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
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 heart disease.
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 cardiovascular health.
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
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
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 oil!
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.
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
stated on this website is intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent
"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.