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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Does Coconut Oil stimulate appetite?

A comment I read on PaleoHacks led me to this article on Livestrong:  Does Coconut Oil increase your appetite?  It cites the following study: Ingested Medium-Chain Fatty Acids Are Directly Utilized for the Acyl Modification of Ghrelin .
Ghrelin, an acylated brain and gut peptide, is primarily produced by endocrine cells of the gastric mucosa for secretion into the circulation. The major active form of ghrelin is a 28-amino-acid peptide containing an n-octanoyl modification at serine that is essential for activity. Studies have identified multiple physiological functions for ghrelin, including GH release, appetite stimulation, and metabolic fuel preference. Until now, there has not been any report detailing the mechanism of ghrelin acyl modification. Here we report that ingestion of either medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) or medium-chain triacylglycerols (MCTs) increased the stomach concentrations of acylated ghrelin without changing the total (acyl- and des-acyl-) ghrelin amounts.

After ingestion of either MCFAs or MCTs, the carbon chain lengths of the acyl groups attached to nascent ghrelin molecules corresponded to that of the ingested MCFAs or MCTs. Ghrelin peptides modified with n-butyryl or n-palmitoyl groups, however, could not be detected after ingestion of the corresponding short-chain or long-chain fatty acids, respectively. Moreover, n-heptanoyl ghrelin, an unnatural form of ghrelin, could be detected in the stomach of mice after ingestion of either n-heptanoic acid or glyceryl triheptanoate. These findings indicate that ingested medium-chain fatty acids are directly used for the acylation of ghrelin.
So, while the MCT's in CO don't stimulate more ghrelin production, they do bind ghrelin and convert it to the active form that stimulates appetite.  Short chain fatty acids like butyrate and long chain fatty acids like palmitic acid do not do this.   The Livestrong article goes on to mention how CO can aid in weight loss, but I've not found peer review evidence of impact on metabolic rate, but I have seen one study where replacement of LCT's with MCT's has aided slightly in this regard.

I was wondering why this might be and then I was reminded that the only other food I can think of high in MCT's is human breast milk.  Perhaps the MCT's activating ghrelin ensured babies would eat enough?  

In any case, I just wanted to share this with my readers since CO is all the rage in both the low carb and paleo movements.  Perhaps it's something to consider if you're not losing or gaining weight on an ad libitum diet that includes lots of CO.  Those who take CO as a supplement of sorts (why?) might want to reconsider that unless they are trying to gain weight.


Adam said...

Interesting. Opposite experience for me.

Personally, I use coconut oil as an appetite killer. 2 tbs of it takes away my ability to eat 2 lbs of beef in 1 sitting. I have to stop after 1 lbs.

Unknown said...

The MDA people drink that stuff like it was root beer

Galina L. said...

Not my experience, but thank you for sharing. I think that adding butter is more appetite stimulating than adding a coconut oil (just n=1). Again, according to my experience, out of all fats the best appetite killers are lamb and beef fats. Refine coconut oil is the one of two primary cooking fats in my household because it is so versatile. I also use a beef suet often partially because it is a free staff, partially because it is a source of O3 for me (can't eat much fish due to a mild allergy) but at has a distinct flavor which sometimes is not convenient.

Steven Hamley said...

This study suggests CO may slightly help with weight loss (due to increased fat oxidation and thermogenesis), but the difference was only 0.41kg in a month.

Sure, it might aid slightly in weight loss, but CO is probably more valuable from being resistant to peroxidation and antimicrobial

CarbSane said...

@Andy & Galina, you're not alone, many report appetite suppression. Lots of folks report getting a "buzz" from MCT's too. I've never noticed a difference, just sometimes cramping and a need to stay close to the bathroom from time to time with the MCT oil. I still have like 3/4 of a bottle of the stuff. Mix 50/50 with olive oil for salad dressing and probably won't buy another.

@Steven: Interesting study. It's funny when I first looked into MCT's years ago I kept coming across its use for weight GAIN for folks with fat malabsorption issues. I agree with you, CO likely more beneficial for other reasons than weight either way.

@Unknown: I remember one person on PH wondering why they weren't losing weight. They kept a tub of butter or CO on their work desk and ate a spoonful any time they got hungry. Umm, helllloooooooo in there?

I'm not a big fan of CO because it changes the taste of everything it touches and while I like the taste, I don't like everything having that taste. Plus I suspect a mild allergy to it. I have palm kernel oil, which is more like wax flakes. Very user friendly for cooking, no taste/smell, very similar FA profile to CO.

Galina L. said...

It is amazing how much people are different when it comes to a taste. I think that it is the palm oil that has a strong taste, and the refine coconut oil doesn't taste like anything. Unrefined CO tastes pretty strong. May be not everybody would agree, but I like to pan-fry a beef liver in unrefined CO.
May be it is an allergy in your case when you could taste CO in everything, during times when I am more prone to have an allergic reaction, fish and especially shrimps may taste really odd for me, like if it was drenched with a baking soda. There are instances when our body should be trusted.

CarbSane said...

Just FYI I said palm kernel oil which is different than palm oil. I don't use palm oil. PKO looks like chips of white wax and is truely odorless/tasteless much like the MCT oil. That's why I mix MCT with olive for dressings for flavor. I use PKO to "cut" my butter when frying.

CarbSane said...

PS, re: "There are instances when our body should be trusted." I'd say there are more than instances. :D

Galina L. said...

