From keeping your skin soft and supple to lowering your blood sugar levels, coconut oil is associated with numerous health claims.
Weight loss is also among the list of benefits linked to coconut oil intake. As such, many people looking to shed excess weight add this tropical oil to their meals, snacks, and beverages, including coffee drinks and smoothies.
However, like most ingredients advertised as a magic bullet for weight loss, coconut oil may not be the easy weight loss solution it’s cracked up to be.
This article reviews whether coconut oil can help you lose weight.
While there’s no doubt that coconut oil is a healthy fat, it’s unclear whether this popular product is as effective for weight loss as many people claim.
Coconut oil vs. MCT oil
The belief that this oil benefits weight loss is mainly based on the claim that it may decrease hunger, as well as the fact that coconut products contain specific fats called medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs).
MCTs are metabolized differently than long-chain triglycerides (LCTs), which are found in foods like olive oil and nut butter. MCTs include capric, caprylic, caproic, and lauric acid — though there is some controversy over including lauric acid in this category.
Unlike LCTs, 95% of MCTs are rapidly and directly absorbed into the bloodstream — specifically the portal vein of the liver — and used for immediate fuel.
MCTs are also less likely than LCTs to be stored as fat.
Although MCTs naturally comprise around 50% of the fat in coconut oil, they can also be isolated and made into a stand-alone product, meaning coconut oil and MCT oil are not the same things.
Coconut oil consists of 47.5% lauric acid and less than 8% capric, caprylic, and caproic acids. While most experts classify lauric acid as an MCT, it behaves like an LCT in terms of absorption and metabolism.
Specifically, only 25–30% of lauric acid is absorbed through the portal vein, compared with 95% of other MCTs, so it doesn’t have the same effects on health. This is why its classification as an MCT is controversial.
Also, while some studies have found that MCT oil increased feelings of fullness and enhanced weight loss, they used oils high in capric and caprylic acid and low in lauric acid, which is unlike the composition of coconut oil.
For these reasons, experts argue that coconut oil should not be promoted as having the same effects as MCT oil, and results from MCT studies related to weight loss can’t be extrapolated to coconut oil.
May enhance feelings of fullness
Coconut oil may increase feelings of fullness and enhance appetite regulation.
Research has shown that adding fat-rich foods like coconut oil to meals may increase stomach volume, inducing greater sensations of fullness than low fat meals.
Some research has also shown that eating foods rich in saturated fats may induce greater fullness than eating foods rich in monounsaturated fats. However, other studies have concluded that feelings of fullness aren’t influenced by fatty acid saturation levels .
Therefore, it’s unclear if choosing coconut oil over other types of fats is any more beneficial for inducing feelings of fullness.
Finally, food companies and the media routinely use MCT oil studies to back claims regarding the fullness-promoting qualities of coconut oil. Yet, as stated above, these two products are not the same.
Coconut oil may promote feelings of fullness, and it contains fats known as MCTs, which are linked to health benefits. However, coconut oil should not be confused with MCT oil, as these oils are different and don’t provide the same benefits.
This article first appeared in healthline.com