Coconut oil does not cause coronary heart disease (CHD), says National Academy of Science and Technology academic and Ateneo de Manila University chemist Fabian M. Dayrit, son of the late coconut oil research pioneer Conrado S. Dayrit.
“Coconut oil may even help fight CHD,” he says.
As to the claim in the United States Dietary Guidelines that coconut oil, a saturated fat, raises CHD risk, Dayrit says, “The guidelines try to make healthy recommendations but reflect the interests of the US food industry.”
“It is wrong to lump all fats into one group,” he says. Fats differ in quality and health effects.
Excessive intake of palm oil, dairy and animal fats, which are saturated fats, can lead to weight gain.
While also saturated, coconut oil has different chemical structures and properties. It can even lead to weight loss as it raises body temperature.
“Coconut oil is the only fat that does not fatten us,” Dayrit says.
Fish oils, which contain Omega-3, are deemed healthy, increasing good cholesterol, decreasing inflammation and protecting against CHD.
But Dayrit says fish oil may not protect against cancer (like prostate).
Coconut oil may protect not only against cancer but also Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, skin, gastrointestinal and oral diseases, perhaps even AIDS.
In 1998, the elder Dayrit treated 14 individuals infected with HIV (the AIDS-causing virus) with coconut oil. After six months, nine had fewer viral counts. Only one died.
“I gargle with virgin coconut oil (VCO) when I have a sore throat, making sure it comes in contact with the sore area,” says Dayrit. “My sore throat usually goes away within 30 minutes.”
Olive oil may lead to weight gain and its effects on CHD are not known. Canola oil is now being genetically modified to mimic the composition of coconut oil, says Dayrit.
Corn, soy and other Omega-6s have the worst effects. They reduce good cholesterol, promote inflammation, lead to obesity, and up the odds of CHD and cancer.
When they become solid like margarine, shortening and other hydrogenated fats, trans fats form, “wreaking havoc” on our health. They are so “toxic that we cannot do human experiments with them,” Dayrit says. Trans fats raise the risk of CHD, strokes, cancer, metabolic diseases, possibly even aggression and depression.
Dayrit suggests staying away from hydrogenated oils and fats.
Omega-6 intake from food should be limited. Corn and soybean oils form toxic products when heated. On the other hand, coconut oil remains stable and is the healthiest for frying.
“Too much consumption of corn, soybean, canola, sunflower oils may be partly the cause for the rise in metabolic and inflammatory dysfunctions, including CHD and cancer,” says Dayrit. The modern Western diet that calls for low-fat, high Omega-6 is making people ill, he adds.
In 1919, Philippine coconut oil exports to the United States were nearly 40 percent of our national earnings.
A decade later, “US soybean producers slapped taxes to treble the cost of coconut oil,” says Dayrit. “Industry opposition reached its height in the 1980s when the American Soy Association launched an all-out attack against coconut oil.”
US physiologist Ancel Keys had the original idea that saturated fats raised cholesterol and caused CHD. Although he collected data from 22 countries, in 1986 he chose only seven in support of his theory.
Keys’ conclusions “were promptly accepted by 99.9 percent of doctors,” says Dayrit. “Dissenters were ignored.”
Subsequent studies led to different results. In 2010, World Health Organization data from 192 countries revealed no relationship between cholesterol and CHD. In 1996, the Mediterranean paradox showed that several European countries with high-fat diets had less CHD.
Many South Pacific and Southeast Asian countries, including the Philippines, had consumed coconuts for millennia, with “no reports of disease”—until they adopted a predominantly Western diet.
The Bicolanos consume the most coconuts in the country. With coconut milk (gata) in much of their foods, more than 60 percent of their fat calories come from coconut. Shouldn’t they have a high heart disease rate?
But Bicolanos have the lowest heart and brain disease mortality rates, according to data since the 1960s: 937, compared to 2,582 for Manila, and 2,076 and 1,691 for other parts of Central Luzon.
Cholesterol increases naturally with age. “Artificially” lowering it with statins “comes at a high cost, including liver damage and possibly diabetes,” says Dayrit.
A 2009 US study found that nearly 75 percent of heart attack patients had “normal” cholesterol levels.
“Coconut oil is now praised as a miracle,” says Dayrit. “It is the best oil on earth, but there is no miracle anything.”
But more work is needed to verify coconut oil’s healing properties. Though safe, big doses can cause upset stomach and diarrhea. Get VCO from reputable sources and start with a teaspoon daily.
“Used externally, it is completely safe,” says Dayrit. “Very few other remedies can claim this.”
“Coconut Oil: From Diet to Therapy” (Anvil, 2013) by Conrado S. Dayrit and Fabian M. Dayrit is available in National Book Store.
E-mail the author at [email protected]