E-Mail Edition  Volume 10   Number 3

Published Summer, 2013

Published by Piccadilly Books, Ltd., www.piccadillybooks.com.

Bruce Fife, N.D., Publisher, www.coconutresearchcenter.org

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  • Coconut Sugar — Healthy Sugar Alternative or a Big, Fat Lie?

  • Deceptive Science

  • Health and Sunlight

  • Plastic Bottles Light Up Lives





The overconsumption of sugar is a major contributing factor in the development of diabetes, heart disease, gum disease, obesity, and other health problems. As a result, many people have been turning to "natural" sweeteners as a healthier choice. In recent years, coconut sugar has been gaining popularity. Many people have asked how coconut sugar compares with other natural sweeteners. Kris Gunnars at Authority Nutrition shares his view on this subject.


Coconut Sugar — Healthy Sugar Alternative or a Big, Fat Lie?

By Kris Gunnars



As the harmful effects of sugar and high fructose corn syrup become increasingly more evident, people are turning to natural alternatives.

A sweetener that has become very popular in the past few years is coconut sugar.

This sugar is derived from the coconut palm tree and is touted as being more nutritious and lower on the glycemic index than sugar.

There is a lot of talk about this sweetener online and I'd like to separate the facts from the fiction.


What is Coconut Sugar and How is it Made?

Coconut sugar is also called Coconut Palm Sugar.

It is a natural sugar made from sap, which is the sugary circulating fluid of the coconut plant. It is often confused with Palm Sugar,




which is similar but made from a different type of palm tree.


Coconut sugar is made in a natural 2-step process:

  1. A cut is made on the flower of the coconut palm and the liquid sap is collected into containers.

  2. The sap is placed under heat until most of the water has evaporated.

 The final product is coconut sugar, which looks something like this:





Is it More Nutritious Than Regular Sugar?

Regular table sugar and high fructose corn syrup don't contain any vital nutrients and therefore supply "empty" calories.

However, coconut sugar does retain quite a bit of the nutrients found in the coconut palm. There isn't a lot of data on this, but according to the Philippine Department of Agriculture, coconut sugar contains several nutrients (1):

Most notable of these are the minerals Iron, Zinc, Calcium and Potassium, along with some short chain fatty acids, polyphenols and antioxidants that may also provide some health benefits.

Then it contains a fiber called inulin, which may slow glucose absorption and explain why coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index than regular table sugar (2).I'd like to point out that even though coconut sugar contains some nutrients, you would get a lot more from other real foods.

Coconut sugar is very high in calories (same as regular sugar) and you'd have to eat a ridiculous amount of it to satisfy your need for the above nutrients.


Coconut Sugar May Have a Lower Glycemic Index

The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly foods raise blood sugar levels. Glucose is given a GI of 100 and if a food has a GI of 50, then it raises blood sugar half as much as pure glucose.

The Philippine Department of Agriculture measured the glycemic index of coconut sugar and compared it to glucose (1).


















According to them, coconut sugar is given a GI of 35, which puts it in the low range. This is much lower than table sugar, which is somewhere around 60.

But I do have a problem with making any conclusions based on this study alone.

GI can vary greatly between individuals and this study included only 10 people. GI can also vary between different batches of food, meaning that products from other manufacturers might have slightly different effects.

In the graph above, they are comparing coconut sugar to glucose, not table sugar (sucrose). I'd like to see it compared to regular table sugar, because that is what coconut sugar is being used to replace.

Overall, I'm not convinced that coconut sugar is really as low on the glycemic index as they claim. Perhaps the inulin fiber in it slows absorption somewhat, but I'd like to see another study before I make a conclusion.



Houston, we Have a Problem — it is Still Loaded with Fructose

Regular sugar isn't bad for you because it is empty calories or has a high GI, that's just the tip of the iceberg.

The main reason sugar is so unhealthy, is because it is loaded with fructose.

Regular table sugar (sucrose) is 50% fructose, 50% glucose.

But here is the kicker... even though I see claims all over the web that coconut sugar is effectively fructose free, it is made of 70%-80% sucrose, which is half fructose (3)!

