-Dr. Bruce Fife's Newsletters-

How a PR Campaign Led to Unhealthy Diets. By Beatrice Trum Hunter Consumers' Research.

    Trans fats form when unstable oils, predominantly polyunsaturated ones, undergo hydrogenation. This process hardens the oils an makes them more stable. However, the process converts the natural sis form of the oils to an unnatural trans form. The trans form has been shown to increase the risk of coronary heart disease. After lengthy deliberation, the Food and Drug Administration recently took action. The agency will require, by 2006, a specific declaration of trans fatty acids contained in food products. This action will affect both food processors and consumers. What is likely to occur? Many products, formerly containing trans fatty acids, will be reformulated to contain lower levels, and others will be labeled "trans-free" or "not hydrogenated." How will processors be able to formulate food products without trans fats? Doubtless, food technologists will devise solutions. However, food processors already have several options available. They can use oils that have been modified, such as high oleic oils and medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). Or, processors could revert to palm or coconut oils, which have served them well in the past. Unfortunately, these two oils have been wrongly maligned.

   Trans Fats are Not Saturated Fats. At present, whenever the words "trans fats" are mentioned, they are followed by the words "and saturated fats." Wrongly, these two types of fats have been inextricably intertwined by officials and the public. Both types of fats are viewed as unhealthy. To equate saturated fats with trans fats is incorrect and misleading. Saturated fats are not created equal. Palm and coconut oils, predominantly saturated, nevertheless are healthy oils. Food processors reluctantly had abandoned their use in the late 1980s, because of scare tactics waged by competing interests and misguided individuals. The story involved market concerns, not scientific evidence. Tropical Oils and Trade Politics: Taxing Imported Oils. As early as 1934, the U.S. Congress imposed a tax of 3 cents per pound on palm and coconut oils intended for food, but not for industrial use. (Less than half of these imported oils are used in food products. The majority is used in soaps, suntan lotions, and other nonfood uses.) According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the act was "principally to protect domestically produced vegetable oils in their use in the production of edible products." The tax was suspended from 1957 to 1963. In 1965, a Coconut Oil Users Committee, comprising many U.S. food companies that were using imported coconut and palm oils in their food products, sought a repeal of the tax. In 1966, Congress complied with the request and suspended the tax permanently. The oils could thus enter the country duty-free. However, lobbying efforts to protect domestic oils continued. Another bill introduced in Congress in 1977, if successful, would have reimposed the 3-cents-per-pound tax on these imported oils used with products such as potato chips. The bill failed. Although these imported oils represented only a very small fraction of oils used in food processing, domestic oil producers were concerned that the lower prices of the imported oils would not only be attractive for increased domestic sales but also would threaten to become global competitors.

   The "Tropical Grease Campaign." By the mid-1980s, soybean oil accounted for more than 70% of all edible oils in the United States; palm and coconut oils, only 4%. However, the domestic oil industry viewed with alarm the competing interest of the imported oils. In 1986, with endorsements form other farm groups, the American Soybean Association (ASA) launched a series of attacks that became known as the "tropical grease campaign." The campaign created a new term, "tropical oils," and used the phrase derisively. The term was inaccurate. Some oils produced in temperate climates, such as peanuts, soybeans, and other oil-bearing plants, also are produced in tropical climates. The real targets were palm and coconut oils. The face-off was not between tropical and temperate-climate oils, but rather between domestic and imported ones. The ADA attempted to block competition in 1987 by trying to persuade lawmakers to introduce legislation against cholesterol-rising saturated fats. This effort was abetted by a self-styled consumer crusader, Phil Sokolof, who waged his own campaign against these oils. He established and funded the National Heart Savers Association, and paid for full-page advertisements in nationally distributed newspapers, with the dramatic headline "The Poisoning of America!" He charged that tropical oils destroy life or impair health. The combined campaigns of Sokolof and ASA convinced many consumers that tropical oils were unhealthy, and consumers should be warned on product labels. A call for labeling. The ASA viewed potential legislation on labeling as its "biggest weapon" against foreign-oil producers. The ASA ominously warned its members that foreign producers "were trying to put you out of business." FDA officials testified against labels that highlighted tropical oils. The FDA press officer, Chris Lecos, suggested that instead of descriptions of which oils are used, "we need labeling on fatty acid content and a breakdown between polyunsaturated and saturated fats." U.S. Trade Representative Clayton Yeuter admitted that "the main objective of the proposed tropical labeling legislation was to protect the domestic oil industry." The Institute of Shortening and Edible Oils charged: "The health angle is a smoke screen for a trade issue. …Specific labeling of foods in regard to their content of the so-called tropical oils is clearly discriminatory and without scientific basis." The Malaysian palm oil industry, the largest supplier of palm oil, protested against what it termed a "smear campaign" waged by rival American farmers. The group complained to the advertising division of a radio broadcasting company about deceptive advertisements, and caused ASA to withdraw its advertisement claims. Similarly, the Philippines coconut oil industry, the major supplier of coconut oil, complained of false reports being circulated about its product.

