Saturday, June 20, 2009
My interest in the nutritional benefits of coconut oil was aroused by the influx of tantalizing new products containing coconut that have recently popped up on store shelves. I got my hands on the book, Coconut Cures by Bruce Fife, N.D., who also authored several other books on the health benefits of coconut oil, and then asked him to shed a bit more light on the subject for me.
GD: When did you first become interested in studying the health benefits of coconut oil?
BF: Several years ago I was in a meeting with a group of nutritionists when one member of the group stated that coconut oil was one of the “good” fats and did not cause heart disease. This was in the late 1990s, and it was the first time I had ever heard this. Up until then, everything I had heard or read claimed that coconut oil was a saturated fat and should be avoided. This nutritionist backed up her statement and cited several studies showing the benefits of coconut oil. This was so contrary to what I had been led to believe that I was intrigued and felt compelled to learn more. I wanted to know if coconut oil was a "bad" fat or a "good" fat or something in between.
GD: So what did your research uncover about the health benefits of coconut oil? Was there an "Ah-hah!" moment?
BF: I began looking for information about coconut oil, but at the time there wasn’t much written about it. The only information I found said that “coconut oil is a saturated fat and causes heart disease.” I read that statement everywhere, but none of the authors ever backed it up with any facts, figures, or citations to medical studies. It became obvious to me that nobody really knew anything about coconut oil. They were just badmouthing it, because they believed all saturated fats were bad, and therefore, coconut oil must be bad, too. I figured the only way to learn the truth about coconut oil was to search the medical journals and see what researchers were learning about it. I looked up every medical study I could find on coconut and coconut oil. There were hundreds of studies. What I found shocked me. Study after study showed nutritional and medical benefits of the oil. In fact, I couldn’t find any that demonstrated any negative effects. And contrary to popular belief, the evidence I found indicated that coconut oil not only did not cause heart disease, but protected against it.
GD: That's quite astounding. Apparently, not all saturated fats are created equal.
GD: Common wisdom (or lack thereof), tells us that consuming a diet high in any kind of fat makes us fatter. Yet in your book, Eat Fat Look Thin you describe how people can enjoy full-fat foods, and still lose weight. Could you briefly explain how eating coconut oil actually stimulates metabolism and assists in weight loss?
BF: There are three main reasons why coconut oil can help people lose excess weight. 1) Coconut actually has fewer calories than any other fat. So by eating coconut oil in place of other fats you are reducing your calorie intake. 2) Coconut oil has an amazing ability to satisfy hunger. So when it is in food you become satisfied sooner and remain satisfied longer between meals, so you tend to eat less food and consume fewer calories. 3) Coconut oil is metabolized differently from other dietary fats. It is metabolized more like a carbohydrate than a fat. The body uses coconut oil for energy rather than for storage. So when coconut oil is eaten it boosts energy and actually shifts metabolism into a higher gear. So you burn off calories at an accelerated rate. Studies show this rise in metabolism after eating coconut oil lasts for 24 hours. So for 24 hours your energy level is higher, and you are burning more calories.
GD: I enjoy using coconut oil in cooking and baking. It gives foods exquisite flavor and makes them very aromatic. I noticed one or two recipes in your book, Coconut Cures, which include heated coconut oil. Does heating coconut oil destroy its benefits? Or worse, can it cause toxicity, as with some heated vegetable oils?
BF: Coconut oil is an excellent cooking oil, because it is very heat stable. Most other vegetable oils degrade too quickly when heated and form health-destroying free radicals. Coconut can withstand the heat used in cooking and therefore does not create these toxic byproducts.
GD: More and more packaged foods containing coconut have started appearing on grocery store shelves . Products such as energy bars, beverages, ice cream, and even yogurt. Labels contain statements such as, "great source of MCFAs." Do individuals consuming these products get any of the nutritional benefits of coconut oil?
BF: Coconut oil is considered a “functional food." That is, it provides health benefits beyond its vitamin and mineral content. Coconut oil gets much of its nutritional and medicinal properties from the unique fatty acids that make up the oil. These fat molecules are called medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs). Coconut oil is nature’s richest source of MCFA. The next best source is human breast milk. MCFAs have many health benefits associated with them. This is one of the reasons why nature puts them in breast milk. Products that contain MCFAs derived from coconut oil can offer many of the same health benefits as coconut oil.
GD: In your book, Coconut Cures, you include a list of uses for coconut oil as a prevention and treatment for a myriad of health conditions. Can you tell us a little about some of the health conditions you have personally observed improve (in yourself or others) as a result of consuming or topically applying coconut oil?
BF: I have personally seen many health problems completely cured or significantly improved with the use of coconut oil. All types of skin conditions have improved. Acne is one. Skin fungus is another. It also speeds the healing of injuries such as cuts and burns. The only medication I use on my skin now is coconut oil, because it works better than any other drug or natural remedy I’ve ever used. Coconut oil can clear up urinary tract infections within a couple of days. It works best when started as soon as symptoms are noticeable. Coconut oil helps balance blood sugar and is helping many diabetics keep blood sugar under control. It also improves circulation and oxygen delivery of the blood. In diabetics who have lost feeling in their legs due to a lack of circulation, coconut oil restores circulation and feeling returns within weeks. I don’t know of any drug or herb that can reverse and control diabetic symptoms as well as coconut oil. I know people who have used the oil successfully as a treatment for cancer. I know of documented cases of Alzheimer’s disease that are in remission from simply using coconut oil. I know of AIDS patients who have used coconut oil to manage that disease. I could actually go on and on.
GD: It's astounding to learn that something as pure and natural as coconut oil could offer so many health and nutritional benefits. While some people may be skeptical that something so simple could be so effective in treating such a wide array of ailments, one thing is certain: Unlike pharmaceutical interventions, the use of coconut oil will not cause harm. I sincerely believe that people have nothing to lose and everything to gain by using coconut oil. Cooking with coconut oil and exploring the many new delicious products made from coconut has certainly made my life more healthful, fragrant, and delicious! Thank you very much for taking the time to educate me about coconut's many health benefits, Dr. Fife. It does seem like coconut oil truly is nature's miracle.
If you'd like to learn more about the many benefits of coconut oil, I recommend Dr. Fife's book, Coconut Cures. To see all of his books on coconut oil and other health topics, visit: http://piccadillybooks.com. Or you can visit his website, http://coconutresearchcenter.org where you'll find articles, studies, resources, the latest news, a chat group, and much more.
Posted by Vegiegail at 2:17 PM