For this reason, coconut sugar supplies almost the same amount of fructose as regular sugar, gram for gram.























Consumed in excess, added sugars will cause all sorts of problems like metabolic syndrome, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

I don't see any reason why the same shouldn't apply to coconut sugar.


The Bottom Line

Coconut sugar is no miracle food. It is very similar to regular table sugar, although the manufacturing process is more natural and it also contains some minor amounts of nutrients to go with it.

If you're going to use coconut sugar, then use it sparingly. It is slightly "less bad" than regular sugar, but definitely not something you should eat every day.

I'm going to have to put coconut sugar is in the same boat as honey. It is healthier than refined sugar, but definitely worse than no sugar at all.



1. Trinidad, TP. Nutritional and health benefits of coconut sap/sugar/syrup. Food and Nutrition Research Institute.

2. Kim, M. and Shin, HK. The water-soluble extract of chicory reduces glucose uptake from the perfused jejunum in rats. J Nutr 1996;126:2236-2242.

3. Purnomo, H. Sugar components of coconut sugar in Indonesia. ASEAN Food Journal 1992;7:200-201.



Source: This article is reprinted with permission from the author. Authority Nutrition An Evidence-Based Approach, http://authoritynutrition.com/.



New Data Since the Publication of the Above Article


Recent glycemic index testing carried out by the University of Sydney (Australia) and the Glycemic Index Foundation, have found that the actual glycemic index of coconut sugar is 54, not the 35 that is often quoted on the Internet. This is still very low compared to most other sugars, as you can see below:


Sweetener           GI

Glucose                100

Corn syrup             90

Rice syrup              90

Honey                    87

Molasses                68

Sucrose                  65

Coconut sugar        54


The glycemic index values are determined experimentally by feeding human test subjects a fixed portion of specific foods (after an overnight fast), and subsequently extracting and measuring samples of their blood at specific intervals of time. The foods are compared to pure glucose, taken orally, which is assigned a glycemic index number of 100.

The original glycemic value of 35 was reported by an independent lab commissioned by the Philippine Department of Agriculture. Slight differences in the testing procedures and individual differences in the physiology of the test subjects may have contributed to the discrepancy with the value obtained by the University of Sydney researchers. Since the University of Sydney is a repository of glycemic index information and research, producing the glycemic data used worldwide, the number they report should be considered the more accurate of the two.

















Deceptive Science

Scientific Discovery Versus Marketing Propaganda


Coconut oil poses a threat to drug company profits. These companies are not going to stand idly by and let this happen. They are using every trick in the book to fight back, including cranking out bogus studies to demonize their competition and perpetuate myths.

Over the past few years coconut oil has received recognition as a successful treatment for Alzheimer's disease. When combined with a proper diet, coconut oil can have a very dramatic effect on the disease. It is the only treatment that can claim to not only stop the progression of the disease but even reverse it!

There is no other treatment that can come close to matching the effects coconut oil has on Alzheimer's. The drugs currently in use (Aricept, Exelon, Razadyne, Namenda) are next to useless. None of these medicines can stop the disease, let alone reverse it. The very best you can ever hope for from them is to slightly slow down the rate of degeneration—that's all. Studies show that this effect is so tiny, so miniscule, that it makes no difference in the patient's normal day-to-day activities. What little effect there is only lasts for 6 to 12 months, then it stops working. These drugs don't even work on every patient; only half of those who take them show any detectable response. The other half shows absolutely no benefit whatsoever. After 12 months of use, 100 percent of Alzheimer's patients show no benefit at all. The drugs are completely useless. When you consider the multitude of adverse side effects associated with these drugs, which include nausea, vomiting, headaches, insomnia, dizziness, hallucinations, mental confusion, fatigue, depression, muscle wasting, seizures, and death, you've got to wonder if it is worth it. You have little or no actual benefit accompanied by a gang of detrimental side effects. Coconut oil, on-the-other hand, has no adverse side effects and works far better. Which treatment would you prefer? It's a no brainer.

