E-Mail Edition Volume 2 Number 1
Published Winter, 2005
Published by Piccadilly Books, Ltd., www.piccadillybooks.com.
Bruce Fife, N.D., Publisher, www.coconutresearchcenter.org
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Dr. Bruce Fife a.k.a. "Dr. Coconut" answers your questions about coconut, diet, and nutrition.
Will Eating Coconut Oil Raise My Cholesterol?
This is the most often asked question I receive regarding coconut oil. This is a legitimate concern because we have been conditioned to believe that all saturated fats raise cholesterol. Since coconut oil contains a high amount of saturated fat, it would stand to reason that it, too, would raise cholesterol.
The truth is, eating coconut oil will improve your cholesterol values and reduce your risk of heart disease. Many people, however, have expressed concern after having their blood cholesterol checked and finding that their total cholesterol has increased since they began using coconut oil. If coconut oil reduces risk of heart disease, why did their cholesterol levels rise?
I have found that people’s response varies when they start using coconut oil. In some people total cholesterol decreases, while in others it increases. But in either case, their HDL (good) cholesterol always increases. The rise in total cholesterol that some people experience is due mostly to an increase in good cholesterol. Their cholesterol ratio (total cholesterol/HDL cholesterol) improves, thus reducing their risk of heart disease.
It is an established fact that the cholesterol ratio is a far more accurate indicator of heart disease risk than total cholesterol. Total cholesterol, in fact, is misleading and is a poor risk indicator because it lumps together both LDL (bad) cholesterol and HDL (good) cholesterol. Total cholesterol gives you no indication of how much is good and how much is bad. You can have high total cholesterol, but if a large percentage of it is made up of HDL, then your risk is low.
The lower the cholesterol ratio the better. A cholesterol ratio of 5.0 mg/dl is considered average risk. Above this value is high risk and below is less than average risk. A ratio of 3.2 mg/dl or less is considered optimal or the lowest risk.
If you have a total cholesterol value of 240 mg/dl, this would be considered high. You would be told that you are at high risk for heart disease. Your doctor would tell you to reduce your saturated fat intake and have you take cholesterol-lowering drugs. However, if your HDL value was 75 mg/dl, your cholesterol ratio would be 3.2 mg/dl. This value is in the optimal range and you would have the lowest risk. Since the cholesterol ratio is a far more accurate indicator of heart disease risk, even though your total cholesterol may be high, your actual risk is very low.
Just the opposite can also happen. If a person has a total cholesterol reading of 178 mg/dl, that would be considered ideal and believed to indicate low risk. If, however, his HDL was only 35 mg/dl, his cholesterol ratio would be 5.1 mg/dl, which is in the high risk category! This explains why so many people who die of heart disease have normal or below normal total cholesterol levels and why many people with high total cholesterol levels, live long lives without experiencing heart problems.
When people ask me about their cholesterol values, I tell them to ignore total cholesterol and look at their cholesterol ratio. In every case, the cholesterol ratio improves when they start using coconut oil and their risk of heart disease drops.
Here is an actual case. A woman had a family history of high cholesterol. Family members had total cholesterol readings in excess of 400 mg/dl. After adding coconut oil into her diet, her total cholesterol rose from 336 to 376 mg/dl. Ordinarily this is considered very high. However, her HDL (good) cholesterol nearly doubled from 65 to 120 mg/dl. Her cholesterol ratio dropped from a high risk value of 5.2 mg/dl to a low risk value of 3.1 mg/dl, which is in the optimal range. Although she had a very high total cholesterol reading, her true risk was very low. Her blood pressure was optimal at 110/60.
Studies have consistently shown that coconut oil increases HDL and improves the cholesterol ratio. While coconut oil does not reduce total cholesterol as effectively as polyunsaturated oils do, it has a greater effect on HDL. When HDL and cholesterol ratio values are evaluated, coconut oil reduces risk of heart disease more than soybean, canola, safflower, or any other vegetable oil typically recommended as "heart healthy." Interestingly, most vegetable oils increase the cholesterol ratio, thus increasing the risk of heart disease. Coconut oil is definitely the best oil you can use to protect yourself from heart disease.■
Coconut Flour: A Low-Carb, Gluten-Free Alternative to Wheat
I love wheat and all the things that are made from it—cakes, cookies, pies, pizza, pasta, pancakes, muffins, the list goes on and on. Wheat products are the most popular foods in our American diet. Wheat, in one form or another, is eaten in just about every meal.
