What You Need To Know About Weight Loss

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A FEW YEARS ago, I was in a restaurant in Los Angeles with a group of friends and ate an olive from my martini glass.

As I bit into it, a sickeningly slender American girl turned to me and remarked, in all seriousness: 'Are you not staying for dinner, then?' That's how fattening oily foods such as olives were considered to be.
So it's with some surprise and a wry smile that I learn that the latest diet sensation from across the water is . . . fat. And not just any old fat, but coconut oil - the oil with pretty much the highest levels of saturated fat you can find.

The food fad which is transforming the brown, hairy fruit of the palm tree into a must-have fashion item began with the release of three books: The Coconut Oil Miracle, The Coconut Diet, and the new Eat Fat Lose Fat by two well-respected nutrition experts, Dr. Mary G. Enig and Sally Fallon.

The books are flying off the shelves in America and the trend will arrive in Britain later this year.

Eating more fat is a rather shocking idea to anyone who dieted in the Eighties. Low-fat was everything and there are many of us - myself included - who would still never order a creamy sauce and think of mayonnaise as the Devil's food.

But, of course, the diet industry has moved on. Even as people were told that low-fat, high-fiber diets are good for their health and waistlines, heart disease became more prevalent and obesity became an epidemic.

So high-protein, low- carbohydrate became the mantra, with fat a good thing so long as it was the right kind - monounsaturated, and high in the essential fatty acids Omega-3 and Omega-6. Olive oil, fish oils, seeds, and avocados were suddenly great for us.

Now Eat Fat, Lose Fat says coconut oil is the best oil of all. This, despite it being a saturated fat. In fact, Enig and Fallon say that is exactly why it's so great and that we should all eat more saturated fat, from full-fat (unpasteurized) milk, unpasteurized cheese, butter, red meat and even lard.

And I thought lard made you . . . well, lardy.

The book cites the South Pacific and Thailand as evidence - there, everyone eats an abundance of coconut oil and people are generally slim, with low rates of heart disease and cancer.

Of course, it does not mention the fact that in those countries the diet is based on fresh fruit and vegetables, with rice and small amounts of meat or fish, and very little dairy produce. Nor that the populations are very active and generally not exposed to huge amounts of pollutants.

The authors suggest we should all eat one to two tablespoons of coconut oil, depending on our weight, dissolved in a cup of hot water 20 minutes before each meal. That boosts our metabolisms and fills us so much we might not even want all of what follows.

Then we should have meals such as a cheese omelet fried in coconut oil or a coconut smoothie made with full-fat milk and yogurt for breakfast, a coconut-marinaded chicken salad for lunch, and a beef Thai red curry with lots of vegetables for dinner. Bounty bars are unfortunately not allowed.

Stick to the diet and you should lose one to two pounds a week while feeling full at all times.

So what it is about coconuts that makes them such a 'miracle' food?

According to Enig and Fallon, it is the fact that coconut oil is high in substances called medium- chain triglycerides (MCTs).

These MCTs are converted to energy - burned up - more quickly than unsaturated fats, which contain long-chain triglycerides (LCTs), so are less likely to end up stored as fat. But more importantly, the MCTs boost the metabolism by sparking a process called thermogenesis (the creation of life-giving heat) as your body gets to work on the oil.

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