bran and all components to benefit from all the oils present). A diet rich in natural foods will be a naturally high-fat diet! It is virtually impossible to eliminate fats from our diet. And we wouldn’t want to! Fats are an essential part of life. Without them, we could not survive.
Four vitamins—A, D, E, and K—are soluble in fat; fat carries fat-soluble vitamins. When fat is removed from a food, many of the fat-soluble compounds are also removed.
Fat also adds satiety to our meal—a feeling of having had enough to eat. Fat-free and low-fat foods are one of the reasons some people over-eat carbohydrates, which really packs on the pounds. They just don’t feel like they’ve had enough to eat, even when the volume has been more than enough.
I have been taking a tablespoon of coconut oil three times daily with meals. Taking the oil with my meals seems to give me a “full feeling” a lot faster. My sweet tooth has practically vanished—and this is from someone who should have bought stock in Hershey’s long ago! Ironically, facilitating weight loss was my main reason for trying the coconut oil diet, but with all the wonderful benefits I am experiencing, the weight loss aspect almost seems like an afterthought. About three days into the routine, I had an energy rush on a Saturday morning that kept me going until well after lunch. I can’t believe how much I got done that day! My mental state of mind seemed to be much sharper. I was able to focus on the tasks at hand without getting sidetracked. I was not exhausted at the end of running my errands, which included traipsing around a huge mall. It seemed like I was practically running, rather than the leisurely walking that was formerly my habit. In addition to my energy level, my mood has been very stable—no up and down mood swings—even with the onset of PMS! My husband commented yesterday on how soft and silky my skin felt, and I have not used any lotion since I started taking the oil. Theresa (Coconut Diet Forums)
Fats for Animal Feeds
One interesting way to study the role of fats and their affect on weight loss or weight gain is to study the animal feed industry. If ever there was a group of people with economic interest in weight gain, it is the livestock industry.
Back in the days when fat was “in,” the fatter the pig you could raise the better. Lard was a basic staple for cooking in the days of our forefathers. It was found that feeding pigs polyunsaturated fats (primarily soybean and corn oil) would put more fat on them. This is the reaction of the longer chain fatty acids found in vegetable oils, and is well documented in the scientific literature.
Today however, we’ve come full circle with our new low-fat mantra, and the consumer demand is now for low-fat meats. So how does one produce a leaner pork? Well according the Department of Animal Science of North Carolina State University, during the “finishing time” before slaughter, you stop feeding them polyunsaturated oils and start feeding them saturated fats.3 They used beef tallow in their experiment, which they found was a bit hard for the pigs to digest. So some farmers are now actually starting to use coconut oil, a plant-based saturated fat, instead.
So what are the fats found on the shelves of grocery stores today, that make up the majority of the US diet? Polyunsaturated fats: mostly soybean oil, which commonly is referred to as vegetable oil. These are the same fats that have been known to fatten livestock in the animal feed business. The saturated fats, which made up most of the fats in the diet of our forefathers, have been almost banned by modern nutrition advice. The result: lean pigs and obese people!!
Low-Carb Diets: Half the Story
Gary Taubes wrote a startling article in the New York Times in 2002 titled “What If it Were All a Big Fat Lie!” In it he stated:
The cause of obesity [is] precisely those refined carbohydrates at the base of the famous Food Guide Pyramid — the pasta, rice and bread — that we are told should be the staple of our healthy low-fat diet, and then add on the sugar or corn syrup in the soft drinks, fruit juices and sports drinks that we have taken to consuming in quantity if for no other reason than that they are fat free and so appear intrinsically healthy. While the low-fat-is-good-health dogma represents reality as we have come to know it, and the government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in research trying to prove its worth, the low-carbohydrate message has been relegated to the realm of unscientific fantasy.
