Jennifer Aniston was spotted with a shopping trolley loaded with virgin coconut oil bottles. Angelina Jolie sprinkles this ghee-like thick fat on her breakfast cereal. And, Victoria Secret supermodel Miranda Kerr credits her post-baby weight loss to her daily intake of four teaspoons of it.
The humble coconut oil has gone from kesh tel to culinary star. Once found in drab blue plastic bottles on bathroom shelves, it now stands tall besides other “super oils” — olive, rice bran and canola — at health food stores, reveling in its new-found status as a “weight-loss wonder”.
But can a fat really burn fat? Recent research shows it can. Unlike butter and vegetable oils which contain long chain fatty acids, coconut oil has medium chain fatty acids which are smaller and therefore digest more quickly. These are readily absorbed by the small intestine — they don’t enter the lymphatic system like the long chain variety – and transported to the liver where they are quickly burned up for energy making them much less likely to be stored as fat.
Coconut oil also has a thermogenic effect. It raises the body temperature, improving the metabolic rate and helping us burn calories faster.
Better still, it targets tummy tyres. A peer-reviewed Brazilian study has showed that eating just two tablespoons of coconut oil a day helps reduce one’s middle faster than hours on the treadmill.
But experts caution against going overboard. With 90 per cent saturated fat and 117 calories in every spoonful, coconut oil is best consumed in small quantities. Moreover, it is not a magic potion. A study published in the journal Lipids found that women who consumed coconut oil lost more belly flab than their counterparts who used soyabean oil. But note this: they also ate a low-calorie diet and exercised. So, there is no escaping the hard work.
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