The coconut (Cocos nucifera) , whose plant originated in tropical countries, such as Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Philippines, is entirely consumed as a fruit, and like beverages, oils or snack in many ethnic cuisines, most recently also adopted in Western culinary culture the aroma and taste suitable for both sweet and savory dishes and for the nutritional properties provided by a regular consumption of its pulp. The extracted oil is widely used as a condiment for dishes and in natural cosmetics for the treatment of skin and hair .
In the past he was condemned by an unscrupulous smear campaign. The harmful effects listed in that propaganda were based on the fruit’s high saturated fat content and how this carried an increased cardiovascular risk. In the following decades, these evaluations were reconsidered thanks to a detailed analysis of the lipid fraction which provided a clearer interpretation of the functions of the individual components.
We distinguish long-chain fats, such as palmitic, stearic and myristic acid, and medium-chain, such as lauric, caprylic and capric acid. This last category is the most represented, attributing various properties to coconut oil , including, apparently, even the slimming one. In this article we will focus on this property and we will deepen why coconut oil makes you lose weight and how to use it correctly.
Coconut oil for weight loss: how and why coconut oil stimulates the metabolism
Among the various beneficial properties of coconut oil , it is noteworthy that it promotes fat metabolism , thus making it useful in the slimming process . This might seem counterintuitive, given its almost total composition of lipids and the energy of about 800 kilocalories supplied per 100g of product consumed.
The slimming property of coconut oil is to be attributed to the high content of medium chain fatty acid (MCFA) and medium chain triglyceride (MCT), respectively medium chain fats and medium chain triglycerides . Fatty acids are categorized into these classes based on their chain length, i.e. the number of carbon atoms in the chain. The MCFA are constituted by chains of up to 6 chains of 12 carbons. The MCT are complex consisting of a molecule of glycerol with three “arms” that bind 3 molecules of MCFA .
The presence of lauric acid (with 12 carbons) in coconut oil MCTs has important consequences in the digestion and absorption process . In fact, MCTs are more soluble in water and more digested by pancreatic lipases than long-chain triglycerides, releasing lauric acid which will mostly be transported directly to the liver through the portal vein. At this point the lauric acid will be metabolized in the mitochondria, the energy plants of our cells, permeating faster through the mitochondrial membrane without the use of carnitine , a shuttle used instead by long-chain fatty acids.
Within the mitochondrion, lauric acid, as well as the other fatty acids of coconut oil, will be metabolized in the mechanism known as beta-oxidation and broken up into smaller molecules, called acetyl-CoA, which can be converted into ketone bodies . sources of energy for other tissues, such as the brain, muscle and heart.
Furthermore , coconut oil helps to lose weight since the lauric acid contained in it seems to directly activate two fundamental proteins in the metabolism of fatty acids, PPAR-α / γ and UCP1 . The first is involved in the homeostasis of fatty acids and in the improvement of the insulin response. The second is a decoupling protein, called thermogenin , associated with brown adipose tissue (BAT) specialized in ” burning fat “. Lauric acid activating thermogenin promotes the dissipation of the energy produced by the fats themselves in heat.
Therefore, the intake of coconut oil seems to stimulate the metabolism of fats leading us to eliminate excess fat , obviously when included in a healthy and hypo or normocaloric meal plan. Furthermore, the greatest benefits have been found in the case of a slow metabolism or weight loss block or in a low calorie ketogenic diet (VLCKD), because it seems to speed up the entry into ketosis.
How much coconut oil to take to get benefits
L ‘ coconut oil occurs in solid formed with a very high melting point (approx 25 ° C) so that is often named as coconut butter . We recommend keeping it in the refrigerator or in a cool place during the summer season and in dark glass jars or covered with aluminum foil, even if it is less thermo and photo sensitive than other fats.
L ‘ coconut oil can be extracted from fresh or dried pulp, known as copra, and be bleached, deodorized and leading to a refined product of lesser quality but with a higher smoke point. For a healthier use, the choice must fall on a virgin and organic coconut oil , for which no pesticides have been used. We must underline that the pulp is particularly protected inside from the chemical agents used in cultivation, further reassuring the consumer about its use as a food.
The consumption of a teaspoon of coconut oil , which corresponds to about 15 grams , can help us speed up the loss of excess fat and improve glucose metabolism if this habit is included in a balanced diet plan of weight loss and regular physical activity. An idea to use it could be to dissolve a teaspoon in a cup of coffee or green tea, to use it instead of butter on a slice of wholemeal bread or in a smoothie with red fruits and oat milk.
Do not take coconut oil if …
Moderate use of coconut oil has no particular contraindications. Like any other food, in fact, it is the dose and balance that make the difference. An excessive amount of coconut oil combined with an incorrect and high-calorie diet can contribute to increasing calorie intake, lipid accumulation and weight gain, without producing the beneficial effects described above.