Study reveals coconut oil reduces metabolic syndrome associated with obesity

An animal study has found that obese females who consumed a small amount of coconut oil every day, in spite of having a high-fat diet, exhibited reduced metabolic syndrome—several risk factors that increase the possibilities of developing heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

Coconut Oil

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The findings of the study were accepted for presentation at ENDO 2020—annual meeting of the Endocrine Society—and will be reported in a special supplemental section of the Journal of the Endocrine Society.

Our controlled experimental study suggests that coconut oil may not be bad for cardio metabolic health, contrary to what previous studies have concluded.”

Annie Newell-Fugate, DVM, PhD, Assistant Professor, Texas A&M University

She is also the lead investigator of the study. According to reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 40% of the U.S. adults match the criteria for being obese.

The Endocrine Society’s Hormone Health Network reports that one in five Americans suffers from metabolic syndrome, associated partially with obesity. According to Newell-Fugate, the fact that worsens the condition is that the typical Western diet could contain 40% or more fat.

The aim of the team was to find whether the consumption of a small amount of coconut oil could improve metabolism, in spite of having a Western-style diet where 49% of everyday calories were obtained from fat.

For the study, the researchers used an animal model of reproductive age women with metabolic syndrome and obesity—sexually mature, female mini-pigs fed with high-fructose and high-fat diet that resembles a Western diet.

Two groups of pigs consumed this high-fat diet of 4,500 calories per day for eight months, where the groups varied by the type of one saturated fat. Food consumed by one group included 5% animal lard, which is commonly used for cooking in certain U.S. regions and ethnic cultures. The other group was fed 5% nonorganic coconut oil in the place of lard in their food. A third control group of pigs consumed a low-calorie, lean diet.

Fugate reported that though both groups that consumed the high-fat diet turned obese, the group that consumed coconut oil was found to have lower blood glucose (sugar) and cholesterol levels compared to the one that consumed the lard-supplemented diet. Moreover, the pigs that consumed coconut oil had less fatty liver disease instances and lower deep belly fat compared to the lard-fed group.

Our research suggests that coconut oil may be used with lifestyle modifications and anti-diabetic drugs to treat metabolic syndrome, at least in women with obesity.”

Annie Newell-Fugate, DVM, PhD, Assistant Professor, Texas A&M University

She added that they were not aware of whether the study results also applied to men. Coconut oil is readily available in several grocery stores and is also a substitute for other saturated fats in small quantities.

Substituting one tablespoon of your saturated fat calories per day with coconut oil could result in an improvement in your cardio metabolic health.”

Annie Newell-Fugate, DVM, PhD, Assistant Professor, Texas A&M University

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