Healthy Living Magazine
Things You Probably Didn't Know About
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?
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
HL Do you use coconut oil yourself? How do you use it and how
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
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
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.
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
Copyright © Coconut Research Center, 2004
"Coconut oil is the healthiest oil on
earth."-Bruce Fife, N.D.
"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.