Doctors know the limitations and side effects of these drugs, but they continue to prescribe the drugs to all of their Alzheimer's patients year after year after year, until the patients die. Why do they do this when they know the drugs are providing no real benefit? Part of the reason may be to appease the patients and their families, but the primary reason is because they have nothing else at their disposal. There is no effective drug treatment for Alzheimer's. Because of the poor performance of Alzheimer's drugs, many people are turning to alternatives, principally coconut oil.

Thousands of Alzheimer's patients are now using coconut oil and/or MCT oil as their primary means of treating this disease. This trend has the drug companies worried. As more Alzheimer's patients continue to turn to coconut oil, drug companies stand to lose billions of dollars in sales.

Drug companies are not going to sit idly by and let this happen. They are going to put up a vicious fight. One of the most successful ways they have handled situations like this in the past is to flood the media with misleading information in an attempt to demonize the competition. In this case, the competition is coconut oil, or saturated fats in general. If they can convince the public and health care workers that saturated fats, which include coconut oil, are detrimental to Alzheimer's patients, they can scare people away from trying it. This smear campaign has already begun.

One of the ways drug companies shape people's opinions is through studies published in medical journals. Most people consider published scientific studies to be reliable and an honest effort to seek truth. That may have been the case 30 or 40 years ago, but not today. A large percentage of studies published now are designed as marketing tools to sell products, mostly drugs. For example, if a study shows positive effects on a particular drug, the manufacturer will use the study in its sales and marketing efforts to convince the public to want it, doctors to prescribe it, and public health officials to endorse it.

Depending on how a study is designed and written, it can demonize a product or make it into a superstar. Drug companies crank out studies to show their products (drugs) in a favorable light, while producing other studies to show competing products (foods, herbs, supplements) as useless or even harmful.

Drug companies have to be discreet. Any study that has an association with a drug company is automatically suspect due to their reputation and history for dishonesty. If a study is financed by a drug company or if the authors are employees, consultants, stockholders, or have any financial interest in the company or the product being evaluated, the results may not be viewed as totally reliable. Therefore, drug companies have tricks to get around this. One of their tricks is to hire freelance writers, known as medical ghostwriters, who have advanced degrees in medicine or science. These ghostwriters pen favorable articles based on research data supplied to them from the drug company. Their names never appear on the papers they write. After the paper is written, it is sent to university professors and researchers commissioning them to sign their names to the document as the authors. The articles are then sent to various medical journals for publication. These articles are indistinguishable from legitimate studies and appear in journals all the time. However, a careful reading can uncover clues that cast doubt on the legitimacy of these articles.

A study published in the June 17 issue of the journal JAMA Neurology has all the markings of a ghostwritten article.1 Whether it is ghostwritten or not, it was deliberately written as a means to frighten people away from using coconut oil for treating Alzheimer's and to continue to rely on standard drug therapy.

When a ghostwritten article is published, the sponsoring drug company sends out thousands of news releases to the media. The news release is sometimes edited slightly or else is broadcast verbatim in newspapers, magazines, and on the Internet and reported on radio and television. You can read one such article here titled, "How a High Fat Diet Increases Alzheimer's Risk"

This news release-based article claims that the study demonstrates that a diet high in saturated fat increases the risk of Alzheimer's disease. Since coconut oil is a saturated fat, that would infer that coconut oil, too, is dangerous and that Alzheimer's patients should avoid it to prevent further brain damage.

The study was purposely designed to give the impression that saturated fats promote Alzheimer's. The study uses a classic trick of the trade to deceive the reader. The trick is guilt by association. Consumption of sugar and other high glycemic index foods have clearly been shown to be associated with Alzheimer's disease.2-3 A diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrate (processed flour) promotes the formation of amyloid plaque in the brain that is characteristic of Alzheimer's. If you combine sugar with saturated fat you can design a study to give the illusion that saturated fat is as bad as sugar.


In this study, participants were divided into two groups. One group was told to eat a diet high in saturated fat and "high glycemic index" foods (i.e. sugar, sweets, white bread). The other group was instructed to eat a diet low in saturated fat and low in high glycemic index foods (lean meats, fish, non-starchy vegetables). The participants were adults in their late 60s, many of whom were already suffering from mild cognitive impairment—a precursor to Alzheimer's disease. Samples of cerebral spinal fluid were collected at the beginning and at the end of the study a month later. The participants who were assigned to follow the high saturated fat, high glycemic index diet showed a higher percentage of amyloid plaque. Thus, the authors of the study proudly proclaimed that saturated fat promotes Alzheimer's disease.

