Coconut Oil and Metabolism

coconut oil and metabolism

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Metabolism is the battle ground

Metabolism is in many ways the battle ground for the debate that goes on about which type of fat is best to use in the diet. A closer look at how the body responds to different types of fat clearly shows that coconut oil is the best type of fat to use if you want to have a healthy metabolism and avoid weight gain.

Difference between how medium chain and long chain fatty acids are absorbed by the body

The key issue is not whether a fat is saturated or polyunsaturated; rather the thing that is of importance is the length of the fatty acid chain. Both polyunsaturated fats from seeds like corn and sunflower and saturated fats such as those found in beef and pork contain long chain fatty acids (LCFA). When these long chain fatty acids are introduced into the body they are broken down into individual fatty acids that then become lipoproteins that circulate in the bloodstream. Long chain fatty acids end up being stored in the liver and are only burnt as energy when the body cannot get enough energy from carbohydrate intake.

Metabolism is essentially the process of converting food into energy. The better your metabolism the quicker you can convert food into energy. The strength of the metabolism is connected to the performance of the thyroid gland. Those with hypothyroidism have a slow metabolism, and those with hyperthyroidism have a fast metabolism. Foods that contain long chain fatty acids place a greater strain on the metabolism. Thus, there is an important connection between food, metabolism and energy levels.

When medium chain fatty acids (MCFA) from such sources as coconut oil are introduced into the body they are not packaged into lipoproteins – instead they travel directly to the liver where they are converted into energy. This is why athletes have recently begun using coconut oil in their diet to boost their energy levels before a big race.

The reason why exercise is so important is because the fat from long chain fatty acids stored in the blood stream is not converted into energy until the body runs out of energy from carbohydrates. People who do little exercise will find they will quickly lose weight by switching to coconut oil in their diet. This is because coconut oil is turned directly into energy rather being stored by the body as lipoproteins.

Bruce Fife, the brilliant writer on this topic neatly summarizes this point:

“Medium chain fatty acids produce energy. Other dietary fats produce fat.”

Scientific study showing connection between energy levels and medium chain fatty acids (MCFA)

One study involved testing mice swimming endurance. In the study conducted over 6 weeks some mice were fed a MCFA diet and others were not. The study conclusively showed that those mice fed on MCFA could swim for longer against a current than those mice not on a MCFA diet.

Fushiki, T and Matsumoto, K 1995,  Swimming endurance capacity of mice is increased by consumption of medium-chain triglycerides.  Journal of Nutrition  125:531

Conclusion – coconut oil is turned into energy; other fats are turned into fat

It is thus clear that coconut oil is nearly unique among fats in that it contains a high percentage of medium chain fatty acids that are processed by the body in different way to the more commonly found long chain fatty acids in food. Whereas long chain fatty acids are stored in the body, medium chain fatty acids are immediately metabolized by the body and turned into energy. This has important implications for those seeking to increase their energy levels and those people wishing to lose weight.

List of fats in coconut oil

Here is a brief breakdown of the fatty acids found in coconut oil:

Lauric – Saturated – 47.5% (medium chain fatty acid)
Myristic – Saturated – 18.1% (long chain fatty acid)
Palmitic – Saturated – 8.8% (long chain fatty acid)
Caprylic – Saturated – 7.8% (medium chain fatty acid)
Stearic – Saturated – 2.6% (medium chain fatty acid)
Caproic – Saturated – 0.5% (medium chain fatty acid)
Arachidic – Saturated – 0.1% (long chain fatty acid)
Oleic – Monounsaturated – 6.2% (long chain fatty acid)
Linoleic – Polyunsaturated – 1.6% (long chain fatty acid)

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