Health & Wellness

Coconut Oil and Health

BY: Rodolfo Desuasido • Aug 25, 2019

Coconut oil is being reported in certain market segment in mainland USA as unhealthy food. The basic argument against coconut oil is that it is mostly saturated fat and is a cause of heart disease. In a recently published report, Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease: A Presidential Advisory, the American Heart Association (AHA) advised against the use of coconut oil on the ground that it is 82% saturated fat and that it increases LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, thus causing heart disease.

A number of experts and diet gurus reacted to the report. After all, 72% of Americans believe that coconut oil is a healthy food as against 37% of conservative nutritionists. Advocate groups developed a new website called “Coconut gate.”Among the experts who reacted was Dr. Tania Dempsey, MD, a specialist in chronic disease, autoimmune disorders, and a graduate of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She is well-known internationally for her knowledge of chronic immune dysregulation.

Best oil to consume

Dr. Dempsey says “coconut oil is a regular part of my diet and I consider it one of the best oils to consume, period.” She also says that the AHA report cannot be trusted because it was funded by big pharmaceutical companies, which include Pfizer, Glaxo-Smith Kline,  AstraZeneca, Amgen, and others.  The Canola Oil Council and the California Walnut Commission also helped fund the research. This may have influenced the report to recommend the use of canola oil and other mono and polyunsaturated oils instead of coconut oil. The trouble with canola oil, says Dr. Dempsey, is that, aside from being genetically modified it is “high in erucic acid, a very long-chain fatty acid that can disrupt our cell membranes and has been found to cause heart disease in animals.”

                In contrast, coconut oil has lauric acid, a medium-chain fatty acid, which can be easily absorbed, digested and processed by the body to give energy. A 2007 study published in Metabolism found that a high diet in medium-chain fatty acid may help with weight loss. This was based on a 90-day experiment at New York University Langone Medical Center, conducted on a group (exact number not indicated) of moderately overweight individuals. Half of them were given corn oil, which contains long-chain fatty acid, and half of them were given 18 grams of oil with medium-chain fatty acid each day. Result showed that those who took medium-chain fatty acid had decreased body weight. Other benefits found to be associated with medium-chain fatty acid include lower blood cholesterol levels, reduced chance of atherosclerosis, therefore better heart health, and improved immunity.

Healing “miracles” of VCO

Dr. Bruce Fife, who has studied coconut oil for many years, has produced a book The Healing Miracles of Coconut Oil, in which he indicated that medical research has shown that coconut oil provides the following benefits: (i) gives immediate energy when consumed; (ii) stimulates metabolism; (iii)burns unwanted body fat; (iv)reduces risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease; (v) fights disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and fungi; (vi) protects against skin, breast, and colon cancer; (vii) protects against diabetes, chronic fatigue, Crohn’s disease, and liver disease; (viii) protects against kidney disease and hypothyroidism; (ix) strengthens the immune system; (x) serves as anti-oxidant; (xi)improves digestion and nutrient absorption; (xii) conditions and softens skin and hair; and finally, (xiii) it makes for excellent cooking because it can withstand high heat without being damaged and becoming toxic.

A blessing from nature

The Philippines has been known for its virgin coconut oil (VCO). Businesswoman Julia Figueroa, founder of the firm Nature’s Blessings, claims VCO is the healthiest oil on earth. Figueroa formerly had breast cancer and brain cancer. As a result, part of her left skull had been removed. When her doctors suggested further operations, she decided to find her own cure, and went back to the Philippines. She had a land in Quezon province inherited from her parents and planted to coconut trees. She remembered when she was a child that older people would prepare coconut oil and use it to cure various illnesses. She began to produce virgin oil from fresh meat of mature coconuts and began to consume it on a regular basis. Months later she went back to the U.S. for medical checkup. Her doctors expected her cancer to have gone worse but were surprised to find out that she had a remission. Figueroa continued with her coconut oil cure until she fully recovered. She also set up Nature’s Blessings to produce VCO, which is now exported. Still, for many years, the VCO failed to be recognized for its valuable medical properties. It continued to carry the seal “No approved therapeutic claims” on its label.

Recognized at last

Finally, however, it may no longer have to carry that seal on its label. In 2012, the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), seeking to find a solid proof of the medical effects of VCO, commissioned the University of Santo Tomas (UST) to conduct a clinical study of the effects of VCO. With a budget of P5 million, a team from the UST Research Center for Natural and Applied Science conducted a 4-month study. The team, headed by Dr. Christina Binag, gathered 189 subject participants and made 110 of them take three tablespoonfuls of VCO each day. The other 79 participants were given an oil-like placebo. Dr. Binag said it was the largest test on VCO effects in the country.

Results showed that those who took VCO registered a drop in LDL, or bad cholesterol, in their body.  An increase in HDL, or good cholesterol, was also noted among VCO takers. VCO takers are, thus, less prone to having a heart attack or a stroke. No change was seen in the lipid profile of the placebo group.

An enhanced thyroid function among VCO takers was also noted. Some of them reported a higher sex drive.

Observers noted that despite its demonization, the VCO is taking the US by storm, according to a report. In the Philippines, where heavy hospitalization costs are a burden, the VCO has surprisingly not gained as much popularity. Yet, once its medical benefits become more widely publicized, it could also take the country by storm.

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