In Defense of Coconut Oil

by Marcia Dettloff, OD on July 13, 2015

I recently heard a very interesting lecture by Bruce Fife, C.N., N.D on the health benefits of coconut oil. Here are my notes on his lecture along with some additional information.

Coconut oil has gotten a bad rap the past 30 years. Nutritionists have shunned it because it is a saturated fat. However studies have long shown the health benefits of coconut oil and more recent studies have shown that saturated fats are not as evil as previously thought.

Coconut oil is one the few natural sources of lauric acid, a medium chain fatty acid (fat). Breast milk is another. It has many unique properties not found in the long chain fatty acids that make up most of the fat in our diet. Studies have shown that it improves absorption of nutrients; has antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties; helps weight loss; decreases insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome; prevents seizures; and reduces the symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease in some patients.

For those of you that just want to know what to do:

  • Use 1-3 tablespoons of coconut oil a day for general health benefits.
  • Look for cold-pressed virgin oils. Tropical Traditions, Nutiva, and Vitacost are high quality brands. Super heating and chemical extraction methods are much less expensive ways to extract oils but they change the chemical structure of the oil, negating many of the nutritional benefits of the oil.
  • Coconut oil tolerates much higher temperatures than olive oil so cook with coconut oil instead and save the (cold-pressed extra virgin) olive oil for salad dressings, drizzling over cooked vegetables, etc.
  • Coconut oil is a solid at 75 degrees and a liquid at 76 degrees so it can replace butter and shortening in baking recipes.
  • When I don’t want the coconut flavor, I use Tropical Traditions Expeller-Pressed Coconut Oil. Some of the benefits are lost in the processing but it has no flavor and it still contains high amounts of lauric acid, the medium chain fatty acid that is unique to coconut oil and provides most of the benefits.
  • Avoid liquid coconut oil. While it sounds like a great option for use in salad dressings and other cold items, the beneficial lauric acid has been removed to make it a liquid.
  • Coconut milk in a can does contain coconut oil but coconut milk in the refrigerated section and coconut water do not.
  • Palm kernel oil has properties very similar to coconut oil but palm oil is totally different.
  • Coconut Oil FAQs by Mary T Newport explains the different coconut oil products.  Recipes and tips for including coconut oil in your diet can be found on the last page.

Read on if you want more detail about the benefits of coconut oil.

Maximizes the Absorption of Nutrients

  • Eating a meal with fat slows down the emptying of stomach so the food bathes in digestive enzymes and stomach acids longer. That increases the absorption of the nutrients in the food. This is especially true for fat soluble nutrients like Vitamins A, D, E, K, lycopene, lutein, and others. It also improves the absorption of the water soluble B vitamins, minerals like Ca and Mg, and amino acids in proteins.
  • Tests comparing meals with many different oils have shown that coconut oil provides the most absorption of nutrients, followed by olive oil.
  • Absorption is much higher in meals with coconut oil than soybean oil, corn oil or no oil.

Heart Disease

  • The Cholesterol Ratio (Total Cholesterol/HDL) is a better indication of heart disease risk than Total Cholesterol and coconut oil improves the ratio (better than any other fat) by increasing HDL cholesterol.
  • Rates of heart disease are lowest in areas where coconut oil use is highest.
  • When those areas cut back on the use of coconut oil out of concern about saturated fat, heart attack rates went up.

Diabetes

  • Coconut oil helps to stabilize blood sugar by slowing the absorption of sugars
  • Coconut oil improves insulin production and insulin sensitivity
  • 90 % of diabetics are insulin resistant. Since insulin is what transfers the glucose in the blood into the cells, the glucose builds up in the blood while the cells starve.  Ketones are another fuel source that can enter the cells without insulin. The liver can convert fats to ketones, but it only does that when the blood sugar is low so that doesn’t help a diabetic.  However coconut oil converts to ketones any time, providing a high energy fuel to the cells even when the blood sugar is high.

