The Science Behind The Coconut Diet
Coconut oil is comprised of what are called medium chain fatty
acids, or medium chain triglycerides. These two terms are
used interchangeably, and we will refer to them as "MCTs."
In nature, coconut oil has the largest concentration of these
MCTs outside of human breast milk. Vegetable oils, on the other hand, are made up primarily
of long chain fatty acids (LCTs).
It has been known for a long time
in the scientific literature that LCTs tend to produce fat
in the body, while MCTs promote what is called thermogenesis.
Thermogenesis increases the body's metabolism, producing energy.
People in the animal feed business have known this truth for
quite some time. If you feed animals vegetable oils, they
put on weight and produce more fatty meat. If you feed them coconut
oil, they will be very lean.
a study done by Baba, Bracco, and Hashim, for example,
and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,
rats were fed MCTs and LCTs for a period of six weeks. At
the end of six weeks the rats were killed and dissected, and
the total dissectible fat and fat cell size and number
were determined. MCT rats gained 15% less weight than LCT
controls. Their conclusion: "Overfeeding MCT diet results
in decreased body fat related to increased metabolic rate
Similar studies have been done
on humans. In 1989
a study was done in the Department of Pediatrics, Vanderbilt
University, at Nashville TN. Ten male volunteers (ages 22
to 44) were overfed (150% of estimated energy requirement)
liquid formula diets containing 40% of fat as either MCT or
LCT. Each patient was studied for one week on each diet in
a double-blind, crossover design. The results: "Our results
demonstrate that excess dietary energy as MCT stimulates thermogenesis
to a greater degree than does excess energy as LCT. This increased
energy expenditure, most likely due to lipogenesis in the
liver, provides evidence that excess energy derived from MCT
is stored with a lesser efficiency than is excess energy derived
from dietary LCT." Many other studies on the weight-loss
aspect of MCTs have been done. For a list of many of these
www.coconutoil.com and look at the peer-reviewed
In addition to the weight-loss
advantages of MCTs, other studies have shown that MCTs are
powerful agents that can kill bacteria, fungus, and
a study done at the Institute of Biology of the University
of Iceland, MCTs were shown to kill gram-positive cocci.
Another study done at the University of Iceland showed
that two of the MCTs found in coconut oil, capric acid and
lauric acid, killed Candida albicans, a common yeast infection
found especially in those who have excessively used antibiotic
Lauric acid is the primary MCT
in coconut oil, and numerous studies have demonstrated the
anti-viral properties of lauric acid, including the lowering
of the viral loads of AIDS patients.
One such study was done in the Philippines at San Lorenzo
Hospital. See also the research by
Dr. Mary Enig.
Saturated fats are probably the
most maligned fats in the popular media today. They are often
blamed for "clogging arteries" and leading to heart
disease. However, an examination of the research and science
behind saturated fats leads one to a vastly different conclusion,
suggesting that the attacks against saturated fats have been
primarily political and economical, and not scientific. While
we will provide a brief summary of the science behind saturated
fats here, we encourage you to examine the research more closely
yourself. Much of it is documented at www.coconutoil.com.
First of all, saturated fats are
essential to our health. They comprise about 50% of our cell
membranes, and some proportion of saturated fats are found
in all fats and oils, whether plant based or animal
In recent years some have made
claims that too much saturated fats in our diet can lead to
higher cholesterol levels and clogged arteries, which leads
to heart disease. So an anti-saturated fat campaign was launched
in the U.S. in recent years. As a results, Americans have
consumed less saturated fats than any other nation, yet the
U.S. is still a world leader in deaths from heart disease.
Obesity rates are also at an all-time high. Many are now questioning
the "wisdom" behind the low-fat nutritional advice
that has dominated the popular media (see Gary Taubes article
Soft Science of Dietary Fat.")