Over the past five years, however, there has been a subtle shift in the scientific consensus. It used to be that even considering the possibility of the alternative hypothesis, let alone researching it, was tantamount to quackery by association. Now a small but growing minority of establishment researchers have come to take seriously what the low-carb-diet doctors have been saying all along. Walter Willett, chairman of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, may be the most visible proponent of testing this heretic hypothesis. Willett is the de facto spokesman of the longest-running, most comprehensive diet and health studies ever performed, which have already cost upward of $100 million and include data on nearly 300,000 individuals. Those data, says Willett, clearly contradict the low-fat-is-good-health message ”and the idea that all fat is bad for you; the exclusive focus on adverse effects of fat may have contributed to the obesity epidemic.”4
This started the current low-carb tidal wave because people generally have found that it is true: if you cut out refined carbohydrates you will lose weight.
But while these new low-carb diets are now challenging the low-fat hypothesis, there still seems to be mass confusion as to which fats and oils are actually healthy, and which ones are not. And no wonder. Probably no other food group has been politicized more in American nutrition than fats. With all the books and literature written on the subject, and each one practically contradicting each other, there is really only one book written by a lipid expert with no commercial ties to anyone in the edible oil industry. That book is “Know Your Fats: The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils, and Cholesterol” by Dr. Mary Enig, a nutritionist/biochemist with her Ph.D. in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Maryland. Much of her work is featured in the Weston Price Foundation that studies traditional foods.
I just had to tell you that your product has changed my life. For the past ten years I have been fighting hypothyroidism. I have gained over sixty pounds and it seems that lately my doctor is increasing the dosage of my thyroid medication nearly every month. After doing a lot of research, I first learned that it is probably up to me to cure myself, with a high protein – low carb diet. I started my new eating routine about three weeks ago and about a week later, after reading an article in Woman’s World Magazine, I purchased a 32 ounce jar of Tropical Traditions Virgin Coconut Oil at a local nutrition store. I mix 2 tablespoons with a low-carb protein drink every morning and the energy I sustain throughout the day is amazing. I have also lost 11 pounds in 3 weeks and walking on my treadmill for 30 minutes every evening after work is almost effortless. Thank You for this wonderful product. Cheryl – Texas
Let’s face it. The low-fat dietary dictum is a multi-billion dollar industry built upon a foundation of sinking sand. Not only does the scientific research show that the polyunsaturated vegetable oils promote weight gain, it also shows that they are not good as an animal feed either. While they do promote weight gain in livestock, they do so at the expense of another essential fatty acid: conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). CLA is found primarily in beef and dairy products, and cannot be produced in the human body. Research has shown that animals grazed strictly on grass, their natural diet, can have levels of CLA hundreds of times higher than animals raised on grain feeds. Also, in a study done by the Department of Animal Science at Southern Illinois University in 2003, it was found that beef finished off on soybean oil directly reduced the amount of CLA produced by ruminant animals.5 What are the known benefits of CLA, now that we have almost lost it from our meat and dairy sources? Among its benefits are: it destroys cancer cells, it reduces tumors, and it promotes weight loss while increasing muscle growth.
So while many people are seeing weight loss on low-carb diets because they are cutting back on refined carbohydrates, many do not see weight loss because they are still lacking proper fats in their diet, and most of the popular low-carb diets are giving mixed messages about which fats are healthy and which ones are not. If you choose the wrong fat and consume large quantities of it, such as hydrogenated polyunsaturated fats full of trans fatty acids, not only will you not have much success in losing weight, you will probably develop a whole host of other health problems.
When a dietary philosophy has been promoted as long as the current low-fat dogma has, and a multi-billion dollar industry feeds off it, we can expect it to die a slow death with much opposition, as America gets fatter and fatter because the popular media continues to propagate the low-fat myth. It is amazing to read new studies conducted that start with this myth as fact, and then construct their whole study to support it, never once questioning the “wisdom” behind the myth that is just accepted without question as fact.
