Debunking the Hottest Health Trends:  Coconut Oil and Weight Loss

Jan 16, 2015

Why Coconut Oil May Be Secretly Sabotaging Your Fat Burning Efforts

Coconut oil is the nutritional darling of best-selling books, social media and DIY blogs.

Everyone has picked their favorite of the “101 ways to love coconut oil” and has maybe even revolutionized their personal care and beauty routines.

Coconut oil is a wonder for weight loss.  Though not an omega fat, it does contain medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) that rev up your metabolism and improve thyroid function.

MCTs are absorbed in the small intestine and ushered directly to the liver.  This gives coconut oil the potential to reduce cellulite, because unlike other fats it does not have to travel through the lymphatic system creating blockages and unsightly dimpling of the skin.

While coconut certainly does have its place in health, weight loss, nutrition and beauty, I’m here to tell you that coconut oil may not be for everyone.

Now, please don’t shoot the messenger— I love coconut oil as much as anyone else!

But if you have children, or follow a blood type, paleo or other low carb diet, you’ll want to keep reading…

The Probiotic Conundrum

Coconut oil is also highly praised for its antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal and antiparasitic properties.  In fact, I recommend it to my clients who are struggling with H. pylori, the bacteria that causes ulcers.

Research published in the Journal of Medical Food shows that coconut oil is also 100% effective in killing drug-resistant strains of Candida albicans.

So this is all good news, right?  Yes, unless of course you do not have a yeast or pathogenic bacteria overgrowth.

When no pathogens are present, those strong antibacterial qualities of coconut oil can actually impair your normal flora—leaving your natural immune defense in disrepair.  A lack of good bacteria can even lead to poor digestion and nutrient utilization.

If you are a healthy individual using coconut oil for weight loss or to supplement your diet, I strongly recommend that you fortify your probiotic population by eating more fermented foods and taking Flora-Key probiotic powder.

Blood Type Troubles

Lectins are protein antigens that bind to the surface of our red blood cells and cause agglutination and cell destruction, leading to a cascade of health problems ranging from poor digestion and nutrient deficiencies to immune system exhaustion.

Different lectins create problems for each ABO blood type. Coconut oil, unfortunately, has lectins that particularly affect A and O blood types negatively.

The lauric acid in coconut oil is a detergent, which is of course why you’ll see “natural” soaps made with coconut oil.  Taken internally, however, the detergent property disrupts the surface tension of your cells, which has the potential to impair cell communication.  This can lead to irritation of the gut and increased susceptibility to leaky gut syndrome.

Fat-Burning Frenzy

Ketones are the byproduct of burning fat for energy.  One goal of nearly every low carb diet is to enter into a ketogenic state, which means you are burning fat for energy rather than glucose.

People following primal, paleo or other ancestral diets will likely be in a long term ketogenic state.  This is great up to a certain point.  However, our kidneys can become overwhelmed by the removal of ketones.

The trouble with using coconut oil for weight loss in this equation is that it increases the liver’s production of ketones, which can potentially lead to diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).

Symptoms of DKA include elevated blood glucose, confusion, abdominal pain, excessive thirst and frequent urination.

Traditional cultures that rely heavily on coconut oil for energy have complimentary starchy vegetables and fruits in their diet that prevent ketoacidosis and hyperglycemia, unlike the primal paleo or ancestral based diets of today.

Plant Protection

If you’re giving your children coconut oil as part of a diet to help manage ADHD, you may want to do some extra investigation into salicylates, which have been known to increase symptoms of hyperactivity and difficulty focusing.

Coconut oil is a food that is one of the highest sources of salicylates.  Salicylates are defensive chemicals inherent in plant based foods that are supposed to protect plant species from being wiped out by insects and animals.

We are all susceptible to the toxic effects of salicylates in large amounts, but most people are not bothered by moderate and even above average consumption.  Some, however, are quite sensitive to even small amounts of salicylates.

For sensitive individuals, even seemingly negligible amounts of coconut oil used for weight loss or wellness can contribute to reactions ranging from irritable bowel syndrome to acne, bedwetting, restless leg syndrome, tinnitus, tics, sties, hyperactivity, headaches, anxiety, hallucinations, weepiness, blurred vision, fidgeting, bad breath, body odor, and even constant hunger!

