Lime in the Coconut

What lies before us and what lies behind us are small matters compared to what lies within us.

I’ve recently become intrigued by the work of Dr. Ray Peat, and more specifically his support for the consumption of Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT’s) in regards to health, and weight management.

In a nutshell (literally), Coconut Oil.

Although Palm and Palm Kernal Oils also contain this useful Saturated Fat — Yep I said it, a “Useful” saturated fat! 

More on that later…

Now I’ve known about Medium Chain Triglycerides for a little while.

We started cooking regularly with coconut oil a few years back — virgin coconut oil smells delicious in a pan, and it’s awesome in asian-inspired dishes — and I’ve always loved curries with coconut milk, perhaps more than any other savory food I can recall.

People have been using them as a fat loss aid for quite a few years now (MCT Oil is the common place supplement you’ll find in stores and on the web), for a little while though, I was convinced that the improvements in fat loss might be so minimal, it wouldn’t even be worth mentioning.

The research that was done, up until the last five years or so, was mostly done on animals too, specifically rats.

I never fully trust conclusions drawn from animal studies, but there were some impressive results.

Now though, we’ve ruled that MCT’s are quite safe for human consumption and thus begun more human trials.

Though there are at least a dozen in the last decade showing positive changes in weight lost, if only a few extra lbs.

Studies like this one.

Over a 10, 12 or 16 week study though, a few extra lbs can add up if you’re taking the art of weight loss seriously for the next year of your life.

Now if you head over to Dr.Peats website and read through some of his articles, you’ll find that it is A) extremely scientific, written much more like a thesis paper than a blog post and B) is somewhat all over the place and difficult to read in places.

While I don’t support all of his ideas, I do think the world needs people like this, people who challenge conventional wisdom and make people like me re-think my position, or at least add to my position some new ideas that may yield awesome benefit to those seeking out fat loss.

He offers some 180 degree thinking on several other issues, which I won’t get into here, I’m just going to focus on some of the other research I uncovered.

First though, these particular saturated fats, MCT’s, digest quite differently from most other fats, they are absorbed right into the portal vein, bypassing most of your typical digestive system and ending up directly in the liver, where they are used quite rapidly as a source of energy.

They do not require the digestive enzymes that most other fats do, and because the liver utilizes them as a source of energy, they typically won’t end up as stored fat when excess calories are consumed.

This makes them potentially valuable as high energy foods, particularly for diets low in carbohydrates — and often the lethargy associated with taking on a low carbohydrate diet.

There is also co-relational data suggesting that regular consumption can be used to prevent/treat Alzheimer’s, prevent heart disease and cancer, and treat malabsorption syndromes.

After going through the literature on MCT Oil’s — Palm Oil and Palm Kernel Oil are also sources, but Coconut is the best. Coincidence that they all come from the same plant? — it’s become apparent to me that I should discuss them, and possibly even consider their use in fat loss programs I develop in the future.

They appear to be — though future research appears to be needed — a great addition to healthy eating.

However, I’m not saying they are a miracle drug that everybody aiming to lose weight should consume in mass quantities either, like everything else, I’m sure too much can be just as bad as not enough.

My Recommendations

  • My brother is deathly allergic to coconuts, so obviously under those pre-tenses DO NOT USE COCONUT based products.
  • You don’t need to supplement with an MCT oil daily like many do with fish oil (a topic for another post) to experience the benefits of coconut oil. However, it may be worthwhile to for short periods of time, especially if you’re just starting in a weight loss program right now — I might even use it in place of a fish oil supplement until a bottle is used, I wonder what kind of effects might come from cycling between fish oil supplementation and MCT Oil supplementation, no research has been done on that cycle yet to my knowledge though — so you may consider consuming a tsp with breakfast in the morning to help jump-start your program.
  • MCT’s can be great substitutes for carbohydrates in certain situations, particularly in and around workout times when you’re looking for energy. Consider MCT oil, coconut oil, or coconut milk pre-workout, at least 30 minutes prior to. Ever try an unsweetened coconut milk matcha latte? Could be interesting…
  • You may be able to get a lot of the benefits — without supplementation but more research is needed — simply by eating more coconut, using coconut oil when you cook — preferably virgin, or un-refined — and adding coconut milk to your diet. Try cooking a coconut milk based curry once a week, and alternating between your normal use of Olive Oil (or other vegetable oil) with coconut oil when cooking.
  • The changes are typically only a couple of extra pounds of fat lost by comparison to control groups (usually the control group is olive oil). Like anything else in the supplement world, MCT Oil and adding coconuts to your diet, probably won’t be anything ‘mind-blowing.‘ I wouldn’t expect dramatic changes, but introducing these foods into your diet could still boost your physical change noticably.
  • The changes via research seem to be amplified when an exercise regime is in place (duh!).
  • Coconut Oil appears to be more effective in men, than women, it also seems to act more heavily on abdominal fat (lucky us!) and men tend to store more abdominal fat.
  • It also seems to be more effective in men of a more regular BMI in helping them lose more weight, but this is simply based on percentages. It still works in people with higher BMI. However, the notion implies that if you’re trying to get leaner (and are already relatively lean) then the use of MCT’s might be beneficial in over-coming a plateau.
  • This fat loss being more prevalent in Men, may have to do more to do with the more apparent loss of abdominal fat, over the more subcutaneous fat that women tend to carry around their hips. Losing abdominal fat as we know is perhaps the most advantageous thing you can do for your health when done in an appropriate manner, so supplementation with Men who carry a lot of weight around the mid-section may be a good recommendation — i.e. try it for 3 months and see what kind of progress you make.
  • As with anything, if it doesn’t jive with you (i.e. you don’t like the taste, are allergic, or feel awful using the stuff), however unlikely, you don’t HAVE to use it, that’s part of the art.

For more info, you might be interested in this book: Eat Fat, Lose Fat

You may also want to read this article.

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