Do you see the problem with this study? Throughout the study the first group was always labeled as "high saturated fat, high glycemic index." Notice that they always listed saturated fat first, giving it most of the emphasis. This is what most people who read the article will remember. The second half of the label they used was "high glycemic index." This term sounds a lot less unhealthy than "sugar." It is also harder to visualize and remember so people just think of the first half—saturated fat. Clever.

Saturated fat had nothing to do with the results. The higher amyloid plaque could be completely due to the sugar and refined flour. This was obviously known to the authors when the study was designed. You would have gotten the same results if you replaced the saturated fat with olive oil or spinach. Would this mean that olive oil or spinach increases the risk of Alzheimer's? Heavens no! But that is what this study is trying to do with saturated fat. It is claiming saturated fat to be guilty by association. But most laypeople wouldn't recognize this, nor would reporters and editors writing articles about the study. They take the author's word without question and perpetuate the misinformation to the delight of the drug companies.

If the authors really wanted to test the effects of saturated fat on Alzheimer's risk, all they would have needed to do was use saturated fat as the only variable, with one group eating it and the other not. The authors did not want to evaluate saturated fat for its effect on Alzheimer's because they already knew it would have none, or would even reduce the risk. Combining two or more variables, like saturated fat and sugar consumption, is a very common trick in the scientific community in order to achieve the results wanted.

The news release also alluded to the belief that genetics may be more important than diet as the major cause of Alzheimer's, inferring that it would be a waste of time focusing your energy on a dietary solution. If diet is not a solution, what else is there? Drugs, of course! Drugs are the solution to everything that ails mankind. The article also perpetuates the myth that cholesterol (from eating fatty meat and saturated fats) contributes to clogged arteries in the heart as well as the brain, which can promote Alzheimer's.

This study is an obvious example of an attempt to demonize saturated fats and promote cholesterol lowering and the use of drugs. It is also a good example why you should never take the results of a study at face value. To get to the truth, you often need to read the fine details.




Study Ties Higher Blood Sugar to Dementia Risk


Yet again, another study has tied higher blood sugar levels to increased risk of developing dementia. In a new study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, researchers at the University of Washington showed that higher blood sugar levels, even those well short of diabetes, raise the risk of dementia. The authors of the study suggest that a possible way to prevent Alzheimer's disease would be by keeping blood glucose at healthy levels. That would entail eating a diet consisting primarily of lower glycemic index foods and reducing sweets and refined carbohydrates.

Eating high glycemic index foods has the greatest effect on raising blood sugar levels and is a major factor in the development of diabetes. It has long been known that diabetes is a major risk factor for dementia. Blood sugar levels may be the common denominator.

The new study tracked blood sugar over time in all types of people—with and without diabetes—to see how it affects risk for dementia. "It's a nice, clean pattern," says Dr. Paul Crane the study's lead author. Risk for dementia rises as blood sugar does even in people without diabetes.

 "There's no threshold, no place where the risk doesn't go up any further or down any further," said Dr. Crane. The association with dementia kept climbing with higher blood sugar levels and, at the other end of the spectrum, continued to decrease with lower levels.

This held true even at glucose levels considered normal.  Diabetes is defined when fasting blood sugar levels are 140 milligrams per deciliter or greater. Among those whose blood sugar averaged 115 mg/dL, the risk of dementia was 18 percent higher than among those at 100 mg/dL. The effects were also pronounced among those with diabetes: patients with average glucose levels of 190 mg/dL had a 40 percent higher risk of dementia than those whose levels averaged 160 mg/dL.

The amount or type of fat consumed was not a factor. In fact, adding fats to the diet would help reduce the risk of dementia. Fats have essentially no effect on blood sugar levels and, therefore, have a glycemic index of zero. When fats are added to other, higher glycemic index foods, the overall glycemic effect is reduced. Fat also slows down the release of sugar into the bloodstream, moderating blood glucose levels even further. This means that when fat is added to foods, these foods have a much milder effect on blood sugar levels, thus reducing the risk of dementia! This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and not a drug company. The results of this study appear to be much more reliable and make much more sense than the JAMA Neurology study described in the attached article.