Some people, however, are allergic to wheat or cannot tolerate gluten—the protein in many grains. Others avoid wheat and grains to cut down on their carbohydrate intake to improve their health or lose excess weight. For whatever reason, planning meals without wheat is a challenging task.
In an attempt to solve this problem, food manufacturers have developed a variety of wheat-free or low-carb breads and flours made from soy, beans, and nuts. Most low-carb and gluten-free alternatives to wheat are expensive and, honestly, don’t taste that good, unless they are loaded with flavor enhancers and sweeteners of one type or another.
Coconut flour provides a suitable solution. Coconut is naturally low in digestible carbohydrate, contains no gluten, is cheaper than most other nut flours, is loaded with health promoting fiber and important nutrients, and tastes terrific. Coconut flour is made from finely ground coconut meat with most of the moisture and fat removed. This flour can be used much like wheat flour to make a multitude of delicious breads, pies, cookies, cakes, snacks, and desserts as well as main dishes. Coconut flour contains less carbohydrate than soy or other nut flours. It contains more calorie-free fiber than other wheat alternatives. Coconut flour also provides a good source of protein. While coconut flour does not contain gluten—the type of protein found in many grains—it does not lack protein. It contains more protein than enriched white flour, rye flour, or cornmeal, and about as much as whole wheat flour.
There are two types of carbohydrate in foods: digestible and non-digestible. The type of carbohydrate that is of concern to most people is digestible carbohydrate—the starch and sugar in our foods. These are the carbs that the body converts into fat and packs into our fat cells. These are the carbs that, when eaten in excess, contribute to an assortment of health problems such as insulin resistance, obesity, and diabetes. These are the carbs that people on low-carb diets try to avoid.
Non-digestible carbohydrate, on the other hand, is composed of fiber and passes through the digestive tract without being broken down or absorbed and is passed out of the body essentially unaltered. Instead of contributing to health problems like starch and sugar do, fiber promotes good health. Most of us don’t eat enough fiber and nutritionists encourage us to increase our fiber intake. The best way to do this is by eating foods rich in fiber such as whole grains, vegetables, and fruits.
Whole grains such as wheat and rye are some of the richest sources of fiber. Grains contain more fiber than fruits and vegetables. However, for people who cannot tolerate gluten, this isn’t an option.
Coconut is a natural low-carb, high-fiber food ideally suited for low-carbohydrate diets. One cup of shredded fresh coconut (80 grams) contains a mere 3 grams of digestible carbohydrate and 9 grams of fiber. The remaining 68 grams consists primarily of water, fat, and protein. Although a piece of fresh coconut may taste sweet, its digestible carbohydrate content is lower and its fiber content higher than most fruits and vegetables. Coconut has three times as much fiber as it does digestible carbohydrate. In comparison, a similar volume of green beans contains 7 grams of digestible carbohydrate and only 3 grams of fiber. A carrot has 8 grams of digestible carbohydrate and only 4 grams of fiber.
Since you cannot digest dietary fiber, you do not derive any calories from it. Dietary fiber is calorie-free. You can eat as much as you like without worrying about gaining weight—good news for those who are concerned about their weight.
Fiber absorbs water like a sponge. For this reason, it aids in filling the stomach and producing a feeling of fullness. It provides bulk without supplying fat-promoting calories. Fiber also slows down the emptying of the stomach, thus maintaining the feeling of fullness longer than low-fiber foods. As a result, less food and fewer calories are consumed.
Studies have shown that consumption of an additional 14 grams of fiber a day is associated with a 10 percent decrease in calorie intake and a loss in body weight. The observed changes occur both when the fiber is from high-fiber foods, like fresh vegetables or coconut, or when it is from products made with high-fiber flours, such as coconut flour.