Alzheimer’s Disease
One theory is that Alzheimer’s Disease is diabetes of the brain. While most cells can get energy from glucose, fatty acids or ketones, brain cells can only use glucose or ketones. Since most fatty acids are only converted to ketones when blood sugar levels are low, the brain cells starve in patients with insulin resistance in the brain. Based on this theory, the ketones provided by coconut oil can protect the brain cells.

He gave an example of Steve Newport, a patient that was rejected from a clinical trial for Alzheimer’s Disease because his disease was too advanced. His wife, Mary Newport, MD, found the patent application for the drug and discovered that the active ingredient was a medium chain fatty acid. She calculated the trial dose to be the equivalent of 2 1/2 T of coconut oil and started giving it to her husband. He showed significant improvements in symptoms and test s of cognitive function starting from day 1 and continued to improve. She set up the website coconutketones.com with information and did an unofficial Tedx Talk that describes their journey.

That is just one anecdotal report but a clinical trial using medium chain fatty acids did show a significant and sustained improvement in Alzheimer’s patients without the APOE e4 gene (which is 60-65% of Alzheimer’s patients). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19664276

Other Neurological Diseases
Ketogenic diets (low carb/high fat diets that produce ketones) have been used to treat epilepsy and other neurological problems since the time of Hippocrates. Unfortunately, most people cannot stay on the diet for very long. The hope for coconut oil is that it can turn any diet into a ketogenic diet. There are currently studies using coconut oil/medium chain fatty acids in the treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, ALS, Multiple Sclerosis, epilepsy and wound healing.

Benefits of ketones on brain health

  • Provide a high potency alternative fuel to brain cells
  • Increase blood flow to brain which increases oxygen to the brain
  • Trigger brain-derived neurotrophic factors that decrease inflammation and regulate brain cell growth, repair and function.
  • Provide lipid building blocks for new cells and repair of damaged brain tissue

Cancer ?
Cancer cells require excess glucose, they can NOT use ketones and, when oxygen levels are high, they produce oxygen free radicals that damage their cells. Meanwhile normal cells CAN use ketones and are not harmed by high oxygen levels. Studies in mice combining a low carbohydrate ketogenic diet with hyperbaric oxygen have shown destruction of the cancer cells without damaging the normal cells. Here’s a Tedx Talk about it by Dr. Dominic D’Agostino of the University of South Florida College of Medicine.

For Therapeutic Effect
Take up to 5 tablespoons, split throughout the day, starting out gradually to avoid diarrhea and other GI side effects. There are also products such as Axona and Fuel For Thought that concentrate the medium chain fatty acids found in coconut oil, providing the critical components without the extra fat and calories from the other components found in coconut oil.

Other links:

Edited 10/11/15 to put practical tips at the beginning of the article.

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Chemistrie custom magnetic lenses

Chemistrie Lenses: The No-Clip Custom Clip-Ons

by Marcia Dettloff, OD on May 7, 2013

Chemistrie magnetic lenses are an exciting new product that allows you to quickly and easily convert your prescription lenses to polarized sunglasses, computer/reading glasses or even 3D glasses. The thin lenses and titanium bridge are extremely lightweight, yet durable. Just bring the Chemistrie clip up to your eyeglasses and the tiny magnets embedded in the lenses snap the lenses into the proper position and keep them there until you remove them. The Chemistrie lenses are made at the same time as your prescription lenses to ensure that they match the frame shape perfectly. The curve matches your lenses so they don’t scratch your prescription lenses like some generic clip-ons.

Chemistrie magnetic sun lenses are the perfect solution if you want prescription sunglasses but:

  • you hate switching back and forth between 2 pairs of glasses
  • you don’t like the residual color of photochromic lenses indoors and/or they don’t get dark enough while driving
  • the frames you like don’t come with clip-ons or they add too much weight

The lenses can be customized to fit almost any frame style or prescription and are available in 8 solid, 8 gradient and 8 mirror colors, 5 bridge colors and 6 magnet styles.  They even have 12 colors of Swarovski Crystals if you want to top off the magnets with a little bling.