Speaking about the failure of current drugs in treating Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, Dr. Dallas Anderson, a scientist at the federal agency that paid for the study said, "We have to do something. If we just do nothing and wait around till there's some kind of cocktail of pills, we could be waiting a long time." Watching what we eat by avoiding high glycemic index foods and adding healthy sources of fat to the diet is something we can start doing right now to reduce the risk of developing dementia.


Source: Crane, P., et al. Glucose levels and risk of dementia. The New England Journal of Medicine. 2013;369:540-548.




1. Hanson, A.J., et al. Effect of apolipoprotein E genotype and diet on apolipoprotein E lipidation and amyloid peptides: randomized clinical trial. JAMA Neurol Jun 17, 2013.

2. Cao, D., et al. Intake of sucrose-sweetened water induces insulin resistance and exacerbates memory deficits and amyloidosis in a transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer disease. J Biol Chem 2007;282:36275-36282.

3. Cherbuin, N., et al. Higher normal fasting plasma glucose is associated with hippocampal atrophy: The Path study. Neurology 2012;79:1019-1926.












Health and Sunlight



Hardly a day goes by that I don't hear someone say "avoid exposure to the sun" or "make sure you apply sun block before going into the sun." UV rays from the sun, they say, will damage your skin and give you skin cancer. We've been bombarded with this advice for so long and so often that we tend to think of the sun as an evil demon bent on destroying our bodies at every opportunity.


I wonder, how in the world did our ancestors ever survive the dangerous rays of the sun? Most of the people of the world back then were farmers and herders who lived and worked under the hot sun all day long. Yet they didn't experience the skin cancers and other health problems blamed on sun exposure. The Pacific islanders, whose traditional clothing was minimal, were exposed to the hot tropical sun every day of their lives and never experienced skin cancer. On the contrary, they were known for their beautiful, healthy-looking skin and hair.

Recent research has shown that people who work indoors shielded from the sun or who frequently use sun block every time they go outside are more likely to get skin cancer than those who work outdoors or who avoid sun blocking lotions.

Sunlight is actually very therapeutic. It is essential in the plant kingdom. Sunlight provides a source of energy. Plants thrive on sunlight and grow towards the sun to soak in as much as possible. Have you ever noticed how houseplants tend to grow and bend towards the windows where the sun shines through?

Humans also need sunlight. UV rays from the sun initiate the chemical reactions in our skin that convert cholesterol into vitamin D. Vitamin D is an essential hormone-like nutrient. Vitamin D is crucial for the absorption and metabolism of calcium and phosphorous, and for the growth and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. It is an immune system regulator, enabling us to fight off infections and destroy cancerous cells. It has been shown to reduce the risk of developing multiple sclerosis and arthritis, reduce severity and frequency of asthma, help maintain healthy body weight, protect against heart disease and diabetes, and play a key role in maintaining brain function later in life. Interestingly, those people who have adequate levels of vitamin D, have a significantly lower risk of developing cancer compared to people with lower levels. While sunlight has been blamed for causing cancer, UV radiation from the sun stimulates the production of vitamin D that actually protects against cancer. Studies have also shown that vitamin D protects against damage caused by radiation (including UV radiation).

Rickets and osteomalacia are the classical vitamin D deficiency diseases. In children, vitamin D deficiency causes rickets, a disease characterized by a failure of bone tissue to properly mineralize, resulting in soft bones and skeletal deformities. Osteomalacia is the adult version of rickets.

In addition to producing vitamin D, sunlight influences our health in other ways. Sunlight has long been known to have a therapeutic effect on various health problems such as tuberculosis, psoriasis, eczema, sleep disorders, and jaundice. I had an older brother who was born with yellow skin and eyes. He had jaundice—a condition resulting from the liver's inability to adequately remove bilirubin, a breakdown product of hemoglobin. The accumulation of bilirubin can cause severe brain injury and even death if not corrected in time. The doctors treated him by putting him under a light for a few days. Light was all that was needed to correct the problem and save his life. It is amazing what effects light can have on our bodies.

