Ask Dr. Coconut
Bruce Fife a.k.a. “Dr. Coconut” answers your questions about coconut,
diet, and nutrition.
Will Eating Coconut Oil Raise My
This is the most often asked question I receive regarding coconut oil.
This is a legitimate concern because we have been conditioned to believe
that all saturated fats raise cholesterol. Since coconut oil contains a
high amount of saturated fat it would stand to reason that it too would
The truth is, eating coconut oil will improve your cholesterol
values and reduce your risk of heart disease. Many people, however, have
expressed concern after having their blood cholesterol checked and found
that their total cholesterol has increased since they began using coconut
oil. If coconut oil reduces risk of heart disease why did their
cholesterol levels rise?
I have found that people’s response varies when they start using coconut
oil. In some people total cholesterol decreases, while in others it
increases. But in either case, their HDL (good) cholesterol always
increases. The rise in total cholesterol that some people experience is
due mostly to an increase in good cholesterol. Their cholesterol ratio
(total cholesterol/HDL cholesterol) improves, thus reducing their
risk of heart disease.
It is an established fact that the cholesterol ratio is a far more
accurate indicator of heart disease risk than total cholesterol. Total
cholesterol, in fact, is misleading and is a poor risk indicator because
it lumps together both LDL (bad) cholesterol and HDL (good) cholesterol.
Total cholesterol gives you no indication of how much is good and how much
is bad. You can have high total cholesterol, but if a large percentage of
it is made of up HDL, then your risk is low.
The lower the cholesterol ratio the better. A cholesterol ratio of 5.0
mg/dl is considered average risk. Above this value is high risk and below
is less than average risk. A ratio of 3.2 mg/dl or less is considered
optimal or the lowest risk.
If you have a total cholesterol value of 240 mg/dl, this would be
considered high. You would be told that you are at high risk for heart
disease. Your doctor would tell you to reduce your saturated fat intake
and have you to take cholesterol-lowering drugs. However, if your HDL
value was 75 mg/dl, your cholesterol ratio would be 3.2 mg/dl. This value
is in the optimal range and you would have the lowest risk. Since the
cholesterol ratio is a far more accurate indicator of heart disease risk,
even though your total cholesterol may be high, your actual risk is very
Just the opposite can also happen. If a person has a total cholesterol
reading of 178 mg/dl that we be considered ideal and be said to be at low
risk. If, however, their HDL was only 35 mg/ld, their cholesterol ratio
would be 5.1 mg/dl, which is in the high risk category! This
explains why so many people who die of heart disease have normal or below
normal total cholesterol levels and why many people with high total
cholesterol levels live long lives without experiencing heart problems.
When people ask me about their cholesterol values I tell them to ignore
total cholesterol and look at their cholesterol ratio. In every case, the
cholesterol ratio improves when they start using coconut oil and their
risk of heart disease drops.
Here is an actual case. A woman had a family history of high cholesterol.
Family members had total cholesterol readings in excess of 400 mg/dl.
After adding coconut oil into her diet her total cholesterol rose from 336
to 376 mg/dl. Ordinarily this is considered very high. However, her HDL
(good) cholesterol nearly doubled from 65 to 120 mg/dl. Her cholesterol
ratio dropped from a high risk value of 5.2 mg/dl to a low risk value of
3.1 mg/dl, which is in the optimal range. Although she had a very high
total cholesterol reading, her true risk was very low. Her blood pressure
was optimal at 110/60.
Studies have consistently shown that coconut oil increases HDL and
improves the cholesterol ratio. While coconut oil does not reduce total
cholesterol as effectively as polyunsaturated oils do, it has a greater
effect on HDL. When HDL and cholesterol ratio values are evaluated,
coconut oil reduces risk of heart disease more than soybean, canola,
safflower, or any other vegetable oil typically recommended as “heart
healthy.” Interestingly, most vegetable oils increase the cholesterol
ratio thus increasing the risk of heart disease. Coconut oil is
definitely the best oil you can use to protect yourself from heart
Coconut Flour: A Low-Carb,
Gluten-Free Alternative to Wheat
I love wheat and all
the things that are made from it—cakes, cookies, pies, pizza, pasta,
pancakes, muffins, the list goes on and on. Wheat products are the most
popular foods in our American diet. Wheat, in one form or another, is
eaten in just about every meal.
Some people, however,
are allergic to wheat or cannot tolerate gluten—the protein in many
grains. Others avoid wheat and grains to cut down on their carbohydrate
intake to improve their health or lose excess weight. For whatever reason,
planning meals without wheat is a challenging task.
