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I started researching coconut oil recently, after reading an article about how coconut oil can shift your body's metabolism into a higher gear, so that it burns more calories. During my research I discovered that coconut oil is a very different kind of dietary fat compared to most other dietary fats.
Coconut oil contains something called medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) whereas most other dietary fats contains long-chain fatty acids (LCFAs). The big difference between MCFAs and LCFAs is that MCFAs are pretty much sent straight to the liver where they are used for energy. LCFAs on the other hand typically end up in the small intestine, takes longer for the body to access for energy, so often they end up being stored as fat. Interestingly, some research also indicates that MCFAs can assist in the production of ketone bodies which can help burn adipose fat.
In either case I decided to start experiment with coconut oil and started adding 1-2 table spoons of coconut oil to my morning smoothies and one tablespoon to my afternoon tea. In just two weeks my belly measurements were down by 1cm!
However I was still a little sceptical about the high fat intake and some of the conflicting information out there. So I finally decided to reach out Dr. Bruce Fife who is considered one of the world's leading experts on coconut oil. Bruce was generous enough to agree an interview and I'm extremely pleased to share the interview with you in this edition of "10 Questions Tuesday". Enjoy!
Dr. Bruce Fife, C.N., N.D., is an author, speaker, certified nutritionist, and naturopathic physician. He has written over 20 books including The Coconut Oil Miracle and Stop Alzheimer’s Now! He is the publisher and editor of the Healthy Ways Newsletter and serves as the president of the Coconut Research Center, a non-profit organization whose purpose is to educate the public and medical community about the health and nutritional aspects of coconut and related foods. Dr. Fife is considered one of the world’s leading experts on dietary fats and oils. He is a popular speaker and with his wife, Leslie, travels throughout the world lecturing at health fairs, conferences, hospitals, and spas. He has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs worldwide.
Q1: How long have you been researching the health benefits of coconut oil on human health? And if you were to list the three most imporant benefits what would they be?
I started researching coconut oil in 1997. There are so many benefits associated with coconut oil it is hard to select just three. However, I would have to say among the most significant benefits would be its effect on 1) brain health, 2) its antimicrobial properties, and 3) its ability to balance blood sugar and insulin levels in diabetics.
Q2: Why is coconut so beneficial to human health?
Contrary to popular opinion, fat is an essential nutrient. You need fat in your diet. But not all fats are equal. Some fats like polyunsaturated vegetable oils (corn, soy, sunflower, etc.) can be harmful, especially in large doses. Polyunsaturated fats are chemically unstable and breakdown or degrade very easily, especially when heated, as when used in cooking. When they breakdown, they create toxic molecules known as free radicals that damage human tissue and promote premature aging. Coconut oil is a very stable fat and does not breakdown when exposed to normal cooking temperatures. It is a far more healthy oil to use in the kitchen.
Q3: I’ve personally started supplementing my diet with 2-3 table spoons of coconut oil to test if this boosts my metabolism. Do you recommend supplementing with coconut oil or is it better to integrate it into your diet by replacing some of your existing oils like olive oil, canola oil, cooking oil, butter etc. with coconut oil?
I strongly recommend that you replace all polyunsaturated vegetable oils, as well as canola oil, in your diet with coconut oil. These oils can lead to numerous health problems and should be removed from the diet. For optimal health, I recommend that you use coconut oil as the primary source of added fat in your diet. Use it in cooking and baking and add it to your meals as you would butter. A smaller amount of other good fats, such as organic butter and extra virgin olive oil are also fine. In general, I recommend that people consume between 1 to 3 tablespoons (14 to 42g) of coconut oil daily.
Q4: What would you recommend as the maximum amount of coconut oil to consume per day?
When people have serious health issues, such as Alzheimer's disease or diabetes, I recommend that they take up to 4 to 6 tablespoons daily. I know some Olympic caliber athletes who take up to 12 tablespoons (168g) per day for the energy it provides. Keep in mind that coconut oil is a food, not a drug, so it has no harmful effect. The worst it could do, if you eat too much, is that it would give you a stomachache and cause diarrhoea.
We have avoided fat for so many years that our digestive systems are not accustomed to processing a lot of fat. Some people will experience discomfort after eating just 1 or 2 tablespoons of coconut oil. I recommend that you start off slow, with 1 tablespoon (14g) and over a period of several weeks gradually add more until you can handle more. The body will adapt to the high fat intake over time.
