A diet rich in coconut oil keeps fat away and also protects against insulin resistance, a new study shows.
The study also helps explain how people who incorporate medium chain fatty acids found in coconut oil into their diets can lose body fat. Obesity and insulin resistance are major factors leading to the development of Type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance is an impaired ability of cells to respond to insulin.
Nigel Turner and Jiming Ye from Sydney's Garvan Institute of Medical Research compared fat metabolism and insulin resistance in mice fed coconut oil and lard based diets.
"The medium chain fatty acids like those found in coconut oil are interesting to us because they behave very differently to the fats normally found in our diets," said study leader Turner.
"Unlike the long chain fatty acids contained in animal fats, medium chain fatty acids are small enough to enter mitochondria - the cells' energy burning powerhouses - directly where they can then be converted to energy."
"Unfortunately the downside to eating medium chain fatty acids is that they can lead to fat build up in the liver, an important fact to be taken into consideration by anyone considering using them as a weight loss therapy."
Fat storage is determined by the balance between how much fat is taken in by cells and how much of this fat is burned for energy. When people eat a high fat diet, their bodies attempt to compensate by increasing their capacity to oxidise fat, said a Garvan release.
"Obese humans usually eat 40-50 percent of their calories as fat. Our mice were fed 45 percent of their calories as fat," Turner said.
Their findings are now published online in Diabetes.