In an attempt to solve this problem food manufacturers have developed a
variety of wheat-free or low-carb breads and flours made from soy, beans,
and nuts. Most low-carb and gluten-free alternatives to wheat are
expensive and, honestly, don’t taste that good, unless they are loaded
with flavor enhancers and sweeteners of one type or another.
provides a suitable solution. Coconut is naturally low in digestible
carbohydrate, contains no gluten, is cheaper than most other nut flours,
is loaded with health promoting fiber and important nutrients, and tastes
terrific. Coconut flour is made from finely ground coconut meat with most
of the moisture and fat removed. This flour can be used much like wheat
flour to make a multitude of delicious breads, pies, cookies, cakes,
snacks, and desserts as well as main dishes. Coconut flour contains less
carbohydrate than soy or other nut flours. It contains more calorie-free
fiber than other wheat alternatives. Coconut flour also provides a good
source of protein. While coconut flour does not contain gluten—the type of
protein found in many grains—it does not lack protein. It contains more
protein than enriched white flour, rye flour, or cornmeal and about as
much as whole wheat flour.
There are two types of carbohydrate in
foods: digestible and non-digestible. The type of carbohydrate that is of
concern to most people is digestible carbohydrate—the starch and sugar in
our foods. These are the carbs that the body converts into fat and packs
into our fat cells. These are the carbs that, when eaten in excess,
contribute to an assortment of health problems such as insulin resistance,
obesity, and diabetes. These are the carbs that people on low-carb diets
try to avoid.
Non-digestible carbohydrate, on the other
hand, is composed of fiber and passes through the digestive tract without
being broken down or absorbed and is passed out of the body essentially
unaltered. Instead of contributing to health problems like starch and
sugar do, fiber promotes good health. Most of us don’t eat enough fiber
and nutritionists encourage us to increase our fiber intake. The best way
to do this is by eating foods rich in fiber such as whole grains,
vegetables, and fruits.
Whole grains such as wheat and rye are
some of the richest sources of fiber. Grains contain more fiber than
fruits and vegetables. However, for people who cannot tolerate gluten,
this isn’t an option.
Coconut is a natural low-carb, high-fiber
food ideally suited for low-carbohydrate diets. One cup of shredded fresh
coconut (80 grams) contains a mere 3 grams of digestible carbohydrate and
9 grams of fiber. The remaining 68 grams consists primarily of water, fat,
and protein. Although a piece of fresh coconut may taste sweet, its
digestible carbohydrate content is lower, and its fiber content higher
than most fruits and vegetables. Coconut has three times as much fiber as
it does digestible carbohydrate. In comparison, a similar volume of green
beans contains 7 grams of digestible carbohydrate and only 3 grams of
fiber. A carrot has 8 grams of digestible carbohydrate and only 4 grams of
Since you cannot digest dietary fiber, you
do not derive any calories from it. Dietary fiber is calorie-free. You can
eat as much as you like without worrying about gaining weight—good news
for those who are concerned about their weight.
Fiber absorbs water like a sponge. For
this reason, it aids in filling the stomach and producing a feeling of
fullness. It provides bulk without supplying fat-promoting calories. Fiber
also slows down the emptying of the stomach, thus maintaining the feeling
of fullness longer than low-fiber foods. As a result, less food and fewer
calories are consumed.
Studies have shown that consumption of an
additional 14 grams of fiber a day is associated with a 10 percent
decrease in calorie intake and a loss in body weight. The observed changes
occur both when the fiber is from high-fiber foods, like fresh vegetables
or coconut, or when it is from products made with high-fiber flours, such
as coconut flour.
When you eat high-fiber foods that are
generally low in calories, you crowd out higher calorie foods. Simply
adding high-fiber foods into your diet will lower your calorie intake even
if you eat the same volume of food as you normally do.
Blood Sugar and Diabetes
Blood sugar is an important issue for
anyone who is concerned about heart disease, overweight, hypoglycemia, and
especially diabetes because it affects all of these conditions.
Carbohydrates in our foods are broken down
in the digestive tract and converted into glucose (blood sugar). Meals
that contain a high concentration of carbohydrates, particularly simple
carbohydrates such as sugar and refined flours, cause a rapid rise in
blood sugar. Since elevated blood sugar can lead to a coma and death,
insulin is frantically pumped into the blood stream to avoid this. If
insulin is produced in adequate amounts blood sugar is soon brought back
down to normal. This is what happens in most individuals. However, if
insulin is not produced quickly enough or if the cells become desensitized
to the action of insulin, blood glucose can remain elevated for extended
periods of time. This is what happens in diabetes.
Dietary fiber helps moderate swings in
blood sugar by slowing down the absorption of sugar into the blood stream.
This helps keep blood sugar and insulin levels under control. Coconut
fiber has been shown to be very effective in moderating blood sugar and
insulin levels. For this reason, coconut is good for diabetics.