The cycle of night and day governs the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle by chemically causing drowsiness and lowering body temperature. Normally, melatonin levels begin to rise in the mid to late evening, remain high for most of the night, and then drop in the early morning hours. The amount and intensity of the light we are exposed to during the day affects how much melatonin our body produces. During the shorter days of the winter months, our body may produce melatonin either earlier or later in the day than usual. This change can affect our mood and even lead to winter depression.

In some parts of the world where there is heavy cloud cover for extended periods of time (usually during the fall and winter), the sun's rays are obstructed. The lack of direct sunlight causes a condition known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). People become depressed, lethargic, and feel ill at ease for no apparent reason. When they are exposed to sunlight, their normal disposition and health gradually return.

Most of us spend 90 percent of our time inside buildings or cars, shielded from direct sunlight. When we do go outside, we slather on thick layers of sunscreen to keep sun exposure to a bare minimum. To make matters worse, during the late fall, early spring, and winter, a large number of people won't get adequate sun exposure even if they spend much of their time outdoors. The further you live from the equator, the longer exposure you need from the sun. If you live at a latitude of 35 degrees or greater (this includes most of North America, all of Europe, and the southern third of Australia), you cannot get enough sunlight to make vitamin D during the winter. At this time of year, the sun is at an angle and its rays must travel through more of the earth's filtering atmosphere to reach us. Consequently, most of us are sunlight deficient. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association of Internal Medicine found that nearly three quarters of adolescent and adult Americans are deficient in vitamin D, which indicates that they are not getting adequate sun exposure.1

Because vitamin D influences so many aspects of our health, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) in the US for this vitamin has now been set at 800 IU per day, double of what it was just a few years ago. Based on the latest research, however, 2,000-5,000 IU per day appears to provide the best overall health benefit.2 Full body summer sun exposure for 30 minutes may produce about 20,000 IU of vitamin D. Vitamin D is fat soluble so it is stored in the tissues. If you don't get enough sunlight one day, you can make up for it on another. Although excessive amounts of vitamin D can become toxic, getting too much vitamin D from the sun is not possible, as the body carefully regulates vitamin D production. You never have to worry about getting too much vitamin D from sun exposure.

One 30 minute full body exposure can supply you with enough vitamin D to last you for a week or so. If you are wearing clothes with only your head, arms, and legs exposed, you would need to extend your time to produce the same amount of vitamin D. It has been suggested by some vitamin D researchers that approximately 30 minutes of sun exposure between 10 AM and 3 PM (when the sun's rays are most intense) to the face, arms, and legs without sunscreen can produce sufficient vitamin D for a day. Darker skin requires more time to produce the same amount of vitamin D as light skin, so a dark skinned person may need to double his or her time of sun exposure for the same benefit.


You need to go outdoors to get the benefit of the sunlight. The UVB radiation that produces vitamin D does not penetrate glass, so exposure to sunshine indoors through a window does not produce vitamin D.

If you live at a latitude above 35 degrees or in an area with excessive cloud cover (like the Pacific Northwest in the US), what do you do in the winter? Even if you are exposed to sunlight all summer long, your vitamin D reserves will become depleted during the winter. One thing you can do is take vitamin D supplements. Cod liver oil is a good supplemental source of the vitamin. If you take a supplement, make sure it contains vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), which is human vitamin D. Do not use the inferior synthetic vitamin D2.

You can also eat foods containing the vitamin such as beef liver, fatty fish, egg yolks from free-range chickens, shitake mushrooms, and vitamin D-fortified milk, but foods and even supplements are generally poor sources of the vitamin. You would need to drink 200 glasses of fortified milk (100 IU/8 oz glass) or take 50 standard multivitamins (400 IU/tablet to equal what you get from 30 minutes of full body sun exposure.

