Do Polyunsaturate Oils Play a Role in Chronic Illness?
by Marjorie Tietjen
The incidence of chronic illness is rising exponentially in the industrialized nations or so called civilized societies. For certain there is more than one reason for this phenomenon. However, for this article I would like to concentrate on the fats in our diets, how their uses have evolved and the apparent effect they are currently having on our health.
We all know how diet and health fads change and go through cycles. How are we to know what to believe? I like to think that common sense plays a role…looking at what is the most natural form of the food (the least tampered with) and what diets indigenous societies have been thriving on for hundreds of years. Much of the modern dietary advice we receive has had its origins in corporate technology and greed.
We need to understand some of the basic reasons for the transition from the use of saturated fats to the fairly new idea that polyunsaturated fats are “healthier”. Before World War 2 most of our oil consumption was in the form of saturated fats, including coconut oil. When the Japanese occupied the South Pacific and the Philippines during World War 2, the importation of coconut oil was aborted for a few years. In the meantime our country had to substitute other oils that could be used for cooking purposes.
This is when polyunsaturates began appearing on the horizon. Saturated fats, especially coconut oil, began to receive much negative press. For a more detailed history of the politics and financial aspects, check out the articles by Dr. Mary Enig, on
As the consumption of natural saturated fats decreased and the use of polyunsaturated oils increased, the rate of heart disease rose exponentially. Much research now shows that cholesterol levels in food do not correlate with levels of this substance in the blood.
Many of us have heard by now that hydrogenated oils, such as margarine, are not all they have been cracked up to be. Science has recently demonstrated that hydrogenated vegetable oils form trans fatty acids. This type of artificially manipulated fat has been linked to heart disease…. the very disease it was supposed to help prevent.
I have recently been researching into the benefits of consuming saturated fats, especially coconut oil. The following is a quote from the book “Virgin Coconut Oil” by Brian and Marianita Jader Shilhavy. “Congress held hearings in 1988 to discuss the safety of tropical oils. Dr. George Blackburn, a Harvard medical researcher, testified that coconut oil has a neutral effect on blood cholesterol, even in situations where coconut oil is the sole source of fat.
Surgeon General C. Everett Koop dismissed the entire attacks on coconut oil as “Foolishness” and continued to say “but to get the word to commercial interests terrorizing the public about nothing, is another matter.”
The problem with polyunsaturated oils is that they are very unstable and turn rancid very easily, which is why the process of hydrogenation was implemented. Polyunsaturate oils, such as soy, safflower, corn, sunflower and canola, are the worst oils one can choose for cooking. Frying with these oils forms many toxic chemicals. Butter and extra virgin olive oil are somewhat better to fry with but are still damaged by heat. Olive oil is best used on salads. Of all the oils, coconut oil best resists damage from high heat. Coconut oil is so stable that in the tropics, where it is stored at very warm temperatures, it has been found to resist rancidity for 2 to 3 years.
New research is beginning to show that consumption of the polyunsaturated oils (omega 6 oils) puts us more at risk for heart disease than the much-maligned saturated fats. Polyunsaturates promote an increase in platelet stickiness, which encourages blood clot formation. Coconut oil actually reduces platelet stickiness and the resulting risk of blood clots. Also, when fats turn rancid easily, which the polyunsaturates are notorious for, they form free radicals in the body that play a major role in accelerating aging and in the causation of degenerative disease.
Some of the problems associated with free radical damage are: heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, digestive problems, allergies, hypertension, poor memory, wrinkles, cataracts and more. We can’t avoid all free radicals but we can eliminate as many of the sources as we can…such as cigarette smoke, sugar and other denatured and processed foods.
Now, for those of us with chronic illnesses, such as Lyme disease and other viral, bacterial and parasitical infections, coconut oil provides more added benefits. Coconut oil is the richest natural source of lauric acid, aside from mother’s breast milk. Much research has been conducted on lauric acid and it has been found to have significant antiviral, antibacterial, antiyeast, mold, fungi and antiparasitical activity. This fact should be of vital interest to anyone who wants to sustain their good health or to those who need to restore a weakened immune system. Coconut oil contains anywhere from 42 % lauric acid to 57%.
Caprylic acid is also found in coconut oil. Some of you who have treated systemic yeast infections have used caprylic acid in capsules from the health food store. This isolated substance can be very helpful in keeping candida under control. However, many herbalists and researchers are finding that most often it is much more beneficial to our overall health to consume these natural substances as they occur in nature…in their whole food form.
Our chronic illnesses are often a collection of several or many different microbes. Coconut oil may be able to help keep some of these germs in check. The medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) in coconut oil disrupt the lipid membranes of many of the following organisms: influenza, measles, HIV, herpes, cytomegalovirus, strep, gonorrhea, heliobacter pylori, salmonella, clostridium botulinum, yeasts and even ringworm.
Remember, I mentioned before that many times chronic illnesses are caused by a collection of different microbes. So, even if a microbe you know you are infected with isn’t listed here, coconut oil may aid in reducing the total microbial load, which in turn helps restore the immune system.
Many chronic diseases, such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Chronic Lyme Disease, involve thyroid issues, especially hypothyroidism. I often wonder which comes first…the malfunctioning thyroid, which then compromises the immune system, or if a biological agent enters into the picture first and subsequently attacks the thyroid.
Either way subnormal thyroid function can be a major source of fatigue and other immune system problems. Research has shown that the medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil are not easily stored as fat but are actually utilized for energy production. Coconut oil increases the body’s metabolism, aiding the thyroid. This produces increased energy and encourages weight loss.
One will begin hearing more of the dietary slogan to” eat fat to lose fat”. Of course an all around sensible diet and exercise must also be followed. Too many refined carbohydrates are often the culprits that cause weight gain. Boosting our metabolic rate also aids cell regeneration, which accelerates the healing process.
Historically, coconut oil has also been used extensively in skin care; helping to prevent acne, dry skin, wrinkles and other damage caused by the sun. Some people feel that virgin coconut oil is the best form to use over expeller pressed. More of the beneficial constituents are retained, due to its minimal processing. Despite the many benefits of virgin coconut oil, coconuts do not contain the omega 3 fatty acids, so to maintain a healthy balance; we still need to eat fish, fish oils or flaxseed. There is no one-miracle food that cures all.
Natives of the tropics, who eat the traditional diet, consisting of more than 50% fat from fish and coconut products, are lean and strong, with healthy bone structure, no tooth decay and little or no heart disease. Dr. Weston A. Price says in his book “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration” that those in the tropical climates, who eat the traditional foods, did not acquire vector borne diseases such as malaria.
If you would like to learn more about coconut oil and the benefits of going back to traditional diets, I recommend 2 books….”The Coconut Miracle” by Bruce Fife, C.N., N.D. and “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon.
Most people think that virgin coconut oil is delicious, including me! The above 2 books include important factual information along with mouthwatering recipes.
We are meant to eat fat…. yes, even saturated fats. The proper fats in the right balance are essential for a smooth functioning immune system.
Also animals allowed to graze on open pasture (grassfed) produce a very high quality of meat and fat because they are eating their native diet. We desperately need to return to the wisdom of nature.
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Great Book About The Health Benefits of Coconut Oil
Great Book About The Health Benefits of Coconut Oil