Sorry for my mistake, it looks like I never saw the palm kernel oil. I will give it a try if our local natural food store or Publix start to sell it. The palm oil in my pantry looks sort of waxy but very bright red. When I went to Moscow, I took couple jars of CO with me to use it in cooking, but I stayed for so long that I run through it. During our stay in Russia my son went to London, UK, to visit friends, I told him to bring me more CO because there was no such thing in Moscow. He didn't found it in a regular food store, but some was available as an ethnic hair care product in a specialized store.
I trust my body when it comes to allergies, or recovery from an injury or stress, but it could have a different opinion than me in the matters like a weight loss.

CarbSane said...

PKO is hard to find. I get mine online from a soap making place -- it's food grade ;) It's far cheaper than CO too. I got 5 lbs for like $15

Galina L. said...

What a great idea! A Soap store! I will give it a try.

SamAbroad said...

Weird, I get the opposite too. My favourite lunch at the moment is a can of sardines, white rice and 2tsp MCT oil covered with tamari in quite a small bowl.

I can never finish it it's so filling, and I get the lovely keto buzz without the hypoglycaemia I got when low carbing. I love how tasteless MCT oil is as I'm not a huge fan of the coconut flavour in non curry or thai flavour based dishes.

Unknown said...

Sweeter Than Your Tongue Allows: No-Calorie Sweeteners Disrupt Early Response to Glucose Ingestion, Reduce GLP-1 Expression and Could Thus Promote Overeating

Experience with the high-intensity sweetener saccharin impairs glucose homeostasis and GLP-1release in rats

► Rats given dietary supplements sweetened with saccharin gained extra body weight. ► Saccharin-exposed animals were hyperglycemic during oral glucose tolerance tests. ► Hyperglycemia in saccharin-exposed animals was not due to changes in insulin release. ► Reduced release of GLP-1 was observed in saccharin-exposed animals. ► Decreased release of GLP-1 may explain both hyperglycemia and increased food intake.

ProudDaddy said...

To add a note to what I thought was a fascinating study, the effect was on a SUBSEQUENT meal. Further, the insulin sensitivity effect did NOT occur when the subsequent meal was tube-fed, indicating taste receptivity might be involved.

Woodey said...

About 3 months into LC I started cooking with coconut oil, even took supplements because it was supposed to help with skin issues. I stopped the supplements after a while because it was an expense I didn't need and noticed none of the benefits people mentioned.

I cooked with coconut oil every day for about 9 months sometimes twice a day; however, I noticed no increase in hunger. I still cook with it just not as often now that I am cutting back on my fat intake. I like it a lot more than any other oil except animal fat.

I am interested in PKO, where do you get yours at?

CarbSane said...

I'm working on getting them to sponsor my site so ....

Just kidding. It's been a while so I'd have to dig through email receipts, but a Google on "food grade" palm kernel oil led me here: I'm 99.9% certain this is where I got mine. I note now that you can buy this on ebay now too.

Woodey said...

Thank you for the link. As soon as my current batch of coconut oil is used up I will try PKO out. Much much cheaper and probably just as good for you.

Rad Warrier said...

Coconut oil was THE cooking oil for almost all my life. So was it for my ancestors. I believe we are neither more healthy nor less healthy because we use coconut oil. We use coconut oil externally too - on our hair and skin. I have still plenty of hair left but I have to say I have bald cousins too. So, can't say if use of coconut oil is good or bad for hair. We continue to use coconut oil because it is the cooking oil our taste buds like the most :) Also we liked it best when it came from the nuts from the coconut trees in our own yard. We ourselves used to dry the coconuts in the sun and get the dried coconut (called "copra") pressed in a mill close to home. We could see the oil ooze out of the copra before our eyes. Good taste and on top of it mental satisfaction that the stuff came unadulterated. Now we buy the stuff from ethnic grocery stores.


Anonymous said...

Hey Evelyn, thought I would show you this study:

It studied the effects of fatty acid chain length on ghrelin, peptide YY, and glucagon-like peptide-2 levels in men. Lauric acid (C12), the primary fatty acid in coconut oil, was said to have "markedly suppressed plasma ghrelin" while capric acid (C10) had no effect.

When I get the chance to read to read the full study you posted, but in the meantime I thought I'd show some (potentially) contradictory findings.


CarbSane said...

Thanks for this information, and welcome! Would seem to contradict the other study. I wonder if it's yet another of those individual differences. I haven't looked at ghrelin much, but like with leptin, whenever I see it measured postprandially it's often all over the map.

CarbSane said...

That's cool! (the copra thing) I really like fresh whole coconut meat.

ProudDaddy said...

For those of us for whom biochemistry hadn't yet been invented during our college years, how about an explanation of this acylation stuff? For example, my limited understanding from this blog is that ghrelin must be acylated to reach an active form. Howver, my limited understanding of biochemistry involves something called "rate-limiting step" which I interpret to mean the one step in a conversion that determines how much of a thing gets made in a given period of time. Is acylation of ghrelin such a step? Further, are there other sources of of the stuff allowing this step?

Please forgive my woeful lack of knowledge while understanding that I'm probably not the only one of your regular readers so afflicted.

CarbSane said...

Hey there! I haven't really looked into this much ... this was more of a "just sharing" post. However, if/when I look more into ghrelin, I now know that it has an active and inactive form. The acylation changes the structure to something that fits a receptor, etc. FWIW, phosphorylation is another typical chemical reaction that activates receptors, signaling molecules, etc.

Rate limiting? Could be, maybe not. Most of our biochemistry is (a) catalyzed by enzymes and (b) coupled to other reactions so that reactions that would not occur spontaneously do. So it's hard to say. But this seems at least tied to the availability of the MCFA.

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