When you eat high-fiber foods that are generally low in calories, you crowd out higher calorie foods. Simply adding high-fiber foods into your diet will lower your calorie intake even if you eat the same volume of food as you normally do.
Blood Sugar and Diabetes
Blood sugar is an important issue for anyone who is concerned about heart disease, overweight, hypoglycemia, and especially diabetes because it affects all of these conditions.
Carbohydrates in our foods are broken down in the digestive tract and converted into glucose (blood sugar). Meals that contain a high concentration of carbohydrates, particularly simple carbohydrates such as sugar and refined flours, cause a rapid rise in blood sugar. Since elevated blood sugar can lead to a coma and death, insulin is frantically pumped into the blood stream to avoid this. If insulin is produced in adequate amounts, blood sugar is soon brought back down to normal. This is what happens in most individuals. However, if insulin is not produced quickly enough or if the cells become desensitized to the action of insulin, blood glucose can remain elevated for extended periods of time. This is what happens in diabetes.
Dietary fiber helps moderate swings in blood sugar by slowing down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. This helps keep blood sugar and insulin levels under control. Coconut fiber has been shown to be very effective in moderating blood sugar and insulin levels. For this reason, coconut is good for diabetics.
Diabetics are encouraged to eat foods that have a relatively low glycemic index. The glycemic index is a measure of how foods affect blood sugar levels. The higher the glycemic index, the greater an effect a particular food has on raising blood sugar. So diabetics need to eat foods with a low glycemic index. When coconut is added to foods, including those high in starch and sugar, it lowers the glycemic index of these foods. This was clearly demonstrated by T. P. Trinidad and colleagues in a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2003. In their study, both normal and diabetic subjects were given a variety of foods to eat. Some of the types of food included cinnamon bread, granola bars, carrot cake, and brownies—all foods that a diabetic must ordinarily limit because of their high sugar and starch content. It was found that as the coconut content of the foods increased, the blood sugar response between the diabetic and non-diabetic subjects became nearly identical. In other words, coconut moderated the release of sugar into the bloodstream so that there was no spike in blood glucose levels. As the coconut content in the foods decreased, the diabetic subjects’ blood sugar levels became elevated, as would normally be expected from eating foods high in sugar and white flour. This study showed that adding coconut to foods lowers the glycemic index of the foods and keeps blood sugar levels under control. Sweet foods such as cookies and cakes made using coconut flour do not affect blood sugar levels like those made with wheat flour. This is good news for diabetics who want a treat now and then without adversely affecting their blood sugar.
Fiber acts like a broom, sweeping the intestinal contents through the digestive tract. Parasites, toxins, and carcinogens are swept along with the fiber, leading to their timely expulsion from the body. This cleansing action helps prevent toxins that irritate intestinal tissues and cause cancer from getting lodged in the intestinal tract. Colon cancer is second only to lung cancer as the world’s most deadly form of cancer. Many studies have shown a correlation between high-fiber diets and a low incidence of colon cancer. For example, in one of the most extensive studies to date, involving over 400,000 people from nine European countries, it was found that those who had the highest fiber intake were 40 percent less likely to develop colon cancer.
Fiber readily absorbs fluids. It also appears to absorb harmful carcinogens and other toxic substances. Researchers at the University of Lund, Sweden, found that fiber in the diet can absorb toxins that promote cancer. Various types of fiber were examined for their absorption capacity and found to absorb 20 to 50 percent of these carcinogenic compounds.
Dr. B. H. Ershoff of Loma Linda University summarized studies reported by the Committee on Nutrition in Medical Education. The studies compared groups of rats and mice, some given high-fiber diets and others given low-fiber diets. The animals were fed various drugs, chemicals, and food additives. These substances proved to be poisonous to the animals on the low-fiber diets, yet those given high-fiber diets showed no deleterious effects.
Logically you can see the relationship between dietary fiber and its protective effect in the colon, but studies also show it protects against breast, prostate, and ovarian cancers as well. One explanation for this is that toxins lingering in the colon are absorbed into the bloodstream, and the blood then carries these toxins to other parts of the body where they can cause cancer.