So, as you can see, coconut oil for weight loss is potentially wonderful for many individuals, but not everyone. 

Enjoy your coconut with all the above factors in mind.  If you or your child have been taking advantage of this superfood and are experiencing symptoms like IBS, blood sugar abnormalities, increased hyperactivity or anxiety—it might be time for an oil change!

References:
http://paleoleap.com/is-coconut-an-optimal-source-of-fat/
http://www.dadamo.com/B2blogs/blogs/index.php/2004/09/19/coconut-oil?blog=27
http://annlouiseprod.wpengine.com/2013/04/16/these-fats-are-friends-not-foes/
http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/plants-bite-back/
http://coconutoilpost.com/special-diets/amine-and-salicylate-sensitivity/coconuts-salicylate-sensitivity/

 

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Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, is an award-winning New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty books including The Fat Flush Plan series and her latest book, Radical Metabolism. She’s been rewriting the rules of nutrition for more than 40 years and is internationally recognized as a pioneer in the field of diet, detox and women’s health issues. 

For a FREE daily dose of tips and strategies for maintaining healthy weight, conquering insomnia, and much more…check out my Radical Health Tips.

I’d like to meet and greet you on my Facebook groups, so won’t you check us out at the Radical Metabolism RevolutionFat Flush Nation, or my Inner Circle!

53 Comments

  1. Margo Parker

    Great information Ann Louise Gittleman. Thank you!

    Reply
  2. Kathleen

    Thank you very much for this! I use coconut oil frequently and I am type O blood. The last time I used it for cooking I had a bad case of diarrhea. I had thought the oil may have been rancid, but after reading this info, I may be sensitive to it. I also use avocado oil, I find it great for cooking and I feel no ill effects. Your knowledge of this is so very helpful! Thank you!

    Reply
  3. Andrea

    I guess I’m one of the lucky ones that coconut oil is AWESOME for!!Its almost like a miracle oil,helping my skin,my scalp,my hair,and best of all,helping me to lose 100 lbs and countless inches!BEST of all,its helped my MEMORY!!I used to suffer from severe brain fog,but now my mind is a steel trap!

    Kathleen,when you first start eating coconut oil,start out with one teaspoon for a week,then gradually work your way up.If you start with a lot,you can have bad bathroom problems!I worked my way up to 3 T a day,never felt better!!

    Reply
  4. dorothy

    I was getting a lot of coconut oil an was notlost in any weight, today I had lot of stomach problem so as today I know it was the coconut oil…

    Reply
  5. Debi

    This really frustrates me I am sick and tired of hearing this is good no this is bad eat this no don’t eat this. This is healthy but not may not be for you. It is making me so upset I am ready to give up I am tired of giving up the things I enjoy eating and feeling like I am enduring yet another program only to find after all the sacrifice I didn’t lose any weight again.

    Reply
    • Team ALG

      Debi, This article is meant to be informative and empowering- not limiting! By educating ourselves with the newest research and self-experimentation, we can devise the dietary habits best suited for our individual needs.

      Reply
  6. RJ

    Hi Debi

    I know you are frustrated but you shouldn’t feel like you are “enduring” anything.
    Don’t give up!!
    You just need to slow down and make small changes that work for you. It’s not easy, and it’s not fast, and you don’t have to “give up the things you enjoy eating”.
    There are many different ways to lose weight, but deprivation and misery won’t get you far.
    Just try changing one small thing every week. Drink more water, add one green smoothie, walk a little further etc. Don’t get overwhelmed and don’t give up! You can do this!

    Reply
  7. Amber

    Anne, when do you recommend using Coconut oil? For the typical mid aged female needing to loose weight and fight inflammation? I was under the impression that you really only recommend flax seed oil unless one is oil pulling. I must have missed something if you love it as much as anyone else. Thank you for all your great insights.

    Reply
    • Team ALG

      Hi Amber, coconut oil is part of Phase 3 of the Fat Flush Plan and can be used as a special occasion ingredient during other phases/programs.

      Reply
  8. Janet

    I know how you feel Debi, so much so that I like you have just about thrown my hands up and said FORGET IT!! OT seem like the majority of supplements and meds react differently I’m my body and create almost the opposite response…so much so that my husband teases me that I should use things that would normally make folks GAIN weight instead…but I am determined to listen to my body and not to all the “voices” that keep telling me to quit! I have used coconut oil in moderation and I will continue to if I see no ill affects.. Just start slow down and see how things affect YOU!!

