Evidence suggests that coconut oil may have many health benefits, and it could benefit thyroid health. However, more research is necessary.

According to a 2018 review, preliminary studies have found that coconut oil and other sources of fat may help the body activate thyroid hormones. Various animal studies also suggest that coconut oil a complementary therapy may help support thyroid health.

In this article, we look at how coconut oil may have these effects on the thyroid. We explore the benefits and risks of using it and some suitable alternatives.

Small container of coconut oilShare on Pinterest
Vera Lair/Stocksy

Research in animals suggests that coconut oil may help prevent thyroid conditions from developing and improve liver function, among other effects.

In a mouse study, researchers found that coconut oil may help return thyroid hormone levels to normal. Coconut oil’s high levels of medium-chain fatty acids may be responsible for these and other potential health benefits, such as recovery from oxidative stress. It may also increase metabolism and energy levels and help regulate blood sugar, which could contribute to improved thyroid health.

Other reports have also shown that coconut oil may help reduce a goiter, an enlargement of the thyroid gland that leads to swelling of the neck.

Below, learn about different thyroid conditions and the types of coconut oil.

Coconut oil

Manufacturers extract this edible oil from the kernels of mature coconuts. The popularity of coconut oil has increased in recent years due to its purported health benefits.

There are two main types, virgin coconut oil and copra oil. They have similar amounts of fatty acids, but virgin coconut oil has more of certain nutrients, such as vitamin E, and more bioactive compounds, such as polyphenols.

More than 80% of coconut oil is saturated fat, which some experts have linked with cardiovascular conditions and other diseases. Experts recommend that saturated fats make up less than 10% of a person’s daily calories.

What is the thyroid?

The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck. It makes hormones that control the way the body uses energy. Thyroid hormones affect almost every organ and system in the body. They contribute to many vital functions, such as:

  • digestion
  • mood
  • breathing
  • weight
  • heart rate

Thyroid conditions

Several conditions affect the thyroid:

  • Hyperthyroidism: This involves the body overproducing thyroid hormones. It causes symptoms such as tremors, weight loss, mood swings, muscle weakness, and fatigue.
  • Hypothyroidism: This involves the body not producing enough thyroid hormones. It causes symptoms such as weight gain, fertility problems, depression, joint pain, and a slow heart rate.
  • Goiter: This is an enlarged thyroid. It can cause the neck to swell, leading to problems with swallowing and breathing.
  • Thyroiditis: This term refers to thyroid inflammation, and there are different types. For example, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis commonly causes hypothyroidism.
  • Thyroid cancer: This rare cancer causes symptoms such as pain and swelling in the neck, weight loss, difficulty speaking and swallowing, and fatigue.
  • Thyroid nodules: These are lumps in the thyroid gland, and the only symptom may be a bump in the neck.

Coconut oil may be:

  • antiviral, helping the body fight viruses
  • antibacterial, protecting against harmful bacteria
  • anti-inflammatory, reducing inflammation
  • antimicrobial, preventing the growth of potentially harmful microorganisms
  • hepato-protective, preventing liver damage
  • antiulcerogenic, preventing ulcers
  • antinociceptive, helping to block pain
  • anti-hypercholesterolemic, helping the body maintain healthy cholesterol levels
  • antioxidant, reducing damage from free radicals

However, research into the health benefits of coconut oil is often animal- or lab-based, inconclusive, or performed on a small scale. Human studies have typically had mixed results. Overall, confirming whether coconut oil improves health requires further research.

The main risk stems from coconut oil’s high saturated fat content. In 2017, the American Heart Association published a new warning about consuming saturated fats, including those from coconut oil, after it reviewed more than 100 studies.

Consuming too much saturated fat can increase the risks associated with low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke and can cause weight gain.

Some other options include:

  • olive oil
  • avocado oil
  • butter
  • almond oil
  • sunflower oil
  • grapeseed oil
  • canola oil

Animal research and small studies indicate that coconut oil’s various antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, among others, may help restore healthy thyroid hormone levels and help protect against thyroid disease.

However, researchers have not yet assessed the potential effects in large-scale human studies. There is, overall, too little evidence to tell whether the oil is beneficial.

Coconut oil has high levels of saturated fats. Consuming too many of these fats may increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and weight gain.