After I posted my last piece about burning off omental fat, I got a simple question from a reader named Rosemary that got me going over the hype about coconut oil. So rather than just give her my one liner:
“If you are asking whether coconut oil can help you lose weight, I can only say: Try it it might. It depends on what else is going on in your body.”
I realized the topic deserves a fuller discussion.
If Rosemary’s Fat Cells Could Talk, Here’s What They’d Tell Her
“We fat cells are often depicted as balloons of lard, and our internal lipids visualized as a bland white paste. In reality, we are complex and biologically active warehouses for thousands of different kinds of molecules, each of which serves a valuable function in your body. Love us! Why won’t you love us??! [this is a Star Trek Next Generation reference, and it’s paraphrased]
All fats and oils you eat are important to us. Naturally occurring (ie before any processing) fats and oils that lie (lay?) under the skin of healthy animals or ooze from gently squeezed seeds contain dozens of different chain lengths and, depending on their source, potentially hundreds of other different kinds of nutrients, all of which we’d be pleased to see from time to time. Have a nice day!”
Coconut Oil–Healing Miracle or Hype?
So your question, Rosemary, which is an important one because people are talking about coconut like its some sort of miracle, is in my opinion inspired by distorted information and sensationalism–so no wonder health consumers are confused. It’s a little like asking: Which is better vitamin A or vitamin E. Both are not only good, but you also need them both. And a similarly mis-oriented question might be: Which is better for you broccoli or walnuts? Of course that is a silly one too, right? Both are good for you, and your cells must have access to the kinds of information contained in both.
Can you see where I’m going with this?
If your diet already contains something like the kind of chemical information in coconut oil, then coconut oil is of less value to you than if your body has been deprived. I personally don’t eat much coconut oil because I don’t happen to have easy access to it or recipes that require it.
Now if you have stubborn belly flab, that’s a different story. Here’s why:
Can coconut oil help you lose omental fat? MAYBE!
If you are experiencing trouble losing belly flab or a weight loss plateau, or other obvious health problem, a high dose of lauric acid just may be the key that unblocks certain metabolic pathways often blocked by trans fat or excessive carb consumption. (Notice the words might and maybe.) The only way to find out is to try it for a while. It’s food, after all, it is not going to hurt you. Then if you don’t see any results after a few weeks, it’s not a healing miracle for you. If you do see impressive weight loss or your belly starts getting thinner, then you had a blocked pathway and now it’s fixed. And, here’s another bit of good news, you probably don’t need to continue buying coconut oil. (Unless you like it.)
The Plop Not Heard ‘Round The World
So if now I’ve got you worrying over whether or not your diet contains something like the nutrients in coconut oil, before you invest time in tabulating each and every nutrient in everything you eat, I’d like to point something out. Coconuts fall from the trees in abundance in the tropics. New England? Not so much. The Bedford cemetery out here in New Hampshire has headstones showing people lived into their 80s and 90s in the 1600s and I’m pretty sure they did it without coconut oil.
So is coconut oil an essential part of a healthy diet? NO! Not essential at all because we can get the same kinds of nutrients from a diet rich a wide variety of other healthy foods. (Healthy meaning considering source and tradition…see my response to a question reader Matt posted here.)