COCONUT OIL AND HEART DISEASE
By Bruce Fife, N.D.
Scientists have recently discovered a powerful new weapon against heart
disease. As surprising as it may seem, this new weapon is coconut oil.
Yes, ordinary coconut oil. Eating coconut oil on a regular basis can
reduce your chances of suffering a heart attack!
Coconut oil is composed of a group of unique fat molecules known as
medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA). Although they are technically
classified as saturated fats, this fat can actually protect you from
getting a heart attack or suffering a stroke.
Although coconut oil is predominately a saturated fat, it does not have
a negative effect on cholesterol. Natural, nonhydrogenated coconut oil
tends to increase HDL cholesterol and improve the cholesterol profile.
HDL is the good cholesterol that helps protect against heart disease.
Total blood cholesterol, which includes both HDL (good) and LDL (bad)
cholesterol, is a very inaccurate indicator of heart disease risk. A
much more accurate way to judge heart disease risk is to separate the
two types of cholesterol. Therefore, the ratio of the bad to good
cholesterol (LDL/HDL) is universally recognized as a far more accurate
indicator of heart disease risk. Because of coconut oil's tendency to
increase HDL, the cholesterol ratio improves and thus decreases risk of
People who traditionally consume large quantities of coconut oil as part
of their ordinary diet have a very low incidence of heart disease and
have normal blood cholesterol levels. This has been well supported by
numerous population studies. The research shows that those people who
consume large quantities of coconut oil have remarkably good
At first, this observation confused many researchers. They did not
recognize the difference between the MCFA in coconut oil and other
saturated fats. New research, however, has demonstrated that
medium-chain fats in coconut oil protect against heart disease and may
one day even be used as a treatment to cure it.
Studies in the 1970s and 1980s indicated that coconut oil is heart
friendly even though saturated fat at the time was being accused of
promoting heart disease. Coconut oil consumption was found to have many
factors associated with a reduced risk of heart disease compared to
other dietary oils namely, improved cholesterol readings, lower body fat
deposition, higher survival rate, reduced tendency to form blood clots,
fewer uncontrolled free radicals in cells, low levels of blood and liver
cholesterol, higher antioxidant reserves in cells, and lower incidence
of heart disease in population studies.1
From this evidence alone coconut oil should be viewed as heart healthy
or at least benign as far as heart disease is concerned. But there is
another factor, that is even more important, that reveals coconut oil as
not simply a benign bystander but a very important player in the battle
against heart disease. So remarkable is it, that it may soon become a
powerful new weapon used against heart disease.
Heart disease is caused by atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
which is manifest by the formation of plaque in the arteries. According
to current thought atherosclerosis initially develops as a result of
injury to the inner lining of the arterial wall. The injury can be the
result of a number of factors such as toxins, free radicals, viruses, or
bacteria. If the cause of the injury is not removed further damage may
result. As long as irritation and inflammation persist scar tissue
continues to develop.
Special blood clotting proteins called platelets circulate freely in the
blood. Whenever they encounter an injury they become sticky and adhere
to each other and to the damaged tissue acting somewhat like a bandage
to facilitate healing. This is how blood clots are formed. Injury from
any source triggers platelets to clump together or clot and arterial
cells to release protein growth factors that stimulate growth of the
muscle cells within the artery walls. A complex mixture of scar tissue,
platelets, calcium, cholesterol, and triglycerides are incorporated into
the site to heal the injury. This mass of tissue forms arterial plaque.
When this process occurs in the coronary artery, which feeds the heart,
it is referred to as coronary heart disease-the most common cause of
death in the United States.
One area of investigation that is gaining a great deal of interest is
the relationship between chronic infection and atherosclerosis. It
appears that there is a cause and effect relationship associated with
persistent low-grade infections and heart disease. Recent research has
shown that certain microorganisms can cause or at least are involved in
the development of arterial plaque, which leads to heart disease.
A large number of studies have reported associations between heart
disease and chronic bacterial and viral infections.2 As far back as the
1970s researchers identified the development of atherosclerosis in the
arteries of chickens when they were experimentally infected with a
herpes virus. In the 1980s similar associations were reported in humans
infected with a number of bacteria (e.g., Helicobacter pylori and
Chlamydia pneumoniae) and certain herpes viruses (particularly
cytomegalovirus). In one study, for example, Petra Saikku and colleagues
at the University of Helsinki in Finland found that 27 out of 40 heart
attack patients and 15 out of 30 men with heart disease carried
antibodies related to Chlamydia, which is more commonly known to cause
gum disease and lung infections. Compared to subjects who were free of
heart disease only seven out of 41 had such antibodies. In another study
at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas researchers found that
70 percent of patients undergoing surgery for atherosclerosis carry
antibodies to cytomegalovirus (CMV), a common respiratory infection,
while only 43 percent of controls do.
More evidence supporting the link between infection and cardiovascular
disease showed up in the early 1990s when researchers found fragments of
bacteria in arterial plaque. One of the first to discover microorganisms
in atherosclerotic plaque was Brent Muhlestein, a cardiologist at the
LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City and the University of Utah. Muhlestein
and colleagues found evidence of Chlamydia in 79 percent of plaque
specimens taken from the coronary arteries of 90 heart disease patients.