Another way therapists are treating SAD and other conditions associated with sunlight deficiency is with artificial light such as tanning beds and light boxes. Tanning beds emit 2 to 6 percent UVB light, which is effective in producing vitamin D3. With a light box, the patient sits in front of the box for 30 to 60 minutes daily. Not any artificial source of light will do. You need a full spectrum light bulb. Ordinary light bulbs emit light with only a fraction of the wavelengths found in natural light. Full spectrum lights emit the complete spectrum of light given off by the sun. This is important because the different wavelengths each exert a different effect on our health. It is similar to eating flour made from whole grain versus flour from refined flour. The refined flour has many important nutrients removed. With ordinary light bulbs only a few wavelengths of light are present, so it is deficient and not as effective as full spectrum light. In fact, it can be harmful, just as eating too much white bread can be detrimental.

You can also purchase full spectrum lights and use them in your house and office so you are exposed to the lights all day long. While this doesn't take the place of full sun exposure, it can be helpful. You can buy full spectrum lights from some health food stores and online.




Sensitivity to Sunlight


We are more sensitive to the sun's rays today than we were a few generations ago. Some people are much more sensitive than others. Consequently, skin cancer rates have increased dramatically. What has caused this increase in light sensitivity? The answer is diet. As our diets have changed over the past several decades, so has our response to sunlight. The major contributor to this increase in light sensitivity is polyunsaturated vegetable oils. Polyunsaturated oils are very unstable in comparison to saturated and monounsaturated fats. Exposure to oxygen, heat, and light cause them to break down or oxidize. Oxidation is a process of decay. When oils become oxidized, they become rancid and produce destructive molecular entities known as free radicals. Free radicals are highly reactive and attack and destroy other nearby molecules, promoting decay. Free radicals in the body break down tissues, causing symptoms associated with aging such as dry, leathery, sagging skin, aging spots (liver spots), wrinkles, and such. Free radicals also attack and damage the DNA of our cells, causing mutations and promoting cancer.

When we eat foods containing polyunsaturated oils, these oils are incorporated into our tissues, including our skin. When our skin is exposed to oxygen, heat, and light, these oils break down, oxidize, and spew out free radicals. As a consequence, the skin sunburns easily, ages prematurely, and becomes highly vulnerable to cancer.

The more polyunsaturated fats you eat, the more sensitive you are to sunlight and the higher your risk of skin cancer. Yet there appears to be a dilemma: sunlight is necessary for good health and can even be therapeutic. The solution is simple. Remove polyunsaturated oils from your diet and replace them with healthy saturated fats like coconut and palm oils. Polyunsaturated oils include corn, soybean, safflower, sunflower, cottonseed, walnut, grape seed, peanut, canola, and other common cooking oils. Read ingredient labels and avoid products containing these oils.

Our ancestors who ate foods containing primarily saturated and monounsaturated fats could withstand full sun exposure all day long without problem. By changing the fats in your diet, you can increase your tolerance to sunlight and glean all the benefits the sun has to offer.






1. Ginde, A.A., et al. Demographic differences and trends of vitamin D insufficiency in the US population 1988-2004. JAMA Internal Medicine 2009;169:626-632.

2. www.vitamindcouncil.org.

3. Holick, M.F. Vitamin D deficiency. N Engl J Med 2007;357:266-281.


More Information

Health and Light by John Ott

Winter Blues by Norman Rosenthal

Light: Medicine of the Future by Jacob Liberman

Society for Light Therapy and Biological Rhythms, www.sltbr.org

Center for Environmental Therapeutics, www.cet.org.











Plastic Bottles Light Up Lives

Instead of being tossed in the trash, plastic soda bottles are being used to bring cheap and sustainable light to the world's poor, one bottle at a time.




Millions of people throughout the world live in darkness. Their homes have few or no windows, making such dwellings dark and gloomy both day and night. In rural communities, these homes are often built with mud walls and thatched or corrugated metal roofs. In urban areas, especially in poor districts, dwellings are crammed side-by-side and stacked on top of each other, squeezing as many people into the available space as possible; in such dwellings windows are rare and electricity prohibitively expensive. Meal preparation, dressing, grooming, and other activities must be done in near darkness. If you've ever tried to cook in the dark, it is no easy task. The only light the inhabitants get is when they leave their homes during the day. Discarded plastic soda bottles are now changing this situation.