    Reply
  9. lisa

    I use it for cooking because of the high heat point. I guess I will just use butter? Not sure what other oil to use for cooking. Both my husband and I are type O.

    Reply
    • Team ALG

      Coconut oil, palm oil or ghee are great for high-heat cooking. Everything in moderation!

      Reply
  10. bh

    My bloodtype is A, was interested in using coconut oil in my smoothies. Instead what oils can I use besides flaxseed oil?

    Reply
    • Lisa

      I know that Ann Louise recommends fish oil as an alternative to flax oil.

      Reply
  11. KD

    i think it really needs to be pointed out that only Type1 diabetics are at risk for ketoacidosis. Ketones do not pose this risk in people without type 1!

    Reply
    • Team ALG

      Ketoacidosis can occur in anyone under the ‘right’ circumstances, which might include extended low carb dieting, adrenal fatigue, and high fat consumption.

      Reply
  12. Barbara

    so NOW what do I use for frying?????

    Reply
    • Team ALG

      Ghee might be a suitable option for you.

      Reply
  13. Sherry

    I was using coconut oil in everything. Smoothies, toast, fried foods, etc. once I discovered it, for months. When I went to my doctor I found I had high Cholesterol. I asked him if it had anything to do with this new found oil, he wasn’t sure so he gave me a month to get off the coconut oil and when I went back in a month, my cholesterol was down 20 points! Can’t say if it was the oil or not, but sadly I am not using it any more.

    Reply
    • Team ALG

      Hi Sherry, You may have a conversation with your doctor about HDL vs LDL vs total cholesterol to see if coconut oil may still be an option for you in moderation.

      Reply
  14. Adeline

    So I’m now really confused ! I am hypothyroid , Type A+
    So .. Should I stop taking coconut oil ?
    How much should we be ingesting ???
    Thanks … Love your article AL !!

    Reply
    • Team ALG

      Please use the factors discussed above to help determine if coconut oil is right for you or not!

      Reply
  15. C.F

    Does this apply to coconut milk?

    Reply
    • Team ALG

      Coconut milk would have the same factors to a degree regarding lectins, keytones and salicylates. Please avoid coconut milk from a box as it is rife with undesirable additives.

      Reply
  16. Ann Louise

    Best oils for high heat cooking are those which are saturated like coconut oil and palm oil. Moderation is the key here – unless you fall into one of the categories itemized above.

    I love the essential fatty acids for weight loss such as flaxseed oil, fish oil, and have now experimented with avocado oil and macadamia nut oil (monounsaturated fats) as well for weight maintenance.

    Ghee and raw butter are also beneficial fats for variety in cooking and eating.

    The main question: did your ancestors eat coconut oil? Are you salicylate sensitive? Type 1 diabetic? It may not be the right “food” for you to be overindulging with on a daily basis so vary your oils as much as you can.

    I love camelina oil for oil pulling, by the way.

    Thanks everybody – keep your comments coming.

    Remember variety is the spice of life 🙂

    Reply
  17. Laura

    It’s hard to feel like any nutritional advise is sound these days, there are so many contradictions! There is always something touted as the best, the right way, the best food or diet but sadly, we are informed otherwise years later. Even now, in addition to the coconut oil, there is the protein powder issue, some voices saying it’s ALL bad , no matter what it is or how it’s processed, others say to use only whey , others believe ALL whey is poison, and so on. I don’t want to wake up some morning to find out that everything I’ve been doing for 5, 10 or 20 years was all wrong and that I should expect collateral damage as a result. That said , I appreciate this article but am concerned about who to trust anymore and feel a bit overwhelmed by what is safe to eat and what isn’t. Some things are obvious of course, but in matters like this and a myriad of others, it’s getting very confusing!

    Reply
    • Team ALG

      Hi Laura, You’re not alone in your frustration! The best tact is to be well-informed about new research AND traditional preparation techniques, and use a food journal to document your own experiments. Nutrition is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’.

