Hypothyroidism and Virgin Coconut Oil
There are many side effects of a sluggish thyroid gland and the resulting slower metabolism. An underactive thyroid greatly affects a person’s energy level, and with a slower metabolism there is a subsequent reduction in activity. Often times unwanted weight gain follows. Unfortunately, a person’s health is also effected. Several health problems such as obesity, heart disease, and osteoporosis are more prevalent in those people who have slow metabolism. Any health condition is made worse if the metabolic rate is slower than normal, because the cells can’t heal and repair themselves as quickly. People with hypothyroidism desperately want to live normal, energetic lives. There are several things a person can do to help the thyroid gland and it is quite possible adding coconut oil to your diet will be part of your answer.
Increase your Metabolism and Energy Level
Coconut oil, or some form of it, is used in many hospital formulas to help the very old, the very young, and the very ill to regain their strength and vitality. The medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil are much different that the long chain fatty acids found in the seed oils. This difference effects how the body utilizes the oil, how it is digested, metabolized, and how it is used by and effects the body.
The medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil are easily absorbed and put to use nourishing the body. Unlike other fats, they put little strain on the digestive system and provide a quick source of energy. On the other hand, long chain fatty acids are usually digested with the use of bile salts from the liver and digestive enzymes made by the pancreas. Less enzymes and less energy are required for coconut oil digestion. You see, the medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil do not require digestion and are absorbed quickly into the lymphatic system requiring minimal effort. Because of this, there is less strain on the pancreas, liver and the digestive system. This is important for persons who suffer from metabolic problems.
Once digested, long chain fatty acids and excess carbohydrates travel as triglycerides made of 14 carbon chain fatty acids. The long chain fatty acids must be linked up with carrier proteins (they are called lipoproteins) to be carried though out the body. They can be used by the cells or organs for energy or stored in adipose tissue or dropped off on the sides of arteries, etc. Most triglycerides traveling through the blood stream are stored in adipose tissue to be used later.
Coconut oil, because it contains shorter fatty acid chains, does not take this path. It is not absorbed into the blood stream but rather becomes part of lymph fluid and travels the lymphatic system. And rather than adding to fat stores it is always used by the body for energy.
Many people describe the “burning” of coconut oil as similar to the “burning” of carbohydrates for fuel. The medium chain fatty acids, however, are not packaged with lipoproteins, but travel to the liver where they are converted into energy. Ordinarily they are not stored to any significant degree as body fat. Medium chain fatty acids are always eventually used to produce energy. Other dietary fats tend to produce fat but coconut oil produces energy!
Other energy sources, such as carbohydrates, require insulin, produced by the pancreas. Insulin is required for the glucose molecules to be able to enter into the cell. Many, many people develop a resistance to insulin as they get older and it becomes increasingly more difficult for the body to get energy (fuel) into the cells. Eventually many of these people do develop diabetes, but insulin resistance can go on for many years undetected.
Any extra glucose which does not get used by the body for energy is turned into triglycerides. This is why a person can have high triglycerides in their blood and not eat an ounce of fat. Even total vegetarians can have high triglycerides from eating a high carbohydrate diet. This is also why people can eat coconut oil and be conservative with carbohydrates and have very low carbohydrates.
Because MCFA are funneled directly to the liver and converted into energy, the body gets a boost of energy. And because MCFA are easily absorbed by the energy-producing organelles of the cells, metabolism increases. This burst of energy has a stimulating effect on the entire body. Many people, those with relatively good health, those with significant health problems, and those who are overweight notice a speeding up of their metabolism and their body temperature when they add coconut oil to their diet.
It is important to realize that insulin is not involved in any of the process of getting these medium chain fatty acids into the cells and so you will not see a “sugar high” (or peak in your sugar level) and a “sugar low” where you want to go to sleep.
The fact that MCFA digest immediately to produce energy and stimulate metabolism has led athletes to use them as a means to enhance exercise performance. There are several studies showing this to be true. For example, in one study, investigators tested the physical endurance of mice who were given MCFA in their daily diet against those that weren’t. The study extended over a six week period. The mice were subjected to a swimming endurance test every other day. They were placed in a pool of water with a constant current flow like that found in a river. The total swimming time until exhaustion was measured. While at first there was little difference between the groups of mice, those fed MCFA quickly began to out-perform the others and continued to improve throughout the testing period.1
To be fair, there are studies which have concluded that MCFA do not have an effect on energy levels and endurance. These studies have drawn this conclusion based on one time dosages of MCFA. The studies which are cited that show a definite benefit from the MCFA are those where the oil was given on a daily basis for a period of time. Therefore, it appears that for the best benefit a person should consume these medium chain fatty acids on a daily basis.