Dwellings in Mumbai, India are stacked so closely together that few residents

have windows or adequate sunlight coming in their homes.



In April 2011 a revolution began in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the Philippine capital of Manila using just an empty plastic bottle, some water, and a little glue. This device lit up a home without the use of electricity. My Shelter Foundation spread this idea to other nations and a number of humanitarian groups have taken on the challenge of bringing light to the world. Currently approximately 200,000 homes around the world are illuminated with soda bottle solar lighting.

The concept uses the laws of physics and optics. Ordinary plastic (PET) soda bottles are filled with water and partially inserted through a hole cut into the roof. The sun's rays are captured by the water in the top portion of the bottle. As the rays travel through the water they are diffracted and scattered, illuminating the bottom portion of the bottle, which glows like a light bulb, giving off light to the entire room. The bottle functions as a solar light bulb, turning on at sunrise and shutting off at sunset. During mid day, a 1.5 liter bottle can produce the equivalent of a 55 watt light bulb. The actual amount of light depends on the time of day and cloud cover.



In rural areas that have no electricity and in poor urban areas where people can't afford it, these solar soda bottle lights are making life more bearable. Since these lights are made from discarded soda bottles, they are very inexpensive to produce, cost nothing to run (no electricity bills), and are environmentally friendly, causing no pollution and requiring no external source of energy other than the sun. Once installed, they can last up to five years.

The technology behind the soda bottle solar light bulb was initially developed by students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) while working on ways to provide simple and easily replicable technologies to communities in need. The students got the idea for the solar bottle bulbs when they were constructing a school classroom made out of recycled bottles in the Philippines. They noticed that the walls of the school, which were made from clear bottles, let light in during the day, and they began to experiment with ways to use recycled bottles to bring in light through the roof.

To see how these solar light bulbs work, and how they are being used around the world, check out these short videos:






The key to the success of this free solar lighting is to install the bulbs properly. The bottles must be filled completely to the top with water and about10 ml of bleach. The bleach is added to keep algae from growing and turning the water green and blocking out the sunlight. About one-third of the bottle needs to protrude above the roof to capture the light of the sun. Glue or caulking is used to adhere the bottle to the roof and prevent rain from leaking into the room. Additional glue is used on the cap, to prevent evaporation and keep it from cracking as it ages.

You can learn the details of building solar powered soda bottle lights by viewing this video.


The vast majority of the humanitarian work of installing solar soda bottle lights has occurred in warm climates. Solar lights will also work in cooler climates with some modifications. I tested this out by installing a solar light bulb in my chicken coop. I originally built the coop with one small window. Even with the window it was still very dark inside. My wife suggested I install an electric light; I decided that a solar light would be better.

While plastic soda bottles are commonly used because they are cheap, recycled waste in most cases, I wanted something more permanent. Plastic bottles last from 2 to 5 years. I chose an empty glass juice bottle. A glass bottle could last the lifetime of the building.



Solar light prepared for mounting.



Solar light mounted on roof.


I live in a climate where the temperature can drop to -20 degrees F (-29 C) during the winter. The water in plastic and especially glass bottles would expand and crack the container or pop off the cap, so an alternative to water is needed.

Possible alternatives are antifreeze, alcohol, and salt water, all of which have a much lower freezing point than water. Antifreeze can prevent freezing down to about -20 degrees, but it tints the water blue, which would dampen the intensity of the light inside the building. Water that is saturated with salt (containing as much dissolved salt as possible), freezes at -6 degrees F (-21 C). Isopropyl or rubbing alcohol, which normally contains 30 percent water, has a freezing point of -20 degrees F (-29 C). Pure ethanol (grain alcohol) has a freezing point of -173 degrees F (-114 C). I chose to use ethanol so I wouldn't have to worry about extremely cold temperatures during the winter. I used a product called Everclear, which is 190 proof or 95 percent ethanol. No bleach is needed since alcohol acts as a disinfectant.

Light coming from the solar light bulb.



I installed the glass bottle, alcohol filled solar light and it works beautifully. See accompanying photos.







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Copyright © 2013,  Bruce Fife. All rights reserved.