   Conversion, with Problems. The campaign succeeded in having major food processors reformulate their products with domestically produced oils. According to food writer Jane Heimlich, the anti-tropical-oil campaign resulted in a switch to "true artery-clogging horrors-partially hydrogenated oils." The reformulation created problems. Palm and coconut oils resist oxidation and are highly stable. They do not require hydrogenation, and are trans-free. However, many of the domestic oils are predominantly polyunsaturated, which makes them quite unstable, and subject to oxidation. To make them more stable, they need to be hydrogenated. A major portion of soybean oil, for example, is hydrogenated. Food processors switched reluctantly. Palm and coconut oils have advantages over hydrogenated vegetable oils from the viewpoint of food processing. Palm oil can be separated readily by a physical process into a liquid fraction (palm olein) and a solid fraction (palm stearin). Manufacturers can make bakery shortening from a blend of palm oil and palm sterin, yet leave all the polyunsaturates intact. The resulting food product has no trans fats. Also, both palm and coconut oils are highly suitable for frying because of their high oxidative stability. Because palm and coconut oils are semi-solid naturally, they do not require hydrogenation. Unlike many other vegetable oils, extraction can be done without the use of harsh chemical solvents. These oils have low foaming tendencies when heated, so they do not require the use of anti-foaming agents. Because these oils have high smoke points, they resist polymerization and oxidation. These features benefit food processors, but do they harm consumers? The aggressive campaign against these oils was intended to make consumers fearful of unhealthy qualities in the oils, and to pressure food processors to eliminate them. However, the scientific evidence demonstrates that palm and coconut oils are healthful. The Scientific Evidence At the height of the campaign waged against palm oil, the July 1987 issue of Nutrition Reviews printed a short review of new findings about palm oil. Palm oil does not act like a saturated fat. On the contrary, animal studies showed that palm oil acts more like an unsaturated fat. Palm oil contains 40% oleic acid and 10% linoleic acid. Both of these fatty acids are effective in lowering plasma cholesterol. Also, palm oil contains tocotrienols, which lower cholesterol. Special triglyceride species and some non-triglyceride species identified in palm oil may have physiologic properties that differ form most saturated fats. A fraction of palm oil is very rich in vitamin E, and also contains large amounts of carotenoids. Both are beneficial in maintaining membrane fluidity and function. In fact, because of its carotene and vitamin E content, palm oil reduces blood clotting that can lead to stroke. The newer findings showed that palm oil had beneficial effects on blood lipids, and reduced cardiovascular risks, thrombosis, and atherosclerosis. Later, it was found that palm oil is the richest know source of natural carotenoids. By 1993, a natural carotene complex product was extracted from palm oil. Similarly, newer findings about coconut oil demonstrated that it, too, is a healthy fat. In 1988, N.W. Istfan of Harvard University Medical School's Nutrition Coordinating Center, vindicated coconut oil. Dr. Istfan reported: "For the U.S. consumer, the use of coconut oil does not increase the role of heart disease." Other researchers demonstrated that coconut oil reduces the risk of atherosclerosis, heart disease, cancer, and other degenerative conditions. It helps prevent bacterial, viral, and fungal infections, as a result of its antimicrobial component, lauric acid, which is found solely in coconut oil and in breast milk. Coconut oil is rich in MCTs, which provide an immediate source of fuel and energy, and enable the human body to metabolize fat efficiently. This feature helps dieters, athletes, individuals who have difficulty digesting fat, and those with impaired immune systems. Unlike some saturated fats, coconut oil does not raise cholesterol. The historic evidence strengthens recent findings about palm and coconut oils. Many groups of people, throughout the world, have thrived on these oils in their daily diets, without experiencing negative health effects.

   Coming Full Circle. If some food processors choose to revert to their use of palm and coconut oils-which served them well in the past-an irony should be noted: Instead of the former label declaration announcing that the product contained "NO TROPICAL OILS!" the newer labels may announce "CONTAINS TROPICAL OILS! NO TRANS FATS!" Such labels would come full circle. This article originally appeared in the August 2003 issue of Consumers' Research, vol. 86 no. 8.

Things You Probably Didn't Know About Coconut Oil. An Interview with Bruce Fife, CN, ND Healthy Living Magazine

    When it comes to personal health, there are times when you are truly enlightened by certain professionals in the field. My interview with Bruce Fife, ND, CN, was one of those times. A naturopathic physician and certified nutritionist, he has exposed the truth about coconut oil to the general public and revealed the marketing strategies that gave coconut oil such a bad name. by Rachale Baseley