>In a study published by British Journal of Nutrition, entitled “Effects of including a ruminally protected lipid supplement in the diet on the fatty acid composition of beef muscle,” the abstract begins like this: “Enhancing the polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) and decreasing the saturated fatty acid content of beef is an important target in terms of improving the nutritional value of this food for the consumer.” With this “truth” declared without any supporting evidence whatsoever, it goes on to show how one can increase the PUFA content of beef while decreasing the saturated fat content by feeding cows soybean, linseed and sunflower-seed oils.6And because this entire generation has been brainwashed into believing saturated fats are bad and polyunsaturated fats are good, this is seen as positive!
>But wait, it gets even worse. Have you noticed all the news lately about the epidemic of obesity among children? A study was published in 2003 by the Journal of the American Diet Association entitled “Soy-enhanced lunch acceptance by preschoolers.” The objective: “To evaluate acceptance of soy-enhanced compared with traditional menus by preschool children. Soy-enhanced foods were substituted on a traditional cycle menu, and the amount eaten, energy, and nutrient values for traditional and soy-enhanced lunches were compared.” The conclusion? “Soy-enhanced foods were successfully substituted for 23 traditional foods included in the cycle menus. Soy-enhanced foods tended to be higher in energy, protein, and iron. Traditional lunches tended to be higher in fat, saturated fat, and vitamin A.” Therefore “Preschool programs can substitute soy-enhanced for traditional foods, which will add variety to the diet without sacrificing taste, energy, or nutrient value.”6 Great! So since we start with the presupposition that saturated fats are bad and polyunsaturated fats are good, we can now design a study to “prove” we should be feeding preschoolers soy instead of “traditional foods.” And people continue to ask why children are so overweight today….. Other concerns about soy and children are not even addressed in this study, such as how large amounts of plant hormones (phyto-estrogens) in soy are equal to adult levels and can cause severe damage to the endocrine system of children.7
Traditional Fats are Best
So while we wait for the science to catch up with the truth, here is a better idea. Let’s go back and eat the traditional fats our forefathers and other traditional societies have eaten for hundreds and even thousands of years, and were known to be healthy. These fats are rich in saturated fats, and include healthy traditionally raised meat, dairy, and eggs. In tropical climates it includes coconut oil and palm oil. Coconut oil is unique in nature with medium chain fatty acids that are also found in human breast milk, with volumes of research showing that it leads to greater metabolism and weight loss.
Researchers now know that weight loss associated with coconut oil is related to the length of the fatty acid chains contained in coconut oil. Coconut oil contains what are called medium chain fatty acids, or medium chain triglycerides (MCTs for short). These medium chain fatty acids are different from the common longer chain fatty acids found in other plant-based oils. Most vegetable oils are composed of longer chain fatty acids, or triglycerides (LCTs). LCTs are typically stored in the body as fat, while MCTs are burned for energy. MCTs burn up quickly in the body.
Coconut oil is nature’s richest source of MCTs that increase metabolic rates and lead to weight loss. MCTs promote what is called thermogenesis. Thermogenesis increases the body’s metabolism, producing energy. Researchers in Japan have found that when you consume a food rich in MCTs such as coconut oil, the MCTs are absorbed and transported directly into the liver via the portal vein. They are metabolized rapidly by beta-oxidation, and they increase diet-induced thermogenesis.8 People in the animal feed business have known this truth for quite some time. If you feed animals vegetable oils, they put on weight and produce more fatty meat. If you feed them coconut oil, they will be very lean.
