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Can Coconut Oil Help With Weight Loss?

Can Coconut Oil Help With Weight Loss?

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!”

If you have belly flab from eating trans fat, lauric acid MIGHT unblock certain metabolic pathways

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!

Does coconut oil promote weight loss?

If you are experiencing trouble losing belly flab or a weight loss plateau, or other obvious health problems, 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 in a wide variety of other healthy foods. (Healthy meaning considering source and tradition…see my response to a question reader Matt posted here.)

Dr. Cate

With over two decades of clinical experience and expertise in genetic and biochemical research, Dr. Cate can help you to reverse metabolic disease and reshape your body.

This Post Has 21 Comments

  1. Caramel Truffle Tea with Coconut Oil

    ONE TBSP EVCO [Extra Virgin Coconut Oil]


    1. Hmmm. That’s just about too much sugar for a weight-loss drink. 1 Tbsp of Molasses has about 15gm carb, as does the honey, so 30 gm total carb. I recommend keeping total daily carbs between 30-70gm for weight loss or maintenance of weight loss.

  2. I love sweet potatoes cut thin and browned till slightly crisp in coconut oil. A sprinkling of kosher salt gives just enough salt to the sweet.

  3. I use coconut oil in many different recipes. One of my favorite ways is in a breakfast “shake”. I start with raw eggs in the blender. Turn it on low and slowly stream melted coconut oil in. This will emulsify the coconut oil- so you won’t end up with chips and chunks when it’s cold. Then add milk, cream, vanilla extract (and fruit if necessary), or even nut butters and a little ice. Crank it up for a second (not to long or you’ll end up with a huge foam from the egg whites on top) and ENJOY!

  4. That’s a great tip about coconut oil. You’re the second person this week to say they love it in their coffee. I tried it and because I drink my coffee cold it was lumpy, but I’m bet it’s yummy all warmed up.

  5. Hi Dr. Cate! I love you by the way! 🙂
    the other day you or Sean posted a photo of people you respect and I think you can also include Dee Maccaffrey. She has several books out and is a very big supporter of coconut oil and has several recipes using it. This is her website:

    I have the simplest recipe using coconut oil: I put a teaspoon in my coffee and milk drink. I know it may sound gross, but I love the taste and it feel like having a treat as I am trying desperately to kick the sugar habit. Thanks for all you do to inform the world about true nutrition.

  6. I am in the process of ordering your book. To all of those Vegans out there,if you truly feel fantastic on your diet so be it! I have tried it soooo many times and I get really sick!
    What I want to know from Cate is where can I purchase raw milk and grass fed meat and chicken etc from a reputable source? I live in Florida.


  7. I like to put an eighth or quarter of a teaspoon of coconut oil in my tea which is usually a spiced type like what we call “chai” (either black or green tea works). It gives tea a creamy mouth feel and is especially delicious when cream or coconut milk is added to it. Really nice, warm, creamy drink and satisfying.

  8. We just made veggie ‘burger’ patties (black beans, onion, peppers, spices), sauteing the veggies, then the patties, in coconut oil; we only used about 2T total of the oil. We didn’t notice any coconut flavor, and I’m finding it spatters less than butter. I’ll be using it for sauteing more in the future.

  9. This isn’t really a recipe, but I find coconut oil especially delicious when making a Thai curry-I just sauté meat and vegetables in it, and then add curry paste and coconut milk. It’s fast and easy, and so very good :o)

  10. The secret of coconut oil is in the quantity of oil required. For example, to fry two eggs I need about 5 grams of coco oil, 35 calories. If I use butter, 15 grams or 105 calories. It also cannot be stored in us humans, and will be burned, but that is more a mater of what is burned, not how much. coco oil could be dangerous if we were living on it with little else and gaining weight, but overdose would be difficult.

    1. Thank you for pointing out the amazing non-stick property of coconut oil.

      This may shock you, but I don’t worry about the calories in butter–high-quality grass fed butter especially. Such butter contains dozens of special fatty acids and scores of other valuable fat-soluble nutrients, all of which your body has a use for OTHER than burning for energy. Remember the caloric value is simply a measure of how much heat is produced by burning. If you eat fatty acids that can be used to build cell parts (phospholipids build cell membranes) or that can act as messengers (CLA activates fat cell apoptosis) these fats are unlikely to end up on your hips.

  11. Luna, thank you for pointing out more of the good science on coconut. Can you do me a favor and please post a recipe using coconut oil it that is low carb and not for a dessert?

    1. It is so easy to add it to the diet. You don’t really need recipes. Add a dolop to morning coffee or tea. Throw a dollop in yogurt, throw some in a pan for any sautee (add butter too if you like) It smells wonderful, but leaves little flavor when cooking w/ coco oil. I do taste it in my coffee, it almost tastes like flavoured coffee.
      I also throw a spoonful in my shakes.

      I buy mine at Trader Joes for half the price 5.99 for 16 oz. vs 12 or more at WF, etc.

  12. I found several testimonials gave positive feedback about coconut oil to reduce weight. Some said, by taking the coconut oil may reduce their appetite and cravings for fatty food, improve their energy levels are up and give a good complexion to their skin and not to mention, coconut oil is actually good for hair, skin, digestion and for healing as well. I personally don’t take coconut oil as an alternative to loss weight since I have regular body shape. But I would like to share some useful information that I’ve discovered from reliable sources on this article.

    As we all know that, coconut oil consists of more than ninety percent of saturated fats, with traces of few unsaturated fatty acids, such as monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids. 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. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found patients lost weight when they included MCFA’s in their diet. In fact, they found patients lost more weight with a diet including MCFA’s compared to a diet with olive oil.

    Lipid researcher Dr. Jon Kabara states “Never before in the history of man is it so important to emphasize the value of Lauric Oils. Modern research has now found a common link between these two natural health products which is 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. Coconut oil is nature’s most abundant source of lauric acid and medium chain fatty acids.

    If we are trying to lose weight with coconut oil, It is the best way by gradually introducing it into our daily diet. Playing a key role by eating nutritious diet and get plenty of physical activity such as exercise, will help in reaching our weight loss goals. I believe that coconut oil is not an instant cure for weight loss. It is healthy natural oil may help boost our metabolism and get us on the road to healthy manageable weight loss.

  13. Hi Cate: Thanks for your answer to my question. Actually, I did not ask it because I need or want to lose weight (I’m pretty lean), rather as some one perennially interested in health and always seeking to improve my own habits.

  14. Cate, there is no magic behind the coconut oil. but it gets magical when you discover it 🙂

    I know that being a saturated triglyceride has the super advantage of not oxidizing when not used. so, it wont go rancid easy. It’s fairly resistant to temperature so makes it a great candidate for cooking.

    I also know that medium chain triglyceride will get into ketone bodies very easy, providing mitochondrial fuel easier and faster than long chain triglycerides.

    I wont go in the Lauric fatty acid claims!

    Let me get to the fat-loss advantage now… One can get fat on coconut oil too. Quantity is the key. But a teaspoon of coconut oil straight on can create satiety and that’s something that will help to weight loss. So it will help, but indirectly!

    PS. I like the taste of it also. My wife was hesitant in the past but now learned to love it.

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