HL: When did you first become interested in coconut oil? Why? BF: Like everyone else I used to believe that coconut oil was an artery clogging saturated fat. What started me thinking differently was an experience I had several years ago. I was in a meeting with a group of nutritionists and one of the members of the group stated that coconut oil was one of the good fats, that it didn't cause heart disease, and that it had many health benefits. At first I was shocked. This went against everything I'd heard in the past. This nutritionist, however, backed up her statement and referred to studies that showed that coconut oil had many important nutritional and medical uses. I learned that coconut oil, in one form or another, was used in hospital parenteral formulas to nourish seriously ill patients. It was an important ingredient in infant formulas and was recommend for people with digestive or nutritional problems. I began to wonder; if coconut oil is so bad, why is it fed to hospital patients and newborn babies and recommended for those with digestive concerns? It didn't make sense. Was coconut oil the evil villain or not? I had to find the answer. I began looking. I went to the library and I went on the Internet, but I couldn't find anything specifically on the health aspects of coconut oil. At the time, there wasn't any. I did find lots of articles on oils and nutrition and most of them would mention coconut oil, but they didn't go into any detail. All they said was "coconut oil is a saturated fat and causes heart disease." I saw that statement repeated over and over again, but not a single one of these authors ever backed it up with any facts, any figures, or any references to the medical literature. It became obvious to me that none of these doctors and nutritionists who were making this statement really knew anything at all about coconut oil. All they were doing is simply repeating what someone else had said, who in turn, repeated someone else, and on and on. I realized that if I was ever going to learn the truth about coconut oil I wasn't going to find it in the books and magazine articles currently available because apparently none of these authors knew anything about it. I knew that if I was going to find the truth I needed to go to the research. And that's what I did. I started digging though the medical literature and looked up everything related to coconut oil. When I did this, I found hundreds of articles. And what I learned shocked me! I discovered why coconut oil, in one form or another, was used in hospital and baby formulas and why it was recommended for those with digestive problems. I discovered it had many important nutritional and medical applications. I also learned that there was no truth in the belief that coconut oil causes or even contributes to heart disease. In fact, I learned that if you want to protect yourself from heart disease you should be using coconut oil. I began using coconut oil myself and recommending it to others. I've seen it help people with hemorrhoids, cancer, diabetes, psoriasis, gallbladder disease, bladder infections, flu, and many other health problems. After learning about coconut oil and seeing what it can do, I realized that nobody except a few researchers knew the truth about this miraculous oil. I felt an obligation to share this knowledge with everyone else. So I wrote the book The Coconut Oil Miracle (formerly titled The Healing Miracles of Coconut Oil).

HL: At Healthy Living magazine we consider you one of the world's leading experts on coconut oil. What research have you done in this field, and what have your experiences taught you? BF: Most of my research has been investigating what other researchers have discovered about coconut oil and fats and oils in general and organizing and condensing it into a form that is easy-to-read and understand by the general public. Medical studies are written in a language that is very difficult for most people to understand unless they have medical training. This causes a lot of confusion and misinterpretation and is one of the reasons why there is so much confusion and understanding in nutrition and health. I have the opportunity of seeing how coconut oil affects people in a clinical setting. I see people all the time who use coconut oil and witness how it affects their lives. Some have experienced incredible improvement from a wide variety of health problems. I am continually amazed at the conditions in which coconut oil seems to be able to help. Many of these people have suffered with health problems for years. After incorporating coconut oil into their diets and using it on their skin the problems often diminish or completely disappear. One of my goals is to tell everyone who will listen about the coconut oil miracle. Most people are still in the dark about it. If you go to the average person on the street and ask them about coconut oil, they knew very little, including health care professionals, doctors, nutritionists; they really don't know much because they haven't studied it. Most of the education doctors receive after graduating from medical school is provided by the pharmaceutical industry and, therefore, is very biased. They don't hear about natural, nutritional approaches. Sometimes doctors have to be educated by their patients.

HL: Can you explain why as a nation we stopped using coconut oil? Does the promotion of polyunsaturated soybean oil produced by American farmers play a role in this? BF Oh yes. And this is something that people need to know about. The reason people think of heart disease when anyone mentions coconut oil doesn't have anything to do with science, and doesn't have anything t do the fact, but has everything to do with marketing and money. Back it the early and mid-1980s, people were concerned that saturated fats could raise cholesterol levels. The soybean industry realized this was a perfect opportunity to make a profit. They reasoned that if they could convince people that all saturated fats were bad and caused heart disease people would eat more vegetable oil. So the soybean industry spent millions in an anti-saturated fat and anti-tropical oils publicity campaign. Special interest groups such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest joined in and started producing alarming news stories about he dangers of saturated fats. They invented the term "artery clogging fat" in reference to coconut oil. Because of the media blitz it didn't take long before everyone believed coconut oil was an artery clogging fat. People are still duped by the soybean industry's attack on coconut oil. Many authors, too lazy to do their own research, still parrot the biased viewpoints produced by these groups. I'm trying to change this by providing accurate information so that people can know the truth.

HL: Do you use coconut oil yourself? How do you use it and how often? BL: I use it all the time and in every imaginable way. We use it in all of our cooking and our baking. My wife uses it to make bread. She says her bread comes out better, it's moist and light. We make whole wheat bread, and it has become famous here, thanks to its soft, fluffy, delicious taste and texture. At times I use coconut oil as a supplement and take it by the spoonful. The type I use tastes delicious so I don't mind taking by the spoon. I also add it to a bowl of oatmeal, in order to get the oil in my diet. You can spread it on bread, or you can use half-and-half butter and coconut oil, I put it in soups, again just to get the benefit of the oil. You can add it to a wide variety of foods. I put it on my skin too. It is excellent for the skin; if you want to become a believer in the health benefits of coconut oil, just start using it on your skin. Dry, hard, discolored, and flaky skin will transform into soft, smooth healthy looking skin within weeks. HL: How is it that not all saturated fats are unhealthy? Tell us about medium-chain fatty acids. BF: Fats and oils are composed of molecules called fatty acids. Three fatty acids joined together form a triglyceride molecule. Some fatty acids are smaller than others. Medium-chain fatty acids are smaller than long-chain fatty acids. Likewise medium-chain triglycerides are smaller than long-chain triglycerides. The size of these molecules is very important because our bodies process and metabolize each fat differently depending on its size. Most all of the fats and oils in our diet are composed of long-chain fatty acids, whether they're unsaturated or saturated. There are only a few dietary sources of medium-chain fatty acids, the primary source being tropical oils, particularly palm kernel and coconut oils. That's why coconut oil is different from other oils and it the secret to many of its healing properties. Because the medium-chain triglycerides are smaller than the long-chain triglycerides that are in most fats and oils, they're digested quicker. In fact, they don't even need pancreatic digestive enzymes to break them down. By the time they enter the intestinal tract, they are completely broken down into free fatty acids, while long-chain triglycerides still need the digestive enzymes to break them down. What's important here is that the long-chain fatty acids, when they're finally broken down, will be absorbed through the intestinal wall. From there, they are packaged into lipoproteins and released into the bloodstream. So the long-chain fatty acids go into the digestive tract and then into the bloodstream. As they circulate in the bloodstream they supply the fat that collects in fat cells and the fat that collects in artery walls. With medium-chain fatty triglycerides in coconut oil the process is different. They are quickly digested, so pancreatic enzymes are not needed. By the time they enter the intestinal tract they are completely broken down into fatty acids. Because of this, they are absorbed immediately into the portal vein, and sent directly to the liver. In the liver they are used as a source of fuel to produce energy. Therefore, they bypass the lipoprotein stage, and they don't circulate in the bloodstream to the degree that other fats do. Consequently, they do not supply the fat that collects in fat cells or the fat that collects in artery walls. They produce energy not body fat and not arterial plaque.