      Reply
  18. Jasmine

    The truth is that we ALL have to take responsibility and ownership of what we put into our bodies and not play victim to anyone else. I did all those “too much of a good thing” ideas and developed Hashimoto’s. Intense reading on the Internet has given me some clues as to how to best tweak my individual body. Blood Type diets and the contradiction of coconut products and type O blood types has been known for years. Dig deep, listen to your body, and don’t blame others. No one knows your body as well as you. No one person has all the answers so piece your answer together as best you can and don’t expect some one to hand you it on a golden plate.

    Reply
  19. Linda MIller

    I really liked this blog. From my perspective, you have been the only “truth teller” in nutrition for years – writing about trends years before everyone else and pointing out the pros and “cons,” of which there are so many lately.

    Your book “Your Body Knows Best” should be required reading because it provides a guide to individualizing diet based on oxidation, ancestry, and blood type. “One man’s meat is another man’s poison” is so true today. Some thrive on vegan while others get well on Paleo. Many have Fat Flushed with your programs for over 20 years, so have detoxed and dieted for years.

    Your site has always offered home testing so people can figure out their own nutritional needs. I have taken the TMA (tissue mineral
    analysis) for over ten years and it tells me what to eat and what to take based upon my unique biochemical needs. IT doesn’t get any better than that.

    Certain foods are “faddish” which come and go but you always provide us with a voice of reason – unlike so many so called “gurus” who are hyping their latest shakes, bars, and supplements – which all look the same.

    I think many of these posters are not aware of your background and how you were out there for 20 years – before all these marketers who are touting rehashed and similar messages.

    Thank you from all of us who have with you all these years….Keep on informing us and debunking myths. We may not LIKE To hear it but we NEED to 🙂

    Reply
  20. Midge Howard

    On another topic, acid vs. alkaline foods. I know we should strive for a more alkaline system. So shouldn’t avoiding acid foods make for an alkaline system? We’ve been on a noon-dairy, no meat, eggs once in a while, etc., diet. So the big surprise was when I tested my saliva/urine I came up high on the acid side.

    Why would this be?

    Reply
    • Team ALG

      Hi Midge, some of the most alkalizing foods are actually acidic in their raw state- like lemons and cranberries. The book ‘The Fat Flush Plan’ is a great resource for learning more about acid/alakine balance and which foods influence your balance. It’s not always what it may seem!

      Reply
  21. Win

    Only problem I have noticed is coconut flour. I tried cooking with it a couple of times and it gave me REALLY bad heartburn. Anyone else experience this? No problems with coconut oil.

    Reply
    • Team ALG

      Coconut flour does have some different properties, and is definitely not for everyone.

      Reply
  22. Liz

    That is such a good point about the coconut oil causing a loss of good flora. This is a very interesting blog.

    Reply
  23. Teresa

    I see that lauric acid is in breast milk as well. Does that mean that breast milk also “disrupts the surface tension of your cells, which has the potential to impair cell communication. This can lead to irritation of the gut and increased susceptibility to leaky gut syndrome.”

    Reply
    • Ann Louise

      Good question, Teresa. The truth is that lauric acid is a naturally powerful anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-parasitic agent. It is found at about a 20% concentration in breast milk which makes it as perfect natural “antibiotic” against a variety of pathogens.

      In coconut oil, this protective acid is found at a 50% concentration, making it much more potent. Lauric acid is so richly found in coconut oil, for example, that it has been developed into a popular supplement known as monolaurin commonly used to fight infections.

      Clearly, breast milk is the perfect food for infants and nursing mothers are encouraged to consume coconut oil.

      But, for adults there is emerging research suggesting that lauric acid can impair normal gut flora, similar to other natural bacteria-fighting substances like colloidal silver and oregano oil.

      Making sure that a quality probiotic and plenty of fermented foods are part of the daily regimen would constitute good preventive “medicine.”

      Reply
  24. Libby

    Ann Louise thank you for the great explanation of lauric acid. It is so interesting.

    Reply
  25. barbara boyd

    I’d like to know if you can overdo Stevia per day. It is such a big help with the cran-water, but I don’t want to do anything wrong.

    Reply
    • Team ALG

      Hi Barbara, The cranwater is most effective when enjoyed without any added stevia. The stevia changes the pH of this fat-flushing beverage, which reduces its amazing detox powers. For use in smoothies, you’ll want to have no more than 2 packets of SteviaPlus per day.

