Nearly 40% of U.S. adults meet the criteria for obesity, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.
One in five Americans has metabolic syndrome, which is linked partly to obesity, according to the Endocrine Society’s Hormone Health Network.
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of risk factors that raise the risks of developing diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
Adding to the problem is that the typical Western diet may contain 40% or more fat.
In a recent study at Texas A&M University, researchers found that eating a small amount of coconut oil daily, even as part of a high-fat diet, may have decreased metabolic syndrome.
The finding suggests that coconut oil may not be bad for cardiometabolic health, contrary to what previous studies have concluded.
The study is published in the Journal of the Endocrine Society. The lead author is Annie Newell-Fugate, D.V.M., Ph.D.
The researchers wanted to learn whether eating a small amount of coconut oil could improve metabolism, despite consumption of a Western-style diet in which 49% of daily calories came from fat.
Their study used an animal model of reproductive-age women with obesity and metabolic syndrome: sexually mature, female mini-pigs fed a high-fat, high-fructose diet resembling a Western diet.
For eight months, two groups of pigs ate this high-fat diet consisting of 4,500 calories a day, but the groups differed by the type of one saturated fat.
One group’s food included 5% animal lard, which some U.S. regions and ethnic cultures commonly use for cooking.
The other high-fat diet group received 5% non-organic coconut oil instead of lard in their food. The third group of pigs ate a low-calorie, lean diet as a control.
Although both groups fed the high-fat diet became obese, the pigs that received coconut oil had lower cholesterol and blood glucose (sugar) levels compared with the pigs that ate the lard-supplemented diet.
Also, the coconut oil group had less evidence of fatty liver disease and less deep belly fat than the lard group.
The team suggests that coconut oil may be used with lifestyle modifications and anti-diabetic drugs to treat metabolic syndrome, at least in women with obesity.
Coconut oil is available in many grocery stores and could substitute for other saturated fats in small quantities.
The team says substituting one tablespoon of saturated fat calories per day with coconut oil may result in an improvement in cardiometabolic health.
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