HL: What conditions does coconut oil help to treat? BF: Topically it seems to be able to benefit almost any skin condition. I wouldn't say that it can cure every type of skin condition, but I've seen a wide variety of conditions improve-and sometimes completely vanish-with the use of coconut oil. It can help speed healing of cuts and burns; there's a long tradition in the islands of using coconut oil as a sunscreen. It is great for fungal infections such as ringworm and athlete's foot. People tell me how they have used medicated treatments without success, but when they use coconut oil it does the job. There is evidence that coconut oil helps prevent osteoporosis. One of the interesting things about coconut oil is that it helps improves nutrient absorption. It improves absorption of minerals such as calcium and magnesium and thus aid in preventing osteoporosis. Also, it increases absorption of some of the B vitamins, the fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E, K, beta-carotene, and some amino acids. Because of it is easily digested, provides a quick and easy source of nutrition, and improves absorption of other nutrients coconut oil has been recommended in the treatment of malnutrition. Coconut oil has many other uses. Research has shown it can be useful in the treatment and prevention of obesity. A lot of research is current being done in this area. Studies show it may be helpful in preventing liver disease, kidney disease, Crohn's disease, cancer and many infectious illnesses such as the flu, herpes, bladder infections, and candida, to mention just a few. Studies are now being done to test it effectiveness against serious illness such as AIDS and SARS. Preliminary results have been very promising.

HL: We have recently written in depth about chronic fatigue syndrome. How can coconut oil help with this debilitating and often misunderstood illness? BF: It helps in a couple of ways. One way it helps is due to its antimicrobial effects, it can destroy organisms in the body that may be sapping the body's strength and contributing to the condition. Another way is that because the medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil are used by the body to produce energy rather than body fat, it produces a surge in energy. With those two combined, it can be of benefit. HL: It appears that coconut oil can help with a whole host of conditions. What would you say to those skeptics who say that it must be too good to be true? BF: Coconut oil has so many benefits that some people may think that it can cure anything, but it's not a cure-all. It has some specific health benefits that are truly remarkable, but it can't cure everything, and so people shouldn't expect it to. HL: You have written several books on promoting good health, one of the latest being The Coconut Oil Miracle (Avery 2004). In this you detail the positive health benefits of coconut oil. Can you tell us a bit more about the book and why you felt the need to write it? BF: As I mentioned earlier, after learning about all the benefits we've talked about, such as the antimicrobial effects, the way coconut oil aids in digestion, nutrient absorption, and weight loss, I was amazed. I realized that few people were aware of this, thanks to the popular misconception that coconut oil causes heart disease. I wanted to share this knowledge with the rest of the world and the only way I knew how to do this was to write a book. HL: Would you recommend the addition of coconut oil to everyone's diet? Can we all benefit for its use? BF: Yes, absolutely. I recommend coconut oil to everybody and anybody who will listen. This article was adapted and condensed from a two-part series published in The Doctor's Prescription for Healthy Living, Freedom Press, Inc, 1013 Centre Road #301, Wilmington, DE 19805.

The Fat Can Make You Thin. By Bruce Fife, N.D. 