Another benefit of coconut consumption is it helps me control my blood sugar levels. Have you ever eaten any carb intensive food and had a sugar crash? Try eating some coconut oil along with the carb and it may prevent the sugar crash or at least mitigate them. I try to keep my blood sugar level steady all day and so have a nice level energy all day, and not ups and downs all day long. I use to always be a little chubby. (wonder why?) Eating coconut does help control the chubbiness. So the direct health benefits that I have experienced from coconut oil consumption is: increased thyroid function and the blessings that brings; eliminate yeast infections; and, it also helps me control blood sugar levels. I am sure the increased thyroid function and controlling the blood sugar accounts for not being chubby anymore and the stuff tastes good in food. – Phyllis (Coconut Diet Forums)
Scientific Studies on the Weight-Loss Effects of Coconut Oil’s MCTs
There are many studies proving this concept of thermogenesis and MCTs in the scientific literature. In 1989 a study was done in the Department of Pediatrics, Vanderbilt University, at Nashville TN. Ten male volunteers (ages 22 to 44) were overfed (150% of estimated energy requirement) liquid formula diets containing 40% of fat as either MCT or LCT. Each patient was studied for one week on each diet in a double-blind, crossover design. The results: “Our results demonstrate that excess dietary energy as MCT stimulates thermogenesis to a greater degree than does excess energy as LCT. This increased energy expenditure, most likely due to lipogenesis in the liver, provides evidence that excess energy derived from MCT is stored with a lesser efficiency than is excess energy derived from dietary LCT.”9
In another study conducted at the School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition, McGill University, Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec, Canada, the effects of diets rich in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) or long-chain triglycerides (LCTs) on body composition, energy expenditure, substrate oxidation, subjective appetite, and ad libitum energy intake in overweight men was studied. Twenty-four healthy, overweight men with body mass indexes between 25 and 31 kg/m(2) consumed diets rich in MCT or LCT for 28 days each in a crossover randomized controlled trial. Their conclusion: “Consumption of a diet rich in MCTs results in greater loss of AT compared with LCTs, perhaps due to increased energy expenditure and fat oxidation observed with MCT intake. Thus, MCTs may be considered as agents that aid in the prevention of obesity or potentially stimulate weight loss.”10
Scientific studies have reported that the fatty acids from MCTs in coconut oil are not easily converted into stored triglycerides, and that MCTs cannot be readily used by the body to make larger fat molecules. One animal feeding study evaluated body weight and fat storage for three different diets–low-fat diet, high-fat diet containing long-chain triglycerides (LCTs), and a high-fat diet containing MCTs. All animals were fed the selected diets for a period of 44 days. At the end of that time, the low-fat diet group had stored an average of 0.47 grams of fat per day; the LCT group stored 0.48 grams/day, while the MCT group deposited only 0.19 grams of fat per day, a 60% reduction in the amount of fat stored. The authors conclude that “the change from a low-fat diet to a MCT-diet is attended by a decrease in the body weight gain.”11
This study points out two important facts: First, when MCTs are substituted for LCTs in the diet, the body is much less inclined to store fat. Second, when we eat sensibly, a diet containing MCTs is more effective than a low-fat diet at decreasing stored fat.
In a human study, researchers compared the metabolic effects of 400-calorie meals of MCTs and LCTs by measuring metabolic rates prior to and six hours following the test meals. The results showed that the MCT-containing meals caused an average 12 percent increase in basal metabolic rate as compared with a 4 percent increase with the LCT-containing meal. The authors concluded that replacing dietary fats with MCTs could “over long periods of time produce weight loss even in the absence of reduced [caloric] intake.”12
Coconut oil is nature’s richest source of MCTs. Not only do MCTs raise the body’s metabolism leading to weight loss, but they have special health-giving properties as well. The most predominant MCT in coconut oil, for example, is lauric acid. Lipid researcher Dr. Jon Kabara states “Never before in the history of man is it so important to emphasize the value of Lauric Oils. The medium-chain fats in coconut oil are similar to fats in mother’s milk and have similar nutriceutical effects. These health effects were recognized centuries ago in Ayurvedic medicine. Modern research has now found a common link between these two natural health products—-their fat or lipid content. The medium chain fatty acids and monoglycerides found primarily in coconut oil and mother’s milk have miraculous healing power.”13 Outside of a human mother’s breast milk, coconut oil is nature’s most abundant source of lauric acid and medium chain fatty acids.
