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Is Coconut Oil Really a Thyroid Cure?

And Can it Help You Lose Weight?

By Dr. Ken Woliner

Updated July 30, 2003

Coconut palm tree
Does coconut oil cure thyroid disease and lead to weight loss?

No one therapy has the potential to cure all thyroid disease because there are many different causes of hypothyroidism. Deficiencies of minerals such as selenium, zinc, and iodine are common (iodine less so since the fortification of salt with iodine). A relative deficiency of tyrosine caused by low iron, tetrahydrobiopterin, or NAD inhibiting its conversion from phenylalanine is another cause. A patient could be exposed to the toxicity of heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury; fatty acids such as oleic acid and trans fats; stress; infections; autoimmune disease; radiation; and trauma (thyroid surgery, other surgeries in the neck, whiplash during a motor vehicle accident). Other causes include imbalances of other endocrine glands and the hormones they produce such as estrogens, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, cortisol, insulin, TRH (hypothalamic hypothyroidism), TSH (pituitary hypothyroidism)), and the thyroid itself (benign adenoma or cancer squeezing out healthy thyroid, status post thyroid surgery, radioactive ablation).

Inability to lose weight is a complex symptom that requires a well-trained clinician to decipher the true cause(s). Though hypothyroidism is one common cause, there are many others including excessive consumption of calories, carbohydrates, trans-fats, caffeine, and artificial sweeteners; deficiencies of lean body mass (muscle that burns calories at rest), exercise (burning calories while exercising), vitamins, minerals, protein, essential fatty acids and water; and hormone imbalances as mentioned above. Ms. Saralegui did not consume coconut oil, and it was her low-calorie and low-carbohydrate diet combined with her increased exercise, that helped her lose her unwanted pounds. The other women in the article who did start coconut oil may have lost weight, but this is more likely due to the medium-chain fatty acids being absorbed without excess insulin production, rather than an improvement in thyroid function. Hashimoto’s Thryoiditis has a variable course with remission and relapses based upon selenium status among other things. The persons interviewed in this article would be wise to regularly consult with their personal physicians to monitor for the development of other symptoms and signs of hypothyroidism such as edema, skin changes, and osteoporosis.

In summary, a low-carbohydrate diet combined with adequate protein and healthy fatty acids (which can include a modest amount of coconut oil) will help some people lose weight. Correcting underlying dysfunction in regard to deficiency, toxicity and hormone imbalances will help more people lose even more weight, but will also reverse the other troublesome symptoms they may experience.

Dr. Kenneth Woliner is a board-certified family physician in private practice in Boca Raton. Though he often recommends vitamin supplements, he does not sell them due to conflict of interest concerns. He can be reached at Holistic Family Medicine, 2499 Glades Road #106A, Boca Raton, FL 33431; 561-620-7779. Contact him at: knw6@cornell.edu.

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