   Are you overweight? Have you struggled with weight-loss diets without lasting success? If so, you are one of the millions of people who have struggled to lose weight with low-fat dieting and failed. Statistics tell us that two-thirds of the people who lose weight on these diets gain it all back within one year. After five years 97% regain their weight-that's an incredible 97% failure rate! Chances are the reason you are overweight is because you aren't eating enough fat. Yes, you read that correctly. The reason you may have a weight problem is because you don't eat enough fat. We eat less fat now than ever before. In the past people ate whole milk, butter, and eggs, and relished in the fat in meats. Everything was cooked in lard and butter. Nowadays we avoid fats like a plague. Grocery store shelves are filled to the brim with low-fat, non-fat, and low-calorie foods of every make and fashion. Restaurants, too, offer a variety of low-fat meals. Over the past 30 years fat consumption has decreased by 11%, total calorie consumption has decreased by 4%.1 Despite the fact that fat and calorie intake has decreased, we are heavier than ever before. Nearly 60% of Americans are now overweight. Thirty-one percent are obese; this is double the percentage of two decades ago. Even our children are getting fatter. Among young people, 15 percent of those ages 6 to 19 are seriously overweight. That's nearly 9 million, triple the number in 1980. Since the low-fat craze began in the 1970s we have been growing bigger and bigger. Those who reduce their fat intake the most and eat the least seem to have the hardest time losing weight. Haven't you known slender people who gorge themselves on rich, fatty foods yet never seem to gain weight? You, on the other hand, eat a low-fat lettuce salad and gain 5 pounds--or so it seems. The simple truth is that low-fat diets don't work-not permanently. You can lose weight on them if you starve yourself. You're hungry and miserable the whole time. In order to keep the weight off you must continue to limit what you eat and go hungry. Few people are willing to live a life of constant discomfort. For this reason, low-fat dieting is difficult to maintain for any length of time. Consequently, most people eventually revert back to old eating habits. When they do, the weight comes back. Research has shown that those who get an adequate amount of fat in their diets generally eat less than those to try to reduce fat intake. The less you eat the fewer calories you consume.

   Getting an adequate amount of fat in the diet is essential for effective and permanent weight loss. When people get hungry soon after a meal they tend to overeat at the next. One of the reasons why fat is necessary for successful weight loss is that it satisfies hunger, thus reducing appetite and lowering total food consumption. Fat slows down the emptying of the stomach so that you feel full longer. When you are less hungry during the day you will cut down on snacks and eat less at mealtime. As a result, you consume fewer calories. Even though fat contains more calories than either protein or carbohydrate, its effect on curbing appetite more than makes up for the extra calories it contains. The appetite suppressing effect of fat has been shown in many studies. For example, in one study, a group of women were given a mid-morning yogurt snack and then later served lunch and dinner. There were two choices of yogurt. One was regular full-fat and the other was low-fat. Each was labeled, but there was no mention of total calorie content. Each, however, contained the same number of calories. The only difference was the fat content. Participants were allowed to choose whichever one they wanted. When the women were later served lunch those who had the high-fat yogurt ate less than those who ate the low-fat variety. The extra fat in the yogurt snack satisfied their hunger longer and encouraged them to eat less at lunch. Researchers also wanted to learn if those who ate less at lunch would eventually make up for it at dinner. But at dinner the ones who ate the high-fat yogurt and less food at lunch didn't eat any more than the others. They weren't any hungrier for eating less at lunch. So at the end to the day those women who ate the high-fat yogurt ended up consuming fewer total calories than those who ate the low-fat snack.

   While all fats suppress appetite, some are much better than others as aids in weight loss. Researchers at McGill University, in Quebec, Canada are now advocating the use of a special type of dietary fat to treat and prevent obesity. They recommend a fat rich in medium-chain triglycerides (MCT). The vast majority of fats in our diet are composed of molecules known as long-chain triglycerides (LCT). As the name implies, LCT are larger in size than MCT. The size of the fat molecule is very important because our bodies process and metabolize fats differently depending on their size. Most all the vegetable oils used in cooking and food preparation are composed entirely of LCT. This includes corn, safflower, soybean, canola, and other typical cooking and salad oils. The only significant natural source of MCT are found in coconut and palm kernel oils. Coconut oil is composed predominately of MCT and its effects on the body are characterized by these fats. In a recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition researchers reviewed all the published studies to date on MCT and weight management. These studies demonstrated that diets containing MCT result in an increase in energy, a rise in metabolism, increase burning of calories, decrease in food consumption, lower body fat mass, and reduce body weight.

    Because of these effects, the authors of this study recommend using oils containing MCT, such as coconut oil, as a means to lose excess body fat, control weight, and even treat obesity. One of the reasons why coconut oil is effective in reducing body fat and lowering weight is because it contains fewer calories than any other fat. For this reason, it has gained the distinction of being the world's only natural, low-calorie fat. When you use coconut oil in your food preparation, you can eat the same types of foods as you normally do yet consume fewer calories. The fact that coconut oil contains fewer calories, however, is not the main reason it has gained a reputation as a low-calorie fat. Its advantage in weight management is due primarily to its affect on metabolism. Medium-chain triglycerides in coconut oil are smaller than other fats and, therefore, digest very quickly, so quickly in fact, that the body uses them as an immediate source of fuel rather than pack them away in storage inside our fat cells. MCT are used to produce energy much like carbohydrates and, therefore, they do not circulate in the bloodstream like other fats. For this reason, they do not supply fat to fat cells or contribute to weight gain. One study evaluated the body weight and fat storage for three different diets-a low-fat diet, a high-fat diet containing LCT and a high-fat diet containing MCT. Calorie content in the diets were elevated to induce weight gain. The testing period lasted for 44 days. At the end of that time, the low-fat diet group had stored an average of 0.47 grams of fat per day, and the LCT group 0.48 grams/day, while the MCT group deposited only 0.19 grams of fat per day. The MCT group had a 60% reduction in the amount of body fat stored as compared to the other diets.