Another explanation involves estrogen. Estrogen is required for the early growth and development of breast and ovarian cancer. The liver collects estrogen and sends it into the intestines where it is reabsorbed into the bloodstream. A high-fiber diet interrupts this process. Less estrogen is allowed back into the bloodstream because the activities of bacterial enzymes in the intestine are reduced. Studies show that serum estrogen can be significantly reduced by a high-fiber diet. Progesterone, which is an antagonist to estrogen and helps protect against cancer, is not affected or reduced by fiber.
One of the primary reasons given to explain why dietary fiber protects against colon and other cancers is that it decreases intestinal transit time. If carcinogenic substances, hormones, and toxins are quickly moved through the digestive tract and out of the body, they don’t get a chance to irritate tissues and instigate cancer. Coconut fiber not only absorbs and sweeps carcinogenic toxins out of the intestinal tract, it also helps prevent the conditions that promote cancer. Evidence suggests that coconut fiber may also prevent the formation of tumors in the colon by moderating the harmful effects of tumor-promoting enzymes.
Coconut Dietary Fiber and Coconut Flour
Nutritionists recommend that we get between 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day. This is 2 to 3 times higher than the average intake, which is about 10-14 grams a day. Adding coconut dietary fiber or foods made with coconut flour to your diet can significantly improve your daily fiber intake. Coconut fiber is sold as a dietary supplement. Coconut flour is sold as a grocery item like other flours. Both coconut dietary fiber and coconut flour are made from ground coconut. The difference between them is subtle, however, they may differ slightly in particle size and nutrient content.
You can increase the fiber content of your meals and enjoy many of the health benefits of coconut by simply adding a little coconut dietary fiber into the foods you normally eat each day. Research shows that adding even a little fiber to the diet can have a significant influence on health. For example, in a study on cardiovascular disease, a high-fiber diet was associated with a 21 percent lower risk of heart disease. The difference in fiber intake of the subjects wasn’t great. The highest intake was only 23 grams, only about 9 or 10 grams above average. You can easily increase the fiber in your diet by 9 or 10 grams by simply adding a few tablespoons of coconut dietary fiber into the foods you normally eat each day.
You can do this by adding a tablespoon or two of coconut fiber to beverages, smoothies, baked goods, casseroles, soups, and hot cereal. This is a simple and easy way to add fiber into your daily diet without making drastic changes in the way you eat. Another way to add coconut fiber into your diet is by using coconut flour in your baking.
Up until recently coconut flour has not been used much for making baked goods. Since coconut flour lacks gluten and is highly absorbent, it cannot be substituted entirely for wheat flour in standard recipes. If you tried to make a chocolate cake by replacing all the wheat flour with coconut flour using a standard cake recipe you would fail completely. Your cake would be hard and crumbly and taste terrible.
In most cases, coconut flour cannot be substituted completely for wheat or other flours in typical bread recipes. You need to combine it with wheat, rye, or oat flour. When making quick breads, you can generally replace up to 25 percent of the wheat flour with coconut flour, but 10 to 20 percent is better. This still increases the fiber content considerably.
If you are allergic to wheat or sensitive to gluten, you won’t want to use standard bread recipes. In that case, my new book Cooking with Coconut Flour: A Delicious Low-Carb, Gluten-Free Alternative to Wheat will be of great value to you. All of the recipes in this book are completely wheat free, using only coconut flour.
No other flours are needed. Recipes include breads, muffins, cakes, cookies, crackers, pies, and even main dishes like chicken pot pie and chicken and dumpling stew. You will love the German chocolate cake and the blueberry muffins. If you’re concerned about sugar, you don’t need to worry: all sweet recipes include low sugar versions. These foods taste so good you would never know they are made with coconut flour rather than wheat.
AIDS Victim Tells of Healing Virtues of Coconut Oil
In coming out of the closet to tell his story, Tony, 38, lends hope to thousands of AIDS sufferers worldwide. "You don’t know how hard it is for one to have an illness that others find repulsive...I had wanted to shut myself inside my room and just wait for my time to die," Tony told symposium participants.