Diabetics are encouraged to eat foods that
have a relatively low glycemic index. The glycemic index is a measure of
how foods affect blood sugar levels. The higher the glycemic index, the
greater an effect a particular food has on raising blood sugar. So
diabetics need to eat foods with a low glycemic index. When coconut is
added to foods, including those high in starch and sugar, it lowers
the glycemic index of these foods. This was clearly demonstrated by T. P.
Trinidad and colleagues in a study published in the British Journal of
Nutrition in 2003. In their study, both normal and diabetic
subjects were given a variety of foods to eat. Some of the types of food
included cinnamon bread, granola bars, carrot cake, and brownies—all foods
that a diabetic must ordinarily limit because of their high sugar and
starch content. It was found that as the coconut content of the foods
increased, the blood sugar response between the diabetic and non-diabetic
subjects became nearly identical. In other words, coconut moderated the
release of sugar into the bloodstream so that there was no spike in blood
glucose levels. As the coconut content in the foods decreased, the
diabetic subjects’ blood sugar levels became elevated, as would normally
be expected from eating foods high in sugar and white flour. This study
showed that adding coconut to foods lowers the glycemic index of the foods
and keeps blood sugar levels under control. Sweet foods such as cookies
and cakes made using coconut flour do not affect blood sugar levels like
those made with wheat flour. This is good news for diabetics who want a
treat now and then without adversely affecting their blood sugar.
Fiber acts like a broom, sweeping the
intestinal contents through the digestive tract. Parasites, toxins, and
carcinogens are swept along with the fiber, leading to their timely
expulsion from the body. This cleansing action helps prevent toxins that
irritate intestinal tissues and cause cancer from getting lodged in the
intestinal tract. Colon cancer is second only to lung cancer as the
world’s most deadly form of cancer. Many studies have shown a correlation
between high-fiber diets and a low incidence of colon cancer. For example,
in one of the most extensive studies to date, involving over 400,000
people from nine European countries, it was found that those who had the
highest fiber intake were 40 percent less likely to develop colon cancer.
Fiber readily absorbs fluids. It also
appears to absorb harmful carcinogens and other toxic substances.
Researchers at the University of Lund, Sweden, found that fiber in the
diet can absorb toxins that promote cancer. Various types of fiber were
examined for their absorption capacity and found to absorb 20 to 50
percent of these carcinogenic compounds.
Dr. B. H. Ershoff of Loma Linda University
summarized studies reported by the Committee on Nutrition in Medical
Education. The studies compared groups of rats and mice, some given
high-fiber diets and others given low-fiber diets. The animals were fed
various drugs, chemicals, and food additives. These substances proved to
be poisonous to the animals on the low-fiber diets, yet those given
high-fiber diets showed no deleterious effects.
Logically you can see the relationship
between dietary fiber and its protective effect in the colon, but studies
also show it protects against breast, prostate, and ovarian cancers as
well. One explanation for this is that toxins lingering in the colon are
absorbed into the bloodstream, and the blood then carries these toxins to
other parts of the body where they can cause cancer.
Another explanation involves estrogen.
Estrogen is required for the early growth and development of breast and
ovarian cancer. The liver collects estrogen and sends it into the
intestines where it is reabsorbed into the bloodstream. A high-fiber diet
interrupts this process. Less estrogen is allowed back into the
bloodstream because the activities of bacterial enzymes in the intestine
are reduced. Studies show that serum estrogen can be significantly reduced
by a high-fiber diet. Progesterone, which is an antagonist to estrogen and
helps protect against cancer, is not affected or reduced by fiber.
One of the primary reasons given to
explain why dietary fiber protects against colon and other cancers is that
it increases intestinal transit time. If carcinogenic substances,
hormones, and toxins are quickly moved through the digestive tract and out
of the body, they don’t get a chance to irritate tissues and instigate
cancer. Coconut fiber not only absorbs and sweeps carcinogenic toxins out
of the intestinal tract, it also helps prevent the conditions that promote
cancer. Evidence suggests that coconut fiber may also prevent the
formation of tumors in the colon by moderating the harmful effects of
Coconut Dietary Fiber and Coconut Flour
Nutritionists recommend that we get between 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day.
This is 2 to 3 times higher than the average intake, which is about 10-14
grams a day. Adding coconut dietary fiber or foods made with coconut flour
to your diet can significantly improve your daily fiber intake. Coconut
fiber is sold as a dietary supplement. Coconut flour is sold as a grocery
item like other flours. Both coconut dietary fiber and coconut flour are
made from ground coconut. The difference between them is subtle, however,
they may differ slightly in particle size and nutrient content.
You can increase the fiber content of your
meals and enjoy many of the health benefits of coconut by simply adding a
little coconut dietary fiber into the foods you normally eat each day.
