For thousands of years, the coconut has been a staple food and the main source of dietary fats in island and tropical populations (Mercola). Historically, these populations have had low rates of obesity, heart disease, cancer, and other diseases. Folk and modern medicine practitioners from tropical regions, such as the Philippines or in Indonesia, testify enthusiastically about the medicinal powers of coconut oil and its ability to heal (personal experience, Sachs). And "as far back as the 1950's, research began to show the health benefits of coconut oil. For many years it was considered a good oil with many nutritional uses." (Fife:9) Coconut oil was once the cooking-fat of choice for many Americans, as well as restaurants and processed food companies.
Fast forward a few decades. Today, many health professionals and health organizations consider coconut oil to have a negative impact on health, even dangerous. Coconut oil is saturated fat, and there is not a single person in the United States that has not been warned about the dangers of saturated fat by well-meaning health professionals. The problem is that lumping all saturated fats together in one category has led to a lot of misunderstandings involving sub-categories of saturated fats...such as long, medium, and short-chain saturated fats (confused yet?) (Fife:20). Despite the lack of evidence proving that eating coconut oil (medium-chain) causes health problems, and despite the abundance of evidence showing that it is in fact extremely beneficial to a person's health to consume it, it nevertheless remains taboo in modern medicine to promote coconut oil in the diet.
So when and how did this radical change in opinion about coconut oil happen? Well, for starts, you can trace it back to the early days of genetically-modified food (GMO's), and the soybean, canola, and corn industry...in particular, the soybean industry. In the early 1980's, a massive campaign against coconut oil was launched by the American Soybean Association (ASA):
In 1986 the ASA sent a "Fat Fighter Kit" to soybean farmers encouraging them to write government officials, food companies, and so on, protesting the encroachment of "highly saturated tropical fats like palm and coconut oils." The wives and families of some 400,000 soybean growers were encouraged to fan out across the country in a lobbying effort touting the health benefits of soybean oil. Well-meaning but misguided health groups such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) joined in the battle, issuing news releases referring to palm, coconut, and palm kernel oils as "artery-clogging fats."(Fife:10).
The CSPI has been blamed for ignorantly spreading misconceptions and falsehoods about coconut oil by health professionals such as Mary G. Enig, Ph.D., who claims that their description in the biochemistry of fats is full of errors (Fife:11). Additionally, WebMD still considers coconut oil an unhealthy saturated fat, and suggests that its readers switch from saturated fats to vegetable oils, such as soybean (Zelman). An innocent web-browser would quickly discount coconut oil if they trusted mainstream, lobby-influenced dietary advice. The food industry, trying to cash in on the anti-coconut oil panic, began (in the 1980's) labeling products with phrases such as "contains no tropical oils." Many doctors and lipid researchers who knew the health benefits of coconut oil stepped forward on behalf of coconut oil at Congressional hearings (Fife:12-13), but public propaganda, news/media stories with titles such as "The Oil from Hell," and a corrupted political environment that favored the soybean farmers proved unbeatable.
Fast food restaurants immediately jumped on the bandwagon and switched to polyunsaturated vegetable oils. Processed food companies stopped using coconut oil and also started using soybean and canola oils. Margarine (an entirely different, yet equally concerning history) replaced real butter, while soybean oil and canola oil replaced olive oil and coconut oil. Even today, most "olive oil" is nothing more than soybean or canola oil with a bit of real olive oil in it. Additionally and since the early 1980's, the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans have convinced many Americans to adopt a low-fat, high carbohydrate diet (King). The rationale was that one could reduce their cholesterol and lose weight by eating less saturated fat. The results have been nothing short of a health disaster. Cancer and diabetes rates have climbed to peaks never-before imagined, and obesity is now at 30% while 70% of Americans are just overweight and don't know why. (Fife, King, Mercola)
The damaging effects of rancid, unsaturated vegetable oils and fats are deceiving and long-term in their appearance. Polyunsaturated fats (safflower, sunflower, sesame, soybean, and corn oils) are highly vulnerable to oxidation and free-radical formation during their processing. In order to extract the oil, the vegetable is exposed to oxygen, heat, and light. "By the time we buy the oil in the store it has already become rancid to some degree...the safest oils are those processed at low temperatures and packaged in dark containers. Cold-pressed oils are minimally processed, so they retain most of their natural antioxidants" (Fife:27). Additionally, when used for cooking, even the best 100% pure olive oil will become rancid and toxic. The human body is unable to use this rancid fat, as it is basically dead. Sensing that it might be a dangerous thing to allow into the bloodstream, it stores much of it inside the cells. This is known as isolated fat. Dr Johanna Budwig, a German pioneer in the study of fats and oils and the founder of the Budwig Diet, stated that "the only substance which characterized the cancerous cells, as opposed to healthy ones, was isolated fat: the formation of fat in the cell nucleus, cell body and cytoplasm" (Budwig:4).