Does research support the claim
that saturated fats like coconut oil raise cholesterol levels
and clog arteries? Before we look at the research that suggests
just the opposite, it should be noted that the "lipid
theory" of heart disease, which blames high cholesterol
levels as causing heart disease, is seriously being
questioned by researchers and doctors. You can read more about
the cholesterol issue at www.coconutoil.com
As to the research, a
study was done at the Wynn Institute for Metabolic Research,
London, examining the composition of human aortic plaques.
This study found that the "artery clogging fats"
in those who died from heart disease were composed of 26%
saturated fat: the rest (74%) were polyunsaturated fatty acids,
such as those found in vegetable oils commonly consumed in
today's modern societies. Their conclusion: "No associations
were found with saturated fatty acids. These findings imply
a direct influence of dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids
on aortic plaque formation and suggest that current trends
favouring increased intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids
should be reconsidered."
Another study done at the Department of Nutrition, Harvard
School of Public Health. A 14-year study of 43,732 men aged
40-75 years who conducted free from cardiovascular diseases
and diabetes in 1986, to see if there was a relationship between
dietary fat intake and risk of stroke. They reported that
after adjustment for age, smoking, and other potential confounders,
no evidence was found that the amount or type of dietary fat
affects the risk of developing ischaemic or haemorrhagic stroke.
Their conclusion: "These findings do not support associations
between intake of total fat, cholesterol, or specific types
of fat and risk of stroke in men."
For more information on the science
and research associated with saturated fats, visit www.coconutoil.com.
For a comprehensive article on this issue, read Dr. Mary Enig
and Sally Fallon's
article on saturated fats. For a look at the history behind
edible oils in the U.S., see their article "The
Oiling of America."
One of the best ways to study the
affects of coconut oil on human nutrition is to look at populations
that get most of their caloric intake from the saturated fat
of coconut oil. Logic would dictate that if the modern lipid
theory of heart disease and obesity were correct, those populations
with the highest consumption of saturated fats would be the
most overweight and have the highest rates of heart disease.
But such is not the case.
study published in 1981, the populations of two South
Pacific islands were examined over a period of time starting
in the 1960s, before western foods were prevalent in the diets
of either culture. The study was designed to investigate the
relative effects of saturated fat and dietary cholesterol
in determining serum cholesterol levels. Coconuts were practically
a staple in the diets, with up to 60% of their caloric intake
coming from the saturated fat of coconut oil. The study found
very healthy people who were relatively free from the modern
diseases of western cultures, including obesity. Their conclusion:
"Vascular disease is uncommon in both populations and
there is no evidence of the high saturated fat intake having
a harmful effect in these populations."
study was done on the Indian subcontinent comparing traditional
cooking oils with modern oils in relation to prevalence of
atherosclerotic heart disease and Type-II diabetes. Their
conclusion: "In contrast to earlier epidemiologic studies
showing a low prevalence of atherosclerotic heart disease
(AHD) and Type-II dependent diabetes mellitus (Type-II DM)
in the Indian subcontinent, over the recent years, there has
been an alarming increase in the prevalence of these diseases
in Indians--both abroad and at home, attributable to increased
dietary fat intake. Replacing the traditional cooking fats
condemned to be atherogenic, with refined vegetable oils promoted
as "heart-friendly" because of their polyunsaturated
fatty acid (PUFA) content, unfortunately, has not been able
to curtail this trend. Current data on dietary fats indicate
that it is not just the presence of PUFA, but the type of
PUFA that is important--a high PUFA n-6 content and high n-6/n-3
ratio in dietary fats being atherogenic and diabetogenic.
The newer "heart-friendly" oils like sunflower or
safflower oils possess this undesirable PUFA content and there
are numerous research data now available to indicate that
the sole use or excess intake of these newer vegetable oils
are actually detrimental to health and switching to a combination
of different types of fats, including the traditional cooking
fats like ghee, coconut oil and mustard oil, would actually
reduce the risk of dyslipidaemias, AHD and Type-II DM."
This is a brief summary of the science and research
behind The Coconut Diet. For more information, visit
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