In the effort to seek out innovative treatments, every so often FAIM comes across really important information that supposedly everybody knows. A recent flux of publications has revived the interest for the health properties of coconuts. This is nothing new for ancient cultures worldwide. It was quickly noticed, by western explorers of the Pacific and the Far East, that populations living off coconuts were remarkably healthy and strong. The Sanskrit name, kalpa vriksha, means "the tree that gives all of life's necessities;" this could still seem to be an understatement.
What makes coconuts so special is their content of therapeutic fats. Among these are Capric Acid, Caprillic Acid and Lauric Acid – this last one composing nearly 50% of the oil (which is also a major component of mother's milk). Collectively these are called Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs). The list of scientifically documented benefits of coconut oil is impressive. For example, it is anti-microbial (viruses, bacteria, funguses, parasites), anti-inflammatory, protects the arteries and the heart, favors the functioning of endocrine glands and has significant nutritional value.
Considering that MCTs are saturated fats, such important properties go against much that is currently medically accepted. But, even the cynics are coming to the realization that information has long been manipulated and distorted for the commercial benefit of a few. The interest here is the promoting of industrialized vegetable oils, usually hydrogenated, to permit longer shelf life. However, the current health revolution – aided by the Internet – is allowing information to finally reach out to individuals seeking a healthier life.
In the United States, the leading expert is Bruce Fife, ND; his book The Coconut Oil Miracle is a national bestseller (Coconut Research Center) . Noteworthy is the work of Dr. M.G. Enig of the Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation (The Weston A. Price Foundation and Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation). She is a proponent that appropriate fats are one of the fundamental pillars of health; that proper nutrition consists of consuming a correct combination of different types of fats; and that energy should principally come from fats instead of refined carbohydrates (sugar).
In an effort to learn more, FAIM has visited coconut oil production facilities in South America. We discovered that there are various ways of producing coconut oil and that there is no reliable labeling standardization (as there is for olive oil).
Although claiming to be extra-virgin, some of the oils sold in the United States could actually have gone through a heat process. This can occur in the beginning of the production process to facilitate the separation of the white coconut meat (copra) from the shell. Some factories, usually the ones that are also in the business of making coconut flakes, heat the copra to dry up the moisture before extracting the oil though expression. The producers claim that not enough heat has been used to alter the oil, which could be true since this saturated oil is very stable even at high temperatures.
Nevertheless, there is one production method favored by many health specialists. This consists in breaking up the coconut and scraping out the copra. The chunks are then put under pressure (though an expeller or in a metal drum) to produce coconut milk. The most sophisticated manufacturers also mix into this solution the coconut water; they claim that it improves the efficiency of the next step. This watery solution is left to sit for a couple of days. Though a natural process of fermentation the oil separates away and is, painstakingly, manually sieved out and bottled.
Noteworthy is the Brazilian cardiologist, Sérgio Puppin, who has written the excellently referenced book Coco o Milagre de Uma Gordura (ISBN 978-85-909562-0-4 still only available in Portuguese). He claims with authority that coconut oil is "an efficient weapon against cardiovascular disease." He also specifically mentions in his book that it can be used to treat Alzheimer's, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, thyroid dysfunction, Metabolic Syndrome, Diabetes, Giardia, Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn's Disease, HIV and Hepatitis C. See FAIM's book review of Coconut, The Miracle of a Fat.
The usefulness of coconut oil is so remarkable and important that it should be an integral part of economic aid development projects. In disease-afflicted areas, alongside medical aid, coconut tree planting should accompany all such initiatives.
FAIM hopes to serve society by creating awareness. We hope that this small introduction is enough of a stimulus for our readers to take the initiative to investigate the above claims and create a positive revolution in theirs and other people's lives! Coconut products are available in most health food stores and include coconut milk and coconut kefir as well as other products.