Healthy Living Magazine
Things You Probably Didn't Know About Coconut Oil
An Interview with Bruce Fife, CN, ND
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?
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
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
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
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
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
HL How is
it that not all saturated fats are unhealthy? Tell us about medium-chain
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.
conditions does coconut oil help to treat?
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.
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
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.
you recommend the addition of coconut oil to everyone's diet? Can we all
benefit for its use?
Yes, absolutely. I recommend coconut oil to everybody and anybody who
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.
This website is for informational purposes
only, and is educational in nature. Statements made here have not been
evaluated by the FDA. Nothing stated on this website is intended to
diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Copyright © Coconut Research Center, 2004
"Coconut oil is the healthiest oil on
"Coconut oil is the healthiest oil
you can use."-Joseph Mercola, D.O.
Coconut oil is the world's only
natural low-calorie fat.
Why has coconut oil had a bad
reputation in the past? It's not what you might think. The reason has
nothing to do with science or with health.