Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Coconut Oil Miracle: Where is the Evidence


Christine Tomlinson, MD, director of the National Candida Society, in the UK believes in the antibacterial properties of coconut oil, and advises candida sufferers (those with a yeast overgrowth) to include it in their diet. Mary Newport, MD, director of the neonatology unit at Spring Hill Regional Hospital in Florida, is a firm believer in the power of coconut for the treatment of neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. She should, her husband suffered with Alzheimer’s for five years before she discovered coconut oil. With the aid of coconut oil he’s making a remarkable comeback. Others claim that it can help with diabetes, cancer, kidney and liver function, vitamin and mineral absorption, digestive problems, immune function, and weight loss. From all the glowing reports coconut oil appears to be a super food with a multitude of nutritional and medicinal uses.
In recent years coconut oil has shot to superstardom in the world of health foods. Celebrities area using it, nutritionists are recommending it, and patients are extolling its many virtues.
Yet, despite the growing popularity, some people are skeptical. How could one thing have so many health benefits? It sounds too good to be true. In addition, many doctors, dieticians, and other health care professionals have been reluctant to accept coconut oil as a health food. Coconut oil contains a high percentage of saturated fat. Saturated fats have been condemned for so many years, that they find it hard to change their opinions even when faced with evidence to the contrary.
The objection they state is always the same: there is not enough evidence to prove that coconut oil is harmless or that it has any health benefits.  “If it has any health benefits,” they bellow, “show me the evidence!” They demand peer-reviewed studies published in respected medical journals. By crying “show me the evidence” they are implying that there is little evidence and that there are no such studies available.
In recent years doctors and editors of health journals are frequently being asked about coconut oil. Most don’t know anything about it and consider it just another passing fad. Their answers reflect this view.
A letter sent to the editors of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association asks: “Is there science to support claims for coconut oil?” The editor’s reply begins by inferring that all the so-called health claims come from websites selling coconut oil and then states, “According to these sources, the health benefits of coconut oil help to prevent or mitigate a wide range of medical conditions. However…there is insufficient evidence to support the claims.”1
A similar question was posed to bestselling author Andrew Weil, MD. “We don’t have any evidence suggesting that coconut oil is better for you than other saturated fats,” he states on his website. “The benefits of coconut oil in the diet, if any, are likely to be minimal, and until we havemore and better evidence about coconut oil's effect…I do not recommend using it.2
Readers of Dr. John McDougall’s newsletter asked him the same question.  “Coconut oil is the newest miracle food promoted on the Internet and at health food stores for rejuvenation and cure of ‘whatever ails you,’” responds Dr. McDougall. “Advocates of coconut oil claim this sensational food has anti-microbial, anti-heart disease, anti-cancer, and anti-obesity benefits.  Furthermore, this fat is sold as a cure for low thyroid function (hypothyroidism).  This is a huge turnaround for a substance that has traditionally been thought of as an artery-clogging saturated fat. Testimonials provide most of the evidence for the miraculous effects these oils have on people, rather than well thought out and carefully designed experiments [italics mine].  Thus, most of these claims are based on a little truth overblown into a sales pitch for sellers of coconut oil.”3
The answers are all the same; the health claims are attributed to people selling coconut oil and that there is little or no evidence to back up their claims. Obviously, these doctors did not bother to take the time to research the question but simply gave their uneducated, biased opinions. That’s the problem with those who refuse to acknowledge new advances in science 


and medicine. They don’t take the time to find out and belittle those who have.
Celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz, MD, wrote an article a couple of years ago lambasting coconut oil in the same vein as those above. However, recently Dr. Oz reversed his stance and acknowledged that coconut oil is a healthy food and admitted that he himself now takes it every day. He even included several segments of his TV show to the benefits of coconut oil. (You c


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