This week in the Nutrition News Roundup I have a testimonial to share. I got a phone call from my mother-in-law last week. She and my father-in-law were at the doctor's office and they had just found out that their cholesterol levels had dropped quite substantially.
Nancy's total cholesterol dropped 66 points — from 239 to 173. Ed's total cholesterol dropped 60 points — from 265 to 205.
They insist that in the past few months since the last time they had their cholesterol checked, they have only changed one thing in their diet. They have started eating baked oatmeal (soaked overnight in kefir). They have been eating oatmeal for years — but this is their first time soaking it and eating it baked. They wondered if it could be the kefir that helped to lower their cholesterol.
I did a little research online and it seems that it's much more likely that what might have caused the drop in cholesterol is the coconut oil. The recipe for baked oatmeal on Kelly the Kitchen Kop's site that they have been using calls for 1/2 cup of coconut oil. I'm not sure how much they ate but I'm guessing they were probably getting 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil in each serving, and they say they were eating the baked oatmeal about 4 times per week.
While I am skeptical about cholesterol and doubt the benefits of lowering cholesterol and am very much opposed to cholesterol lowering drugs (statins) and also anti-low fat diets, I was curious as to why increasing coconut oil would lower cholesterol. Especially when most dietitians and nutrition experts will tell you that saturated fat raises cholesterol.
Experts say that you should avoid foods high in saturated fat. Coconut oil is made up of about 90% saturated fat.
An FDA spokesperson was quoted as saying:
Saturated fatty acids tend to raise levels of LDL cholesterol (‘bad' cholesterol) in the blood. Elevated levels of LDL cholesterol are associated with heart disease. Source
And yet my in-laws, after eating coconut oil 4 times a week for about a month, saw a drop in their total cholesterol and their LDL. Nancy's LDL dropped 38 points, from 143 to 105. Ed's went down 49 points, from 172 to 123.
So how do we explain this? If saturated fats raise cholesterol and LDL, then how come my in-laws saw their numbers drop?
High Cholesterol and Low Thyroid Function
I found this article by thyroid expert Mary Shomon: The High Cholesterol Thyroid Connection Undiagnosed Thyroid Disease May Be the Reason for Your High Cholesterol
The thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland located behind and below the Adam's Apple, produces a hormone that helps regulate metabolism. When the thyroid produces too little hormone, metabolism slows, and the ability to process cholesterol is also impaired.
Scientist Ray Peat has this to say:
Since the l930s, it has been clearly established that suppression of the thyroid raises serum cholesterol (while increasing mortality from infections, cancer, and heart disease), while restoring the thyroid hormone brings cholesterol down to normal.
Coconut Oil and Thyroid Function
There's a lot of information online about how coconut oil helps to support thyroid function. Read this excerpt from an article by coconut expert, Bruce Fife:
I have developed a drugless thyroid program based on diet and lifestyle. While coconut oil is a primary feature of this program, it is defiantly not the only factor involved. I do recommend that those people who are on thyroid medication when they start the program, to continue with it under the close supervision of their doctors. Some people have reported that using thyroid medication while on my program makes their thyroid function too good and they become hyperthyroid. So a doctor must monitor the medication and gradually reduce it. This is what I'm seeing. People report that they have more energy, they lose weight, and they are able to reduce and even completely get off thyroid medication. They no longer need it.
One lady, for example, had been hypothyroid for over 20 years. She had been using Armour thyroid with partial improvement. Her body temperature averaged 1 to 2 degrees below normal. After going through my program. Her daily average body temperature shot up to 98.6 degrees. She has much more energy now, doesn't need 10 hours of sleep every night or need a nap in the afternoon, and she now tolerates cold better than her husband who has normal thyroid function. She no longer needs medication; her thyroid is functioning normally for the first time in decades. She doesn't need to depend on coconut oil either. She's gone without coconut oil for as long as a month with no noticeable drop in thyroid function. Her improved condition appears to be permanent.
I have a drawer full of testimonials of people telling me how they lost 10, 20, 60 pounds of excess fat with coconut oil and how my program is helping their metabolism and overall health. Just recently I received a letter from a lady who followed the recommendations in my book and began using coconut oil. She lost 56 pounds. As you can imagine, she was overjoyed! Source
Ray Peat also wrote:
As far as the evidence goes, it suggests that coconut oil, added regularly to a balanced diet, lowers cholesterol to normal by promoting its conversion into pregnenolone. (The coconut family contains steroids that resemble pregnenolone, but these are probably mostly removed when the fresh oil is washed with water to remove the enzymes which would digest the oil.) Coconut-eating cultures in the tropics have consistently lower cholesterol than people in the U.S. Source
I learned a lot about coconut oil from this book: The Coconut Oil Miracle (Previously published as The Healing Miracle of Coconut Oil)
If you don't like the taste of coconut, a great option for coconut oil is expeller pressed coconut oil. Expeller pressed coconut oil is also very economical. You don't get the benefits of eating raw coconut oil, but it's a lot cheaper. For cooking, frying and baking, I use expeller pressed.
Did you know you absorb coconut oil through your pores? Try using coconut oil as a moisturizer. It also makes a great deodorant — believe it or not!
Suddenly I'm craving popcorn popped in coconut oil… and tonight I'll be making buttermilk fried chicken fried in — that's right — coconut oil.
Photo credit: Flickr