Q5: Coconut oil has been reported to help control sugar cravings, control weight, ease digestion and boost metabolism. However Australia’s leading consumer advocacy CHOICE warn that although using coconut oil may have a few health benefits, none of these claims have been properly researched or proven yet. What is your comment to this?
This is one of the most common criticisms I hear about coconut oil and the health claims. However, this criticism is only voiced by people who have not bothered to take the time and actually look up any of the studies. In my research I've found over 10,000 published studies on coconut oil. I reference hundreds of them on my website. I've written 12 books about coconut oil and other coconut products. All of the health claims mentioned in these books, including the ones you just mentioned, are backed by published studies. I wrote an article on this topic titled: The Coconut Oil Miracle: Where is the Evidence?
Q6: Some people argue that coconut oil is widely used in Asia and since there is not a big obesity problem is Asia this is proof coconut oil is not contributing to weight gains despite the saturated fat content. However, others argue that this needs to be considered in the context of a Western diet as Asians typically don’t eat a lot of cheese, butter, chocolate, steaks, bacon and fast food. What is your view on this?
There have been studies done with coconut oil that show it can be useful in helping people lose excess weight and reduce belly fat. Researchers at McGill University in Canada have stated that coconut oil and other fats high in MCTs can be an effective means to treat obesity and manage weight. They go so far as to claim that if an overweight person replaced all his or her cooking oils with coconut oil or other MCT oil that they could lose up to 30 pounds (13.6 kg) in one year. This weight loss could occur even if they make no other changes to their diet or how much they eat.
Q7: If you were to refer to the most comprehensive research study on coconut oil and its weight loss benefits, which study would you refer to?
There are very few single studies on any topic that you could really call compressive or definitive, as that is really achieved by a combination of many studies. You can review dozens of coconut oil and MCT weight loss studies on my website under the heading "Weight Management."
Q7: Do you have any coconut oil weight loss success stories that you can you share?
I know one man who was a diabetic and very obese who lost 100 pounds (45 kg) in one year on a low-carb, coconut oil based diet. I would like to point out that coconut oil is most effective at weight loss when combined with a low-carb type of diet.
Here is one success story for example:
"I didn't have many expectations when I started using coconut oil a year ago. I was overweight, and resigned to it; diets just didn't work with me. In fact, in spite of a basically healthy diet -- I really prefer natural, whole foods, organic fruit and vegetables, and detest junk food -- I was steadily gaining weight over the years and decades. I was also using what I considered the healthy fats -- polyunsaturated oils.
"After reading Bruce Fife's books on coconut oil I switched oils completely. I diligently read labels to avoid hydrogenated vegetable oils -- and was amazed at how pervasive they are. I used coconut oil for all my cooking, and even added it to my tea. I lost 20 pounds (9 kg) in a matter of weeks, and what's more important, my weight has stayed at this level for the whole year. Even at times of more indulgence, such as holidays and Christmas, I did not gain. I take coconut oil with me wherever I go and can't live without my daily dose! I'm convinced that it was the polyunsaturated oils that made me gain weight, and coconut oil that helped me lose it. Also, my energy is up; formerly I was prone to inactivity but now I can go all day. Another side effect -- my dandruff has disappeared completely."
I share more success stories on my website.
Q9: Coconut water has become very popular in recent years. Is this as good as coconut oil?
Coconut water is a very healthy and nutritious drink. However, the health benefits of coconut water and coconut oil are completely different. One of the primary benefits of coconut water is that it contains all of the same electrolytes that we have in our blood, and therefore, makes and excellent rehydration beverage--far superior to commercial sports drinks. Studies also show it possesses anti-cancer properties, can reduce risk of heart disease, boost kidney health (including dissolving kidney stones), help support healthy gut bacteria, reduce high blood pressure, and it even possesses anti-aging properties. All of these benefits and more are described and documented in my book: Coconut Water for Health and Healing.
10. If people want to find out more about coconut oil where should they go for more information?
I recommend that you go to my website: www.coconutresearchcenter.org. Here you will find numerous articles and videos, nutrition facts, medical research, success stories, books and resource materials, my newsletter, and more. This is an educational website, so there are no annoying ads or marketing pitches and nothing to buy. To learn about my coconut books visit this page or take a look on Amazon.com.
Thank you so much Bruce, for taking time out of your busy schedule for this interview!