Besides increasing your energy level, there are other very important benefits that results from boosting your metabolic rate: it helps protect you from illness and speeds healing. When metabolism is increased, cells function at a higher rate of efficiency. They heal injuries quicker, old and diseased cells are replaced faster. Young, new cells are generated at an increased rate to replace the worn-out ones. Even the immune system functions better.
Eat Fat, Lose Weight
In the United States 55% of the population is overweight. One in 4 adults is considered obese. Being overweight increases risk for gall bladder, disease, osteo-arthritis, diabetes, heart disease and early death.
You can reduce you food intake, reduce your fat intake, and you can be hungry all the time, feel miserable, depressed and not lose many (if any) pounds. Most people eventually give up with no lasting or significant weight loss. Each time you lower your calorie intake your body lowers it basal metabolism and you require less calories to go through a day, which will result in more weight gain once you give up your diet. It is a vicious cycle. Young people require more calories than older people. Physically active people use more calories than less active ones. People who are fasting, starving, or even dieting use less calories than people who are not. And over weight people use fewer calories than lean or muscular people. Overweight people who are dieting have even lower metabolism. And then if your thyroid gland is not working well, you may feel quite desperate. Interestingly enough, many people find, that by changing the fats they have in their diet from the unsaturated long chain fatty acids (found in seed oils) to the medium chain fatty acids (found in coconut oil), they gradually over the the weeks and months lose weight effortlessly. It has also been well documented in numerous dietary studies using both animals and humans that replacing long chain fatty acids with medium chain fatty acids results in a decrease in body weight gain and a reduction in fat deposition. 2-8
The reasons seem to be two fold. Since carbohydrates are usually used for energy, if they are not in excess they will not be turned into triglycerides and go into fat stores. Proteins are rarely used for energy. They make up the building blocks of much of our cells and systems and are usually used in that function. But fats, if in long chains, will almost always go into fat stores unless the calorie intake is low and they are needed for energy. However, the medium chain fatty acids will not do that. They will help in the digestion of the fat soluable vitamin, and they will fight bacteria and viruses (lauric acid is known for dissolving the lipid envelope that protects many pathogenic viruses and bacteria) and in the end rather than adding to fat stores these fatty acid chains will be used up for energy by the body. And since coconut oil will speed up metabolism, your body will actually be burning more calories in a day and you will have more energy. You may even become more active. This will only help to accelerate weight loss and renew your health. It is very interesting to see studies that show the unsaturated fats as having an effect on the body of causing hypothyroidism and a lower metabolic rate and the coconut oil speeding up metabolism and increasing thyroid activity.
Most of the information above comes from a book entitles “The Healing Miracles of Coconut Oil” By Dr. Bruce Fife. It has been used with permission from the author. Both Extra Virgin Coconut Oil and the book may be purchased at Wilderness Family Naturals
- Fushiki, T and Matsumoto, K 1995, Swimming endurance capacity of mice is increased by consumption of medium-chain triglycerides. Journal of Nutrition 125:531
- Baba, N 1982. Enhanced thermogenesis and diminished deposition of fat in response to overfeeding with diet containing medium-chain triglyceride. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 35:379
- Bach, A.C. et al. 1989 Clinical and experimental effects of medium chain triglycerides based fat emulsions-a review.
- Hill, J.O., et al. 1989 Thermogenesis in humans during overfeeding with medium0chain triglycerides. Metabolism 38:641
- Hasihim, S.A. and Tantibhedyangkul, P. 1987 Medium chain triglycerides in early life: Effects on frowth of adipose tissue. Lipids 22:429
- Geliebter, A 1980. Overfeeding with a diet of medium-chain triglycerides impedes accumulation of body fat Clinical Nutrition 28:595
- Bray, G.A., et al. 1980. Weight gain of rats fed medium chain fatty triglycerides is less than rats fed long chain fatty acids. Int. J. Obes. 4:27-32
- Geliebter, A 1983. Overfeeding with medium-chain triglycerides diet results in diminished deposition of fat. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 37:1.4
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