You Asked: Is Coconut Oil Healthy?

As health-conscious eaters have embraced dietary fat, coconut oil’s stock has skyrocketed. The oil, extracted from the meat of a coconut, is mostly saturated fat, but boasts about the food include weight loss, better metabolism and improved cholesterol.

While lab results are promising for some of these claims, real-world evidence is spotty.

Take weight loss. “The reason coconut oil is so popular for weight loss is partly due to my research on medium chain triglycerides," says Marie-Pierre St-Onge, associate professor of nutritional medicine at Cornell University Medical School. "Coconut oil has a higher proportion of medium-chain triglycerides than most other fats or oils, and my research showed eating medium-chain triglycerides may increase the rate of metabolism more than eating long-chain triglycerides.”

In 2003, St-Onge published two papers comparing medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) to long-chain triglycerides (LCTs) in overweight men and women. MCTs appeared to increase post-meal calorie burn more than LCTs in both groups. For men, eating more MCTs during the 28-day study period resulted in an extra pound of lost weight—compared with eating a similar amount of LCTs.

TIME HealthGet the latest health and science news, plus: burning questions and expert tips. View Sample
TIME may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website. Offers may be subject to change without notice.