I’ve been over 100lbs overweight for 5 years. I struggled with ear and sinus infections, headaches, fatigue, high blood pressure (never been diagnosed). Everything in life seemed like work. I was miserable emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Well I’ve been consuming about 3-5 tablespoons of coconut oil per day and I feel amazing! I get a slight cold, but never get the secondary infection and beat the fever in 24 hours! I sleep better and wake up with a smile on my face. I’m more flexible. And I feel more at peace with my body. My spiritual life has improved and I am ready to pursue my dream of being a Christian Counselor. This has marked a pivotal change in my entire life including my marriage. This may sound silly. But I gained weight subconsciously because I didn’t want to be noticed by men. And by eating better I have allowed myself to be freed from this bondage. I don’t know how much I’ve lost, and choose not to watch the scales. But my clothes fit better, my muscles are stronger and people have noticed the loss. And now, with coconut oil, I actually have hunger pains. Our society is so focused on lowering the appetite, but a healthy appetite is good! I’m now satisfied with less food and not bound by sugar imbalance hunger. Bridgette (Coconut Diet Forums)
Over the past 18 months I’ve lost 107 pounds, going from 316 to 209 and from 52 to 36 pants (19 pounds to go). I lost the weight following a low carb, no sugar or grain, high saturated fat and high protein diet and eliminating ALL soy products and ALL polyunsatured vegetable oils. I used about 2 or 3T of Virgin Coconut Oil daily. <Chuck (<Coconut Diet Forums)
Do All Lose Weight While Using Coconut Oil?
No. We have also had testimonies from people stating that they did not lose weight. Coconut oil is NOT a magic bullet that one can just add to their diet and sit back and watch the pounds melt away. Some people have actually done that, but most people will not see that happen. For one thing, we have had people report that they could not lose weight until they cut out all polyunsaturated fats from their diet.
Also, many people have reported that while they did not lose weight, or maybe even put on a few pounds, that somehow their clothes started fitting better. We have heard this many times. Apparently Virgin Coconut Oil does help some people build muscle mass while trimming fat. Here is what one weight lifter, known as MG in the Coconut Diet Forums, reports:
Last year I was measured at 10.5% body fat. Last month, I hiked up my consumption [of Virgin Coconut Oil] from 4 tbsp /day to 6 tbsp/day. At the same time, I limited my carb intake at dinnertime. In a few weeks time, my bodyweight increased by about 4lbs. but body fat decreased to 9.6% – I did not change my workout intensity or frequency. My trainer is wondering what the heck am I taking (chest and thigh measurements increased). It blows ’em away when I say that I take Virgin Coconut Oil straight up. MG
It’s VCO and low carbs. I feel better than I have in a long time, my temp is actually over 98 (not all the time, but it’s better than those 94.5 readings). I’m a believer and hope to stick with it! I haven’t seen a big weight loss, but my clothes fit better and I know adding an exercise program will impact the weight. Val –(Coconut Diet Forums)
A few years after we recorded these testimonials, a study conducted in 2009 and published in the journal “Lipids” confirmed that reducing “abdominal obesity” was a characteristic of virgin coconut oil. Their study showed that supplementation with 30 ml a day (about 6 teaspoons) reduced “waist circumferences.”14
So for those who continue to insist that there is no evidence that coconut oil leads to weight loss, we respectfully disagree!
About the author: Unlike many people who write about coconut oil by simply reading about it, Brian Shilhavy actually lived in a coconut producing area of the Philippines for several years with his family, observing firsthand the differences between the diet and health of the younger generation and those of his wife’s parents’ generation still consuming a traditional diet. This led to years of studying Philippine nutrition and dietary patterns first hand while living in a rural farming community in the Philippines. Brian is the author of the best-selling book: Virgin Coconut Oil: How it has changed people’s lives and how it can change yours!
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