Coconut oil was once widely demonized because of its saturated fat content in America, but now, it’s becoming almost as widely consumed in America, especially by health-seekers, as it is in native countries where coconuts are grown.
The coconut oil and coconut boom might not have been possible if not for the work of Dr. Bruce Fife, author of the pivotal book ‘The Coconut Oil Miracle,‘ which dug deep into the volumes of medical studies showing the crucial benefits of coconut oil, and brought them to the masses, for the first time.
Coconut oil has been linked to benefits for heart function, Alzheimer’s prevention, detoxification, weight loss and much more.
Dr. Fife, widely recognized as one of the world’s top authorities on the health benefits of coconut oil, recently answered the following questions about his book, the health benefits of coconut oil, the sustainability of coconuts as a staple food and much more.
AltHealthWORKS: When did you first discover the health benefits of coconut oil? And did you originally believe it was “unhealthy” like so many people did? Also, how did the idea that it was “unhealthy” first come about, anyway?
Bruce Fife: I used to believe coconut oil was an unhealthy saturated fat that promoted heart disease just like most people. About 17 years ago I had a colleague say to me that “Coconut oil is one of the good fats” and that it had “many health benefits.” I was shocked. This prompted me to do some research to discover the truth about coconut oil.
For my research I went to the medical literature and looked up every study I could find on coconut oil. What I learned changed the way I view coconut oil and the way I view fats and oils in general.
Coconut oil got an undeserved reputation as a bad fat because of its high saturated fat content. People just assumed that since it was high in saturated fat that it must be bad for health.
AHW: Did you think that coconut oil would become as popular and ubiquitous as it has recently in such a short amount of time?
BF: I never believed it would become as accepted or as popular as it has become. When I first wrote my book “The Coconut Oil Miracle” I knew it would face a lot of criticism and doubt. However, everything in the book was based on published medical research, the historical record, and my own person experience.
The book provides a great deal of information about fats and oils, a lot of which is misrepresented in the media, and dispels a lot of myths about not only coconut oil and saturated fat but about health and diet in general. I felt that people needed to know the truth and that the information in the book would help a lot of people.
At first, I received a lot of opposition, but I knew that if I could get people to read the book, they would be convinced. Every claim I make in the book is back by science and I provide the references to back it up.
The book was originally published in 2000. It is now in its 5th edition. If the oil was harmful or if it didn’t do what I say it can, then it would have fallen out of favor long ago. What keeps it going and increasing in popularity is that it works! All it takes is for you to try it to become a believer.
AHW: What are maybe 2 or 3 coconut oil benefits that the average health food enthusiasts doesn’t know that can be found in the book?
BF: The fat molecules in coconut oil are different from those of other fats. This is what makes coconut oil unique and what gives it its incredible nutritional and healing properties. These special fats are known as medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs).
In the body, MCFAs display potent antimicrobial properties and are capable of killing a wide variety of disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and fungi. They can kill bacteria that cause sinus infections, ear infections, dental cavities, and pneumonia, to names just a few. They can kill yeast and fungal that cause ringworm, athlete’s foot, and yeast infections. They kill viruses that cause influenza, measles, herpes, mononucleosis, hepatitis C, and even HIV—the AIDS virus. This has all been documented in published medical studies.
While MCFAs are deadly to disease-causing microbes, they are harmless to us. In fact, our cells use them as food to produce energy. Unlike other fats that are generally stored as body fat, MCFAs are preferred as a source of fuel by our cells. Consequently, eating coconut oil can give a boost in energy.
This energy boost also stimulates metabolism causing the body to run at a higher rate of efficiency. Because increasing metabolism burns off more calories, coconut oil can be used as an aid in weight loss. Researchers are recommending it as a tool to treat obesity and an aid in weight management.
One of the most remarkable characteristics of coconut oil is its affect on brain health. When consumed, a portion of the MCFAs are converted by the liver into an alternative form of fuel known as ketones. Our brains prefer ketones to glucose as a source of fuel. Ketones have been described as “superfuel for the brain” because they provide a more efficient and more potent form of energy than glucose, which greatly improves brain health. This effect is most notable in diseases of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and MS.
In these conditions the brain has lost much of its ability to properly absorb glucose. As a consequence, nerve cells begin to degenerate and die. As they do, symptoms arise. Ketones provide the brain with an alternative fuel that not only keeps the nerve cells alive and functioning but stimulates healing and repair. Consuming coconut oil on a regular basis can stop the progression and even reverse Alzheimer’s and other brain related disorders.
AHW: What is the most inspiring example of a health turnaround through coconut oil that you’ve discovered personally?
BF: I’ve heard and see coconut oil do some miraculous things in helping people overcome a wide variety of health conditions ranging from brain cancer, arthritis, and influenza, to Alzheimer’s. For example, one man developed severe dementia after suffering from a fungal infection that migrated into his brain. His doctors said the damage was permanent and wanted to institutionalize him, but his wife refused. She began searching for anything that might help him and came across stories and research on the use of coconut in treating Alzheimer’s.
At this point, her husband’s mental health had deteriorated to the point that he could no long communicate but only babbled incoherently when trying to speak. She began adding coconut oil into his food and within hours he was speaking in clear sentences for the first time in months. He continued to make rapid progress and after about two months using coconut oil he was pronounced dementia-free by his doctor.
This has been three years ago and although the man is well past retirement age he has started a new business and keeps active mentally and physically.
AHW: As more and more people discovering coconut health properties and coconut oil, what do you think the biggest challenge will be going forward in preserving the quality and integrity of the products?
BF: You can tell the quality of a brand of coconut oil by its taste. If it tastes good, it’s good quality. If not, use another brand. Essentially all of the brands of coconut oil on the market in the U.S. provide the health benefits described in the book.
AHW: Do you think coconut products will be ecologically and economically stable going forward as more and more people use them? And how can people help in that regard?
BF: There is no shortage of coconut trees at this time or in the foreseeable future.
AHW: How do you personally use coconut oil and are specific uses detailed in the book?
BF: I use coconut oil for everything. I use it in cooking and baking, I use it as a skin lotion and healing salve, I use it for oral hygiene and to prevent and fight infections, I even take it by the spoonful at times like a dietary supplement. In the book I describe in detail how to use it for all these purposes (note: Fife has said that 1-3 tablespoons a day is the best way to get started).
AHW: Final question: Is coconut oil really “good for everything?” as one Internet meme said?
BF: Coconut oil is good for a multitude of uses. In a recent edition of my Healthy Ways Newsletter I wrote an article titled “1,000 and 1 uses for Coconut Oil” where I briefly explain many of the medical, cosmetic, nutritional, and industrial uses for this versatile oil. While it can help with a multitude of health issues, it is not a cure-all and will not alleviate every health problem.
But it is not harmful either. Coconut oil has been tried and tested and used safely for thousands of years. There is no danger or risks in using it.
AHW: Special thanks to Dr. Fife for answering our questions. You can check out his website at www.coconutresearchcenter.org and check out his best-selling book, which includes research and over 50 delicious coconut oil recipes, on Amazon.com by clicking here.