Chemistrie Hardware Options

Chemistrie lens bridge, magnet and Swarovski crystal options

Chemistrie Computer/Reading Lens

Reading lenses are another great Chemistrie lens option. We just aren’t meant to be doing near work all day long but it’s hard to avoid computers in modern life.  Many patients would be more comfortable using a prescription dedicated to computer and/or near work. Progressive lens or bifocal wearers are especially prone to problems at the computer because the monitor tends to fall into the distance portion of the lens.  In order to see the computer with the near portion of the lens, they have to tilt their head back, and possibly move closer.

Chemistrie computer/reading lens add-on

There are several lens options for computer users but they all sacrifice the distance vision to some degree. For patients that don’t like swapping out glasses and aren’t comfortable walking around the office or at large group presentations with the computer glasses, the Chemistrie reading lens lets you easily convert your regular glasses to the near lenses as needed. You can also layer lenses so, for example, if you were at the pool with an iPad or Nook, you could put the reading lens on and then add the sun lens on top.

Finally, a circular polarized Chemistrie C3-D lens is available that is fully compatible with 3-D television using passive lens technology as well as RealD Cinema productions.

We have been using the Chemistrie lenses for about 6 mos now and patient feedback has been very positive.  Come by the office today to see the lens color and hardware options available as well as sample frames in plastic, metal, and rimless styles.

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Get Healthy- Cut Back on Sugar

by Marcia Dettloff, OD March 11, 2013

the most important change you can make to your diet: cutting back on simple carbohydrates like white sugar, white flour, white rice and fruit juice. These carbohydrates cause rapid increases in your blood glucose which we now know leads to inflammation and disease.

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Use It Or Lose It

by Marcia Dettloff, OD December 11, 2012

As 2012 comes to a close, don’t forget that many vision and healthcare benefits expire at the end of the year and insurance deductibles start over Jan 1.  If you’ve put off having your eyes examined or buying new glasses, sunglasses or contact lenses, be sure to do it before Dec 31st to avoid losing […]

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Don’t Bake Your Glasses In Your Car

by Marcia Dettloff, OD July 8, 2012
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Along with children, pets, DVDs make sure you don’t leave your eyeglasses in a hot car in the summer. Temperatures in the car can reach up to 200 degrees. It takes much less than that to damage your glasses. Also includes other tips on protecting your eyewear.

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A Posterchild For UV Protection

by Marcia Dettloff, OD June 8, 2012
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For all of you that worship the sun in search of that beautiful bronze glow (like my daughter) or think manly men don’t need sunscreen (like my husband), or think you are safe in your car behind glass (like me), I hope this photo published in the New England Journal of Medicine will change your mind.

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emPower Lenses Don’t Live Up to the Hype

by Marcia Dettloff, OD April 9, 2012

As I mentioned in my review of the emPower electronic focusing lenses last year, I did not think they were ready for prime time. So far it sounds like I made the right choice.

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An Allergy Survival Guide

by Marcia Dettloff, OD March 17, 2012

With allergy season upon us, here are tips for minimizing your exposure to allergens and a discussion of treatment options available to prevent or reduce allergy symptoms.

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My Favorite Holiday Light Displays

by Marcia Dettloff, OD December 19, 2011

To get you in the holiday mood, here’s some of my favorite choreographed holiday light shows. The first clip is from Carson Williams in Ohio. His choreographed Light-O-Rama Christmas display started the light show craze when someone posted a video of his 2004 Christmas light show on YouTube in 2005 and it went viral. I […]

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Remember Your Eyes This Holiday Season

by Marcia Dettloff, OD December 10, 2011

In the midst of the busy holiday season, don’t forget to take care of your eyes. If you’ve put off having your eyes examined or buying new glasses, sunglasses or contact lenses, be sure to do it before Dec 31st to avoid losing benefits.

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