      Reply
  26. Natalie

    Thanks so much for that great info. Was eating Paleo and moderate amounts of coconut oil but felt like my MS symptoms were getting worse. I am blood type A. What is the best MS diet in your opinion? Thanks so much!

    Reply
  27. Ann Louise

    Dear Natalie: The best MS diet is one which addresses possible underlying issues with copper excess or deficiency – both of which dramatically impact the myelin sheath. Have you taken a HTMA (hair tissue mineral analysis) which would uncover possible copper dysregulation that is affecting your MS?

    Reply
  28. Jessica

    I am blood type A. What about the use of coconut oil for a moisturizer on my skin and hair? Is there a problem with the lectins externally?

    Reply
    • Team ALG

      The lectins do not affect external use!

      Reply
  29. Annie

    You mentioned coconut oil as a cause of tinnitus. I have been using coconut oil for about 9 mos and haven’t had any problems until this past month I’m dealing with tinnitus. How does coconut oil cause this? I am going to stop using the coconut oil with hopes this ringing will go away. Thanks for all your great info.

    Reply
  30. Rachelle

    So disappointed to learn that coconut oil is not good for my blood type O. Just purchased a bottle of liquid Coconut Oil (Nature’sWay). For putting in my Golden Milk recipe. I thought that the combination of Tumeric and coconut oil would solve my chronic fatigue syndrome of foggy brain and tiredness plus solve my MEMORY problem, as well as loosing weight. What would you recommend for Memory problem. Someone recommends ACETYL L CARNITINE. Would that be good ? Thanks

    Reply
    • Team ALG

      You might still experiment with the coconut oil in small amounts, Rachelle. Acetyl L-carnitine does have clinical studies that support enhanced memory function with supplementation! The UNI KEY Ultra H3 is also a wonder for memory.

      Reply
  31. Annie

    This is probably a dumb question, but when you say that Coconut oil may not be so good for Type O Blood types, does this include all coconut products or just the oil? I’ve really come to enjoy many of the coconut products like coconut milk, coconut flakes etc. Please let me know. thanks!

    Reply
    • Team ALG

      Lectins are contained in the water, meat and oil of coconuts, so for those type Os who are sensitive, all the products you listed could potentially be problematic.

      Reply
  32. Eden

    May ground flax seeds be used in smoothie instead of oil?

    Reply
  33. Ben Menton

    Informative article, thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  34. SammySwanson

    If you are going to criticize coconut oil, you could at least use in depth reasoning.

    So since it kills bad bacteria is must kill good? You don’t explain how or why, simply state it as fact, which is laughable.

    You state it is high in salicylates, but provide no reference to any amount or as to why. Nor do you differentiate between unrefined and refined.

    Simply an article written for views and nothing more. Terrible writing is expected from a woman of course, who use fear mongering and estrogen-laden emotions, rather than logic and reason to explain anything.

    Reply
  35. SammySwanson

    If you are going to criticize coconut oil, you could at least use in depth reasoning.

    So since it kills bad bacteria is must kill good? You don’t explain how or why, simply state it as fact, which is laughable.

    You state it is high in salicylates, but provide no reference to any amount or as to why. Nor do you differentiate between unrefined and refined..

    Simply an article written for views and nothing more. Terrible writing is expected from a woman of course, who use fear mongering and estrogen-laden emotions, rather than logic and reason to explain anything.

    Reply
  36. Julie

    Sammy she’s been around for a long time and is a researcher. Her advices on health and diet work. I feel better and look better when I follow the majority of her guidelines I choose to follow. Try it for yourself and you may experience a difference. Her advice on drinking cran water and rebounding is stellar. Give it a whirl for yourself. I believe there is something to lectins and type of blood. Proper food combining, eating less and some fasting and lots of water with healthy protein choices and lots of of leafy greens and polyphenols are probably our best bet against disease. Not to mention lower stress levels and exercise. She promotes all of this and specifically promotes keeping your gut flora healthy since all disease apparently starts there. Fear mongering I think not. Well studied and proactive in health for sure. That’s what I believe about Ann Louise. Would love to meet her someday. Knowledge is power so with her sharing her powerful knowledge and someone actually following some of her protocol I truly believe many will be helped. You won’t find this kind of help at your local doctor office and that’s a fact. That is where you get overpromised and underdelivered.

    Reply

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