Ironically, the Budwid Diet uses a combination of two other sources of oil/fat, flax oil and cottage cheese (an alkaline form of dairy), to "dislodge" the isolated fats from cancer cells, sort of like fighting fire with fire. The Budwig Diet is famous for its ability to heal the body from cancer and other serious disease (in combination with a true dedication for eating healthy and detoxing), and it is an excellent aide for athletes who need an abundance of oxygen in their cells. (For more about the Budwig Diet, please go here.)
Today, coconut oil is enjoying a much-needed return to the American kitchen as new independent researchers (not the research done by corporations involved with the sale of oils) conclude what old research already had established long ago...that coconut oil is truly one of the healthiest oils that can be used in cooking. Because coconut oil is a medium-chain triglyceride, it is often listed as a actual food on packages as MCT. "Medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil are broken down and used predominantly for energy production and thus seldom end up as body fat or as deposits in arteries or anywhere else," (Fife:25). It is one of the very few oils that does NOT turn rancid when heated at high temperatures, making it ideal for using as your only cooking oil. It's healing abilities, which have been documented over and over, include:
* Fat-burning (ironic!?) * Brain-boosting *Clearing head-lice *Healing wounds *NSAID Alternative *Anti-ulcer activity *Anti-fungal *Testosterone builder *Reducing Swollen Prostate *Improving Blood Lipids *Fat-Soluable Nutrient Absorption *Bone Health *Sunscreen *Reducing Swollen Prostate (Ji, Sayer)
Coconut oil has also been shown to have strong antimicrobial effects on Candida (Ogbolu). It is currently being studied for its extremely positive effects on the brain, and for its ability to greatly help those with brain-disorders such as Alzheimer's and Dementia, and other degenerative brain issues such as Parkinson's. The results are very promising, but not surprising to those who have studied this amazing oil and have already adopted it into their lifestyles.
Coconut oil makes a great moisturizer and also can be used for many other beauty/spa purposes, as well as for "oil-pulling," a process in which the person swishes a tablespoon or so of oil in their mouth for about 15 minutes in order to detox viruses and other pathogens through the tiny capillaries of the mouth. It is also a nifty way to whiten and clean teeth, and many people are thrilled when their receding gums "grow back" after a few weeks of daily oil-pulling.
I highly recommend that readers investigate the many uses of coconut oil more in-depth for themselves. As for olive oil, save it for room-temperature recipes and make sure that you are using 100% pure olive oil (look at the ingredients list).
Budwig, Dr Johanna (bio-chemist). Flax Oil as a True Aid Against Arthritis, Heart Infarction, Cancer, and Other Diseases. Vancouver, BC Canada:Apple Publishing Company, 1994.
Fife, Bruce C.N., N.D. The Coconut Oil Miracle. NY:Avery, 2004.
Ji, Sayer. "18 Evidence-Based Medicinal Properties of Coconut Oil." GreenMedInfo.com September 3, 2012. Web. http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/13-evidence-based-medicinal-properties-...
King, Margie. "Are the Government's Dietary Guidelines Making Us Obese?" GreenMedInfo.com. February 25, 2013. Web. http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/are-governments-dietary-guidelines-maki...
Mercola, Dr Joseph Ph.D. "This Cooking Oil is a Powerful Virus-Destroyer and Antibiotic." www.articles.mercola.com. October 10, 2010. Web. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/10/22/coconut-oi...
Ogbolu, D O, et al. "In vitro antimicrobial properties of coconut oil on Candida species in Ibadan, Nigeria." Department of Microbiology and Parasitology, University College Hospital, Ibadan, Nigeria (affiliation). J Med Food: 2007 Jun;10(2):384-7. http://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/coconut-oil-has-antimicrobial-activi...
Sachs, M. et al. "Wound management with coconut oil in Indonesian folk medicine." Klinik für Allgemein- und Gefässchirurgie, Klinikum der Johann-Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, Theodor-Stern-Kai 7, 60596 Frankfurt am Main (affiliation). Chirurg. 2002 Apr;73(4):387-92. http://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/coconut-oil-traditionally-used-indon...
Zelman, Kathleen M. MPH, RD, LD. "The Truth About Coconut Oil." http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/coconut-oil-and-health
**Disclaimer** The information in this article is meant for general information only, and is not meant for the diagnosis or treatment of any health condition.