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Benefits of Coconut Oil

This is part 2 of a slightly modified version of Ray Peat’s article on the benefits of coconut oil, which is found here.

Plants evolved a variety of toxins designed to protect themselves from “predators,” such as grazing animals. Seeds contain a variety of toxins, that seem to be specific for mammalian enzymes, and the seed oils themselves function to block protein digestive enzymes in the stomach.

The thyroid hormone is formed in the gland by the action of a protein digestive enzyme, and the unsaturated oils also inhibit that enzyme. Similar protein digestive enzymes involved in clot removal and immune function appear to be similarly inhibited by these oils.

Just as metabolism is “activated” by consumption of coconut oil, which prevents the inhibiting effect of unsaturated oils, other inhibited processes, such as clot removal and immune function, will probably tend to be restored by continuing use of coconut oil.

Brain tissue is very rich in complex forms of fats.

The experiment (around 1978) in which pregnant mice were given diets containing either coconut oil or unsaturated oil showed that brain development was superior in the young mice whose mothers ate coconut oil.

Because coconut oil supports thyroid function, and thyroid governs brain development, including myelination, the result might simply reflect the difference between normal and hypothyroid individuals.

However, in 1980, experimenters demonstrated that young rats fed milk containing soy oil incorporated the oil directly into their brain cells, and had structurally abnormal brain cells as a result.

Lipid oxidation occurs during seizures, and antioxidants such as vitamin E have some anti-seizure activity. Currently, lipid oxidation is being found to be involved in the nerve cell degeneration of Alzheimer’s disease.

Various fractions of coconut oil are coming into use as “drugs,” meaning that they are advertised as treatments for diseases. Butyric acid is used to treat cancer, lauric and myristic acids to treat virus infections, and mixtures of medium-chain fats are sold for weight loss.

Purification undoubtedly increases certain effects, and results in profitable products, but in the absence of more precise knowledge, I think the whole natural product, used as a regular food, is the best way to protect health.

The shorter-chain fatty acids have strong, unpleasant odors; for a couple of days after I ate a small amount of a medium-chain triglyceride mixture, my skin oil emitted a rank, goaty smell. Some people don’t seem to have that reaction, and the benefits might outweigh the stink, but these things just haven’t been in use long enough to know whether they are safe.

Treating any complex natural product as the drug industry does, as a raw material to be fractionated in the search for “drug” products, is risky, because the relevant knowledge isn’t sought in the search for an association between a single chemical and a single disease.

While the toxic unsaturated paint-stock oils, especially safflower, soy, corn and linseed (flaxseed) oils, have been sold to the public precisely for their drug effects, all of their claimed benefits were false.

When people become interested in coconut oil as a “health food,” the huge seed-oil industry — operating through their shills — are going to attack it as an “unproved drug.”

While components of coconut oil have been found to have remarkable physiological effects (as antihistamines, antiinfectives/antiseptics, promoters of immunity, glucocorticoid antagonist, nontoxic anticancer agents, for example).

The cholesterol-lowering fiasco for a long time centered on the ability of unsaturated oils to slightly lower serum cholesterol. For years, the mechanism of that action wasn’t known, which should have suggested caution. Now, it seems that the effect is just one more toxic action, in which the liver defensively retains its cholesterol, rather than releasing it into the blood.

Large scale human studies have provided overwhelming evidence that whenever drugs, including the unsaturated oils, were used to lower serum cholesterol, mortality increased, from a variety of causes including accidents, but mainly from cancer.

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.

In this situation, however, thyroid isn’t suppressing the synthesis of cholesterol, but rather is promoting its use to form hormones and bile salts. When the thyroid is functioning properly, the amount of cholesterol in the blood entering the ovary governs the amount of progesterone being produced by the ovary, and the same situation exists in all steroid-forming tissues, such as the adrenal glands and the brain.

Progesterone and its precursor, pregnenolone, have a generalized protective function: antioxidant, anti-seizure, antitoxin, anti-spasm, anti-clot, anticancer, pro-memory, pro-myelination, pro-attention, etc. Any interference with the formation of cholesterol will interfere with all of these exceedingly important protective functions.

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.

Coconut-eating cultures in the tropics have consistently lower cholesterol than people in the U.S. Everyone that I know who uses coconut oil regularly happens to have cholesterol levels of about 160, while eating mainly cholesterol rich foods (eggs, milk, cheese, meat, shellfish). I encourage people to eat sweet fruits, rather than starches, if they want to increase their production of cholesterol, since fructose has that effect.

Many people see coconut oil in its hard, white state, and — as a result of their training watching television or going to medical school — associate it with the cholesterol-rich plaques in blood vessels. Those lesions in blood vessels are caused mostly by lipid oxidation of unsaturated fats, and relate to stress, because adrenaline liberates fats from storage, and the lining of blood vessels is exposed to high concentrations of the blood-borne material.

In the body, incidentally, the oil can’t exist as a solid, since it liquefies at 76 degrees. (Incidentally, the viscosity of complex materials isn’t a simple matter of averaging the viscosity of its component materials; cholesterol and saturated fats sometimes lower the viscosity of cell components.)

Raymond Peat, Ph.D. P.O. Box 5764 Eugene, OR 97405


  1. P Phillips says:

    Does coconut oil help memory seems I have read that now unable to locate article again any info would be helpful. THYANK YOU

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