   Because MCT are used by the body as a source of fuel to produce energy, they have a stimulatory affect on metabolism. Studies have shown that MCT boost metabolism, thus increasing the body's use of calories. As a result, calories obtained from all the foods we eat are burned up at a higher rate, so that fewer remain to be packed away as body fat. This boost in metabolism remains elevated for as long as 24 hours after eating a meal containing MCT. So you enjoy an increased level of energy and continue to burn calories at an accelerated rate for many hours after the meal.

   This increase in metabolism also leads to a rise in body temperature. People with low thyroid function report that after using coconut oil, their body temperature rises to normal levels and remains elevated for many hours. Temperatures in such people can rise 1 or 2 degrees or more depending on the amount of oil they consume. Those people who are overweight because of low thyroid function can utilized the metabolic stimulating action of coconut oil to help them shed excess pounds.

   Another interesting feature about coconut oil is that it helps to decrease total food and calorie consumption. Coconut oil is more satisfying than other fats. When added to meals people tend to eat less food and feel fuller longer so they don't eat as much at the next meal. For example, in one study women were given a drink which contained either MCT (from coconut oil) or LCT oil. Thirty minutes later they were offered lunch in which they could choose and eat as much as they wanted. The women who had the MCT oil before the meal ate less food, and as the authors of the study stated, "significantly decreased caloric intake in the lunch."7 In another study a group of normal-weight men were fed a meal for breakfast differing only in the type of fat used. Later, food intakes at lunch and dinner were measured. Those eating breakfasts containing MCT ate less at lunchtime. At dinner there was no difference. This study showed that when MCT were eaten at one meal, hunger is forestalled for longer and less food is eaten at the next. Also important, was that even though subjects ate less at lunch, they did not make up for it by eating more at diner. Total daily food intake decreased.

   Studies have shown that when oils containing MCT are used in place of other fats in the diet people can lose as much as 36 pounds a year even when total calorie consumption remains the same! Simply changing the type of oil used in food preparation can bring about a dramatic reduction in body fat and weight without changing the way you eat or the amount you consume. I see this happen all the time. When people switch from using vegetable oils to coconut oil they lose excess body fat without even dieting. Changing the type of oil you use in meal preparation is a simple step you can take to lose weight. Since no other lifestyle or dietary changes are needed to get results, you can lose weight without suffering from hunger or struggling with weight-loss diets. For this reason weight loss can be easy and permanent.

   Where can you find the right type of oil and how do you use it? The answer to these questions are found in my book titled Eat Fat, Look Thin: A Safe and Natural to Lose Weight Permanently. In this book I outline a unique weight-loss program backed by the results of numerous studies involving coconut oil, and include testimonials from those who have had success, as well as comments from health care professionals familiar with the use of this remarkable dietary fat. One of the unique features of this program is that it is so versatile it can be incorporated into and work with a variety of different diets. It works with low-carb diets such as the Zone Diet and Atkins Diet as well as vegetarian and raw food diets. It's a dietary program you can live comfortably with for the rest of your life so that the weight you lose stays off permanently. There really is no other weight-loss program like it.

REFERENCES: 1. Heini, A.F. and Weinsier, R.L. 1997. Divergent treands in obesity and fat in patterns: the American paradox. American Journal of Medicine 102(3):259-64 2.Rolls, B.J. and Miller, D.L. 1997. Is the low-fat message giving people a license to eat more? Journal of the American College of Nutrition 16:535. 3. St-Onge, M.P., and Jones, P.J.H., 2002. Physiological effects of medium-chain triglycerides: potential agents in the prevention of obesity. Journal of Nutrition 132(3):329-332. 4. Crozier G. et al. 1987. Metabolic effects induced by long-term feeding of medium-chain triglyceridesd in the rat. Metabolism 36:807-814 5. Dulloo, A.G., et al. 1996. Twenty-four-hour energy expenditure and urinary catecholamines of humans consuming low-to-moderate amounts of medium-chain triglycerides: a dose-response study in a human respiratory chamber. Eur. J. Clin. Nutr. (50(3):152-8. 6. Fife, B., 2002. Eat Fat, Look Thin: A Safe and Natural Way to Lose Weight Permanently, Piccadilly Books, Ltd., Colorado Springs, CO. 7. Rolls, B.J. et al. 1988. Food intake in dieters and nondieters after a liquid meal containing medium-chain triglycerides. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 48(1):66. 8. Van Wymelbeke, V., et al. 1998. Influence of medium-chain and long-chain triacylglycerols on the control of food intake in men. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 68:226-234. 9. St-Onge, M.P., and Jones, P.J.H., 2002. Physiological effects of medium-chain triglycerides: potential agents in the prevention of obesity. Journal of Nutrition 132(3):329-332. Information in this article was taken from Eat Fat, Look Thin by Bruce Fife, ND. Copyright © Bruce Fife, 2002. All rights reserved. 

One Brand of Coconut Oil Better Than Another? Dr. Bruce Fife a.k.a. “Dr. Coconut” answers your questions about coconut, diet, and nutrition.

