Coconut oil consumption appears to bring about significant changes in metabolism over the long term and increases the risk of overweight and obesity. This new finding contradicts previous beliefs that coconut oil can help with weight loss.
In studies on mice, researchers from the Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP) were able to show that the consumption of coconut oil is associated with changes in food intake, weight gain, anxious behavior and an increase in inflammation of the central nervous system, adipose tissue and liver. The corresponding study results are published in the “Journal of Functional Foods”.
Health Benefits of Coconut Oil?
Numerous studies have already examined how healthy coconut oil is and have found some positive effects such as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect.
In addition, “consumption of coconut oil as part of the usual diet or as a dietary supplement has increased significantly,” reports study author Marcio Alberto Torsoni. Coconut oil is also promoted as a weight loss aid.
Insulin and leptin resistance
However, the oil is high in saturated fat, which promotes insulin and leptin resistance and has been linked to inflammation and obesity. The researchers therefore investigated the effects of coconut oil on leptin signaling in mice.
For this purpose, the animals received an oral supplementation with 100 or 300 microliters of coconut oil in the experimental group and 300 microliters of water in the control group for eight weeks. That amount of oil was equivalent in calories to about one tablespoon (13 g) per day in an adult diet, the researchers report.
Sensitivity to leptin and insulin was assessed after eight weeks of supplementation. The researchers found that the ability of the metabolic hormones leptin and insulin to activate the cellular mechanisms for satiety and the control of blood sugar levels was impaired.
Imminent metabolic changes
In addition, the biochemical mechanisms involved in fat synthesis were stimulated, explains the research team. “The results suggest that prolonged intake of coconut oil can lead to significant metabolic changes that contribute to the development of obesity and its associated diseases,” summarizes Torsoni.
As such, coconut oil should only be used in small amounts, preferably with fresh or lightly processed vegetables, Torsoni said. However, the oil is not recommended as a supplement to the treatment of diseases or to promote health. (fp)