While it's often consumed in other countries and used in certain ethnic cuisines, coconut oil has been somewhat of a rarity in the United States. But news items and recommendations from nutritionists and fitness trainers have led to a buzz about coconut oil, which is thought to increase your metabolism. Before you try coconut oil to boost your metabolism and help you lose weight, be aware of its potential side effects.
Coconut Oil Background
If you're interested in using coconut oil but are concerned about health and nutrition, it's important to understand the details about coconut oil's nutritional makeup. As explained by MayoClinic.com, coconut oil is a tropical oil from the fruit of the coconut tree and is notable for its high saturated fat content. Harvard School of Public Health physician Dr. Walter C. Willett notes that coconut oil is roughly 90 percent saturated fat -- a proportion higher than that of butter or lard.
Coconut Oil for Metabolism?
With more than 100 calories per tablespoon, coconut oil may not seem like a good metabolism-booster or diet food. Although coconut oil is a high-fat food, it's made from a different type of fatty acid than other saturated fats -- in fact, a fatty acid that is used quickly for energy rather than stored as body fat. In contrast, nutritionist Katherine Zeratsky of the Mayo Clinic is not convinced that enough supportive evidence exists to confirm the claim that coconut oil speeds metabolism. Either way, coconut oil's high saturated fat and calorie content could lead to certain potential side effects, so use caution if you choose to try it.
Coconut Oil Side Effects
One potential side effect of taking coconut oil for a metabolism boost is a rise in your cholesterol. While it's true that coconut oil increases your HDL, or "good," cholesterol, Willett states that it raises your LDL, or "bad," cholesterol, too. This could be problematic in those with existing high cholesterol. And since high cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease, coconut oil may not be a prudent choice for some people. Coconut oil is also high in calories, which means that, if you consume too much of it, you might offset any potential metabolism-boosting benefits by ingesting excess calories, leading to weight gain.
The bottom line is that coconut oil may have benefits for some people, and it is unlikely to be harmful to most if used occasionally and in moderation. However, coconut oil may cause unwanted health-related side effects, so consult your physician if you're interested in using it. Your physician can evaluate whether this type of fat is an appropriate choice for you, given your medical history and current health conditions.
- MayoClinic.com; Coconut Oil and Weight Loss: Does It Work?; Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.; August 2010
- Harvard Medical School Health Publications; Ask the Doctor: Coconut Oil; Walter C. Willett, M.D.; May 2011
- Natural News; Coconut Oil Can Promote Weight Loss by Increasing Metabolism Naturally; Elizabeth Walling; August 2009