   I hear some people claim that one brand of coconut oil is better than another because it has a higher lauric acid content. Is this true? Fats and oils are composed of fat molecules known as fatty acids. The character of each fat or oil is determined by the amounts and the types of fatty acids it contains. Coconut oil is composed predominately of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA). This is what makes coconut oil so different from other fats and what makes it incredibly healthy. Medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA) provide many health benefits: they are quick and easy to digest, boost energy, balance blood sugar, and protect against cancer among other things. One of their most remarkable features is their ability to kill disease causing bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Because of these antimicrobial properties coconut oil is used as a natural antibacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal remedy. Since coconut oil is a food, it is harmless to us but it is effective in killing many microorganisms that cause illness. Although many fatty acids possess antimicrobial properties, MCFA are the most potent. Lauric acid, which is one of the MCFA, appears to have the greatest antimicrobial effect. On average, coconut oil consists of about 47 percent lauric acid. Since lauric acid possesses the greatest antimicrobial power some people have reasoned that the higher the lauric acid content in the oil the more effective it is. Some coconut oil distributors proudly advertise that their oil contains more lauric acid than others, inferring that their oil must be better. Producers are even attempting to alter coconut oil chemically or genetically to increase the lauric acid content. People argue that oil containing 48 or 49 percent lauric acid is better than those with only 47 percent. Will one or two percent make a difference? Not hardly. A difference of one or two percent is insignificant and meaningless. Also, percentages can and do vary even from the same manufacturer. The fatty acid content of the oil will vary depending on the age of the nuts, variety, seasonal changes, etc. So even if a batch of coconut oil had a lauric acid content of 49 percent in one test, in another month it may drop to 46 percent. The company may claim 49 percent and have documentation to prove it (on that one batch), but the majority of the oil they sell may contain only 46 percent. So you can’t trust what manufactures claim. What about oil that contains significantly higher amounts such as 55 percent or more? Is there an advantage in high lauric acid coconut oil? Coconut oil is composed of 10 different fatty acids. Most all of them possess antimicrobial properties. Each is unique and affects microorganisms differently. One fatty acid may be very effective in killing certain types of bacteria, while another is more effective in killing viruses or other types of bacteria. Lauric acid has the greatest overall antimicrobial effect but it is not the best for all types of organisms. Caprylic acid or capric acid, two other MCFA may be better at killing certain types of organisms. All of the fatty acids work synergistically together for the greatest overall effect. Synergism means that the total effect of all the fatty acids is greater than the sum of the individual effects. Coconut oil contains a variety of fatty acids. This is how nature has designed it. When you increase the percentage of one fatty acid, such as lauric acid, you must decrease the percentage of another. Which one or ones you do eliminate? Do you take out caprylic or capric acid? Will removing a fatty acid reduce the synergistic effect of the entire oil? Even if you increase the most active fatty acid, taking out or reducing another fatty acid may lower the overall antimicrobial effect of the oil. When you tamper with nature’s design the results aren’t always predictable or desirable. And what about the other health effects of coconut oil such as digestion, energy production, blood sugar control, and so forth? How will altering the fatty acid content affect these? Lauric acid does not digest as readily as caprylic or capric acids. So increasing the lauric acid content by decreasing these other fatty acids will decrease the benefits the oil has on digestion. Other health benefits may also be negatively affected.

   So, I would not pay much attention to marketing ploys about lauric acid content. Also, a high lauric acid coconut oil can still be of low quality and undesirable. The best criterion for choosing a good quality coconut oil, regardless of its lauric acid content, is by evaluating its aroma and flavor. If it smells and tastes good then use it. 

AIDS Victim Tells of Healing Virtues of Coconut Oil. In coming out of the closet to tell his story Tony, 38, lends hope to thousands of AIDS sufferers worldwide.

“You don’t know how hard it is for one to have an illness that others find repulsive…I had wanted to shut myself inside my room and just wait for my time to die,” Tony told symposium participants. Tony was a guest speaker at a symposium titled “Why Coconut Cures”, held in Manila, Philippines May14, 2005. The symposium was headed by Dr. Bruce Fife, who was also the keynote speaker. Other participants included cardiologist Conrado Dayrit, dermatologist Vermen Verallo-Rowell, biochemist Fabian Dayrit, and Senator Jamby Madrigal. Tony’s testimony, along with those of others who had experienced dramatic recoveries from various ailments, provided first-hand accounts of the use of coconut oil in healing chronic health problems described by symposium participants. Beneath the sunglasses that he wore his eyes were moist, not in self-pity but in triumph. Covered with a cap and long sleeves, hides a body scarred by a disease Tony contracted while working in the Middle East in the 1990s. Coming home in 2002, Tony was devastated to learn that he was infected by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). As the disease progressed, the pain he endured came not only from the infections ravaging his body but from the shame the disease had brought him. He felt like giving up. Drugs, which he could barely afford, could not deliver him from the dreaded virus and the other infections that were slowly draining away his life. His body was covered with fungal infections, and oozing sores accompanied by a chronic pneumonia infection that caused a persistent cough. He knew he was losing the battle as each day symptoms grew worse and he found it increasingly more difficult to function and was completely incapable of working. Unable to afford medication he sought help from the Department of Health. He was referred to Dr. Conrado Dayrit, the author of the first clinical study on the healing effects of coconut oil on HIV infected patients, which was conducted at the San Lazaro hospital in the Philippines. By this time Tony was diagnosed with full blown AIDS and had little hope for recovery. Dr. Dayrit secured a steady supply of coconut oil for Tony’s use, free of charge. He was instructed to apply the oil to his skin two to three times a day and consume six tablespoonfuls daily without fail. The program worked miracles. Each time Tony went to the hospital for his periodic blood tests his viral load decreased. Tony said that when he told hospital doctors what he was taking, they could not believe that a simple dietary oil was killing the virus better than all the modern drugs of medical science. Just nine months after his initial visit with Dr. Dayrit, Tony appeared before the audience at the symposium for all to witness his remarkable recovery. The infections that once racked his body were gone. Even HIV was no longer detectable. What used to be skin sores all over his body were now just fading scars. His life energy had been restored enough for him to give an eloquent testimony of how something as simple and natural as coconut oil could halt this deadly disease. Evidence for coconut oil’s effect on HIV was first discovered back in the 1980s when researchers learned that medium chain fatty acids—the kind found in coconut oil—possessed powerful antiviral properties capable of destroying the AIDS virus. Since then numerous anecdotal accounts of HIV patients using coconut and coconut oil to overcome their condition circulated in the AIDS community. Even basketball legend Magic Johnson who retired from the NBA because he was HIV positive is reportedly credited with using coconut on his road to recovery. The first clinical study using coconut on HIV patients was reported by Conrado Dayrit in 1999. In this study HIV infected individuals were give 3.5 tablespoons of coconut oil daily. No other treatment was used. Six months later 60% of the participants showed noticeable improvement. This was the first study to demonstrate that coconut oil does have an antiviral effect in vivo and could be used to treat HIV infected individuals. Dr. Dayrit is now heading a larger study in Africa using coconut oil in the treatment of HIV. The symposium “Why Coconut Cures” was based on Dr. Bruce Fife’s recently published book Coconut Cures. Philippine president Macapagal-Arroyo recognized Dr. Fife’s relentless advocacy in educating people about the healing properties of coconut. The Philippine Department of Agriculture will publish the Philippine edition of Coconut Cures, which is scheduled for release in that country August 2005. Coconut Cures is currently available at most health food stores in the US. It is also available directly from the publisher at or from Philippine president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo with Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap acknowledges the efforts of author Bruce Fife (with wife Leslie) in promoting the health benefits of coconut. Dr. Fife presented president Macapagal-Arroyo a copy of his new book Coconut Cures. 