Research shows that adding even a little fiber to the diet can have a
significant influence on health. For example, in a study on cardiovascular
disease, a high-fiber diet was associated with a 21 percent lower risk of
heart disease. The difference in fiber intake of the subjects wasn’t
great. The highest intake was only 23 grams, only about 9 or 10 grams
above average. You can easily increase the fiber in your diet by 9 or 10
grams by simply adding a few tablespoons of coconut dietary fiber into the
foods you normally eat each day.
You can do this by adding a tablespoon or
two of coconut fiber to beverages, smoothies, baked goods, casseroles,
soups, and hot cereal. This is a simple and easy way to add fiber into
your daily diet without making drastic changes in the way you eat. Another
way to add coconut fiber into your diet is by using coconut flour in your
Up until recently coconut flour has not been used much for making baked
goods. Since coconut flour lacks gluten and is highly absorbent it
cannot be substituted entirely for wheat flour in standard recipes. If you
tried to make a chocolate cake by replacing all the wheat flour
with coconut flour using a standard cake recipe you would fail completely.
Your cake would be hard and crumbly and taste terrible.
In most cases, coconut flour cannot be
substituted completely for wheat or other flours in typical bread recipes.
You need to combine it with wheat, rye, or oat flour. When making quick
breads, you can generally replace up to 25 percent of the wheat flour with
coconut flour, but 10 to 20 percent is better. This still increases the
fiber content considerably.
AIDS Victim Tells
of Healing Virtues
of Coconut Oil
In coming out of the closet to tell his
story Tony, 38, lends hope to thousands of AIDS sufferers worldwide. “You
don’t know how hard it is for one to have an illness that others find
repulsive…I had wanted to shut myself inside my room and just wait for my
time to die,” Tony told symposium participants.
Tony was a guest speaker at a symposium
titled “Why Coconut Cures”, held in Manila, Philippines May14, 2005. The
symposium was headed by Dr. Bruce Fife, who was also the keynote speaker.
Other participants included cardiologist Conrado Dayrit, dermatologist
Vermen Verallo-Rowell, biochemist Fabian Dayrit, and Senator Jamby
Tony’s testimony, along with those of
others who had experienced dramatic recoveries from various ailments,
provided first-hand accounts of the use of coconut oil in healing chronic
health problems described by symposium participants.
Beneath the sunglasses that he wore his eyes were moist, not in self-pity
but in triumph. Covered with a cap and long sleeves, hides a body scarred
by a disease Tony contracted while working in the Middle East in the
1990s. Coming home in 2002, Tony was devastated to learn that he was
infected by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). As the disease
progressed, the pain he endured came not only from the infections ravaging
his body but from the shame the disease had brought him. He felt like
Drugs, which he could barely afford, could not deliver him from the
dreaded virus and the other infections that were slowly draining away his
life. His body was covered with fungal infections, and oozing sores
accompanied by a chronic pneumonia infection that caused a persistent
cough. He knew he was losing the battle as each day symptoms grew worse
and he found it increasingly more difficult to function and was completely
incapable of working.
Unable to afford medication he sought help from the Department of Health.
He was referred to Dr. Conrado Dayrit, the author of the first clinical
study on the healing effects of coconut oil on HIV infected patients,
which was conducted at the San Lazaro hospital in the Philippines. By this
time Tony was diagnosed with full blown AIDS and had little hope for
Dr. Dayrit secured a steady supply of coconut oil for Tony’s use, free of
charge. He was instructed to apply the oil to his skin two to three times
a day and consume six tablespoonfuls daily without fail.
The program worked miracles. Each time Tony went to the hospital for his
periodic blood tests his viral load decreased. Tony said that when he told
hospital doctors what he was taking, they could not believe that a simple
dietary oil was killing the virus better than all the modern drugs of
Just nine months after his initial visit with Dr. Dayrit, Tony appeared
before the audience at the symposium for all to witness his remarkable
recovery. The infections that once racked his body were gone. Even HIV was
no longer detectable. What used to be skin sores all over his body were
now just fading scars. His life energy had been restored enough for him to
give an eloquent testimony of how something as simple and natural as
coconut oil could halt this deadly disease.
Evidence for coconut oil’s effect on HIV was first discovered back in the
1980s when researchers learned that medium chain fatty acids—the kind
found in coconut oil—possessed powerful antiviral properties capable of
destroying the AIDS virus. Since then numerous anecdotal accounts of HIV
patients using coconut and coconut oil to overcome their condition
circulated in the AIDS community. Even basketball legend Magic Johnson who
retired from the NBA because he was HIV positive is reportedly credited
with using coconut on his road to recovery.
The first clinical study using coconut on HIV patients was reported by
Conrado Dayrit in 1999. In this study HIV infected individuals were give
3.5 tablespoons of coconut oil daily. No other treatment was used. Six
months later 60% of the participants showed noticeable improvement