Tony was a guest speaker at a symposium titled "Why Coconut Cures", held in Manila, Philippines, May14, 2005. The symposium was headed by Dr. Bruce Fife, who was also the keynote speaker. Other participants included cardiologist Conrado Dayrit, dermatologist Vermen Verallo-Rowell, biochemist Fabian Dayrit, and Senator Jamby Madrigal.
Tony’s testimony, along with those of others who had experienced dramatic recoveries from various ailments, provided first-hand accounts of the use of coconut oil in healing chronic health problems described by symposium participants.
Beneath the sunglasses that he wore, his eyes were moist, not in self-pity but in triumph. A cap and long sleeves hid a body scarred by a disease Tony contracted while working in the Middle East in the 1990s. Coming home in 2002, Tony was devastated to learn that he was infected by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). As the disease progressed, the pain he endured came not only from the infections ravaging his body but from the shame the disease had brought him. He felt like giving up.
Drugs, which he could barely afford, could not deliver him from the dreaded virus and the other infections that were slowly draining away his life. His body was covered with fungal infections and oozing sores accompanied by a chronic pneumonia infection that caused a persistent cough. He knew he was losing the battle as each day symptoms grew worse; he found it increasingly more difficult to function and was completely incapable of working.
Unable to afford medication, he sought help from the Department of Health. He was referred to Dr. Conrado Dayrit, the author of the first clinical study on the healing effects of coconut oil on HIV-infected patients, which was conducted at the San Lazaro hospital in the Philippines. By this time Tony was diagnosed with full-blown AIDS and had little hope for recovery.
Dr. Dayrit secured a steady supply of coconut oil for Tony’s use, free of charge. He was instructed to apply the oil to his skin two to three times a day and consume six tablespoonfuls daily without fail.
The program worked miracles. Each time Tony went to the hospital for his periodic blood tests, his viral load decreased. Tony said that when he told hospital doctors what he was taking, they could not believe that a simple dietary oil was killing the virus better than all the modern drugs of medical science.
Just nine months after his initial visit with Dr. Dayrit, Tony appeared before the audience at the symposium for all to witness his remarkable recovery. The infections that once racked his body were gone. Even HIV was no longer detectable. What used to be skin sores all over his body were now just fading scars. His life energy had been restored enough for him to give an eloquent testimony of how something as simple and natural as coconut oil could halt this deadly disease.
Evidence for coconut oil’s effect on HIV was first discovered back in the 1980s when researchers learned that medium chain fatty acids—the kind found in coconut oil—possessed powerful antiviral properties capable of destroying the AIDS virus. Since then, numerous anecdotal accounts of HIV patients using coconut and coconut oil to overcome their condition circulated in the AIDS community. Even basketball legend Magic Johnson, who retired from the NBA because he was HIV positive, is reportedly credited with using coconut on his road to recovery.
The first clinical study using coconut on HIV patients was reported by Conrado Dayrit in 1999. In this study HIV-infected individuals were given 3.5 tablespoons of coconut oil daily. No other treatment was used. Six months later 60% of the participants showed noticeable improvement.
This was the first study to demonstrate that coconut oil does have an antiviral effect in vivo and could be used to treat HIV-infected individuals. Dr. Dayrit is now heading a larger study in Africa using coconut oil in the treatment of HIV.
The symposium "Why Coconut Cures" was based on Dr. Bruce Fife’s recently published book Coconut Cures. Philippine president Macapagal-Arroyo recognized Dr. Fife’s relentless advocacy in educating people about the healing properties of coconut.
Coconut Cures is currently available at most health food stores in the US. It is also available directly from the publisher at www.piccadillybooks.com or from www.amazon.com. ■
Philippine president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo with Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap acknowledges the efforts of author Bruce Fife (with wife Leslie) in promoting the health benefits of coconut. Dr. Fife presented president Macapagal-Arroyo a copy of his new book Coconut Cures.
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Copyright © 2007, 2005, Bruce Fife. All rights reserved.