Coconut Oil Protects Against Environmental Toxins.

   In the largest study of chemical exposure ever conducted on human beings, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported recently that most American children and adults are carrying in their bodies dozens of pesticides and toxic compounds used in consumer products, many of them linked to potential health threats. The report documented that children carry bigger doses of many chemicals than adults, including some pyrethroids that are ingredients of virtually every household pesticide and phthalates found in nail polish and other beauty products as well as in soft plastics. The study looked for 148 toxic compounds in the urine and blood of about 2,400 people over age 5. CDC director Julie Gerberding called the national exposure report, “the largest and most comprehensive report of its kind ever released anywhere by anyone.” Environmental health experts say the discovery of more than 100 chemicals in human bodies is of great concern because we don’t know what affect they can have on the body. Many environmental health experts believe the rise in cancer and other chronic diseases over the past several decades is due, in part, to the accumulation of these chemicals in our bodies. However, removing pesticides, plastic bottles, make-up, and other items won’t be happening anytime soon. The best solution to the problem is to remove the toxins from our bodies. Certain foods such as cilantro, wheat bran, and coconut have detoxifying effects that can absorb or neutralize environmental chemicals that collect in our bodies. Simply adding these detoxifying foods into the diet can help eliminate many of the toxins we are exposed to each day.

   Coconut oil is of particular interest because it has been shown to be highly effective in neutralizing many environmental toxins. A recent study published in the journal Human and Experimental Toxicology (August 2005) revealed the effectiveness of coconut oil in neutralizing aluminum phosphide a poison used in rodent control. In a case study reported a 28-year-old man ingested a lethal amount of the chemical in an attempt to commit suicide. There is no known antidote for aluminum phosphide poisoning. Doctors had little hope of saving him. He was given the standard treatment for acute poisoning as well as the oral administration of coconut oil. To the surprise of the medical staff, the patient survived. The authors of the study recommend that coconut oil be added to the treatment protocol in acute poisoning cases. Using coconut oil to help nullify the effects of a poison is not as strange as it may sound. Researchers have known for over a decade about the detoxifying effects of coconut oil. In my new book Coconut Cures: Preventing and Treating Common Health Problems with Coconut I cite several studies where coconut oil has been shown to neutralize a variety of toxins including the deadly aflatoxin. Aflatoxin is a very potent poison that comes from a fungus that often infests grains, especially corn. In Asia and Africa aflatoxin is a serious problem. Corn has been found to be the most aflatoxin contaminated food eaten in the Philippines. In certain areas of that country corn consumption is high. A correlation exists between the incidence of liver cancer caused by aflatoxin and the amount of corn consumed. Those people who eat the most corn also have the highest rates of liver cancer. Coconut oil consumption appears to protect the liver from the cancer-causing effect of aflatoxin. The population of Bicol, in the Philippines, has an unusually high intake of aflatoxin infested corn, yet they have a low incidence of liver cancer. The reason for the low cancer rate is believed to be due to the high coconut consumption in the area. Using coconut oil in your daily diet can help protect you from a variety of environmental toxins. An easy way to add coconut oil to your diet is to use it in your cooking in place of other fats and oils. If you don’t use much oil in food preparation you can take it by the spoonful like a dietary supplement. A quality brand of coconut oil tastes very good and is even pleasant to eat straight from a spoon. I often put a spoonful of hardened coconut oil in my mouth and let it slowly melt. It’s an easy way to get my daily dose

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