In comparison, fewer than four percent of normal individuals had
evidence of Chlamydia in artery walls. Animal studies provided more
direct evidence that bacteria might contribute to chronic inflammation
and plaque formation. Muhlestein showed that infecting rabbits with
Chlamydia measurably thickens the arterial walls of the animals. When
the animals were given an antibiotic to kill the Chlamydia the arteries
became more normal in size.3
At least one out of every two adults in developed countries have
antibodies to Helicobacter pylori, Chlamydia pneumoniae, or
cytomegalovirus (CMV). The presence of antibodies does not necessarily
indicate an active infection or the presence of atherosclerosis, but is
a sign that infection has occurred at some time. It's common for
infections from these organisms to persist indefinitely. Once infected
with herpes, for example, the virus remains for life. The effectiveness
of the immune system determines the degree of trouble the virus may
cause. The weaker the immune system the more likely an infection will
hang on and cause problems. When these microorganisms enter the
bloodstream they can attack the artery wall causing chronic low-grade
infections that lack any noticeable symptoms. As microorganisms colonize
an artery wall they cause damage to arterial cells. In an effort to heal
the injury blood platelets, cholesterol, and protein combine in the
artery wall setting the stage for plaque formation and atherosclerosis.
As long as the infection and inflammation persists plaque continues to
develop. Infection can both initiate and promote growth of
atherosclerosis in arteries which, in turn, leads to heart disease.4, 5
You or anyone else may have a chronic low-grade infection without even
realizing it. This apparently is what happens to many people who think
they are healthy but suddenly drop dead from a heart attack.
As yet, researchers are not ready to say infection is responsible for
every case of heart disease. Other factors (e.g. free radicals, high
blood pressure, diabetes, etc.) can also cause injuries to the arterial
wall and initiate plaque formation. Also, not all infections promote
atherosclerosis. Only when the immune system is incapable of controlling
the infection is there cause for alarm. Anything that may lower immune
efficiency such as serious illness, poor diet, exposure to tobacco
smoke, stress, and lack of exercise (i.e. many of the typical risk
factors associated with heart disease) will also open up the body to
chronic low-grade infections that can promote atherosclerosis.
The findings mentioned above suggest that, at least in some cases, heart
disease may be treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics are limited because
they are only good against bacteria. Infections caused by viruses would
remain unaffected. However, there is something that will destroy both
the bacteria (Helicobacter pylori and Chlamydia pneumonia) and viruses (CMV)
that are most commonly associated with atherosclerosis and that is MCFA
or coconut oil. The MCFA in coconut oil are known to kill all three of
the major types of atherogenic organisms. MCFA are powerful germ
fighters and are known to kill dozens of disease causing organisms. Not
only can coconut oil help protect you from the germs that cause ulcers,
lung infections, herpes, and such, but also heart disease and stroke. If
you want to avoid dying from heart disease you should be eating coconut
Heart disease, stroke, and atherosclerosis account for nearly
half of all the deaths in the United States. Statistically, one out of
every two people you know will die from one of these cardiovascular
conditions. In countries where people eat a lot of coconut products
cardiovascular disease is much less frequent. In Sri Lanka, for example
where coconut oil has been the primary dietary fat, the death rate from
heart disease has been among the lowest in the world.6 In
recent years, however, coconut oil consumption in Sri Lanka has
declined, being replaced my polyunsaturated oils and margarines.
Consequently, heart disease rates have risen. In areas of India, where
coconut oil has been largely replaced by other vegetable oils,
cardiovascular disease is on the rise. People have been encouraged to
switch from their traditional cooking oils, such as coconut oil, in
favor of vegetable oils that are promoted as "heart-friendly."
Researchers involved with studies on diet and heart disease in India are
now recommending the return to coconut oil to reduce the risk of heart
disease. This recommendation is based on their findings showing an
increase in the occurrence of heart disease as coconut oil is replaced
by other vegetable oils.7
It appears that by simply using coconut oil in you daily diet in place
of other oils you can achieve a remarkable degree of protection from
heart disease and stroke.
1. Kaunitz, H. 1986. Medium chain triglycerides (MCT) in aging and
arteriosclerosis. J Environ Pathol Toxicol Oncol 6(3-4):115.
2. Danesh, J. and Collins, R., 1997. Chronic infections and coronary
heart disease: Is there a link? Lancet 350:430.
3. Gura, T. 1998. Infections: A cause of artery-clogging plaques?
4. Leinonen, M., 1993. Pathogenic mechanisms and epidemiology of
Chlamydia pneaumoniae. Eur Heart J 14(suppl K):57.
5. Gaydos, C.A., 1996. Replication of Chlamydia pneumoniae in vitro in
human macrophages, endothelial cells, and aortic artery smooth muscle
cells. Infect Immunity 64:1614).
6. Kaunitz, H. 1986. Medium chain triglycerides (MCT) in aging and
arteriosclerosis. J Environ Pathol Toxicol Oncol 6(3-4):115.
7. Sircar, S. and Kansra, U 1998. Choice of cooking oils-myths and
realities. J Indian Med Assoc 96(10):304.
Information in this article is from
The Coconut Oil Miracle by Bruce Fife, N.D. Copyright © Bruce Fife,
2000, 2004. All rights reserved.
This website is for informational purposes only, and is educational in
nature. Statements made here have not been evaluated by the FDA. Nothing
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