Coconut Oil — A Miracle Food?

Coconut Oil — A Miracle Food?

Indigenous populations who continue to live their traditional lifestyle are not at risk when eating the whole coconut as part of their traditional diet. As Western foods are introduced into the diet, new risks emerge for these indigenous populations for the typical Western chronic diseases.

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Coconut Oil

Coconut Oil

What you need to know about coconut oil

According to a recent survey, 72% of Americans classify coconut oil as a “healthy food.” But is that really true?

A 2017 American Heart Association panel reviewed the evidence on which fats in foods raise—and which lower—the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). The experts’ findings: “We conclude strongly that lowering intake of saturated fat and replacing it with unsaturated fats, especially polyunsaturated fats, will lower the incidence of CVD.” Yet many people have heard that saturated fats are harmless.

Why saturated fat matters

Ignore headlines like “Butter is Back” and claims that saturated fat isn’t as bad as researchers once thought. Some of those headlines were triggered by studies with serious flaws.

“The evidence that saturated fat causes atherosclerosis and heart disease is compelling,” says Frank Sacks, professor of cardiovascular disease prevention at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and head of the heart association panel. “It’s consistent across randomized trials, large observational epidemiologic studies, and animal studies.”

That’s because saturated fat increases LDL—or low-density lipoprotein—cholesterol (also called “bad” cholesterol). “LDL cholesterol is a cause of heart disease,” Sacks explains. “It’s not a risk factor. It’s a direct, absolute cause.”

Several lines of evidence have nailed LDL as a culprit.

“We know that LDL is the main carrier of cholesterol in the blood, and it enters into the walls of major arteries and deposits cholesterol there,” says Sacks. “And that sets off a chronic inflammatory reaction, which helps lead plaque to build up in arteries.”

Are the saturated fats in coconut oil different?

Roughly 80 percent of the fat in coconut oil is saturated. Yet some people claim that coconut oil doesn’t raise LDL. Not true, says Sacks.

“The evidence is straightforward. Some of the short-chain saturated fatty acids in coconut oil don’t raise LDL cholesterol. But they don’t counteract the effects of the oil’s longer-chain fatty acids, which do increase LDL cholesterol. So coconut oil raises LDL cholesterol in the same way that, say, butter does.”

In a 2016 paper, researchers reviewed the evidence from seven small trials that compared coconut oil to monounsaturated or polyunsaturated oils, like olive or soybean. They found that LDL cholesterol levels were higher when people ate coconut oil. The increase was statistically significant in six of the seven studies.

Granted, no large trials have tested coconut oil’s impact on heart disease. “In the absence of any 10,000-person study, we have to go on the best available evidence, which shows that coconut oil raises LDL cholesterol,” says Sacks.

Is this a call for avoiding all coconut oil in our diet? If you are using dairy, meat, cheese, already food sources high in saturated fat, using coconut oil would only be hastening your heart disease. However, if you are a vegan, or on a diet low in fat normally, using coconut oil sparingly should not be a problem.

The above information was extracted from an article written by Caitlin Dow, August 27, 2018, Healthletter, published by Center for Science in the Public Interest, the nonprofit publisher of Nutrition Action Healthletter, 1220 L ST NW Suite 300, Washington, DC 20005.

Research referenced in the above article came from Circulation, Vol. 136, No. 3, June 15, 2017, Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease: A Presidential Advisory from the American Heart Association, Frank Sacks, and et al.

The concluding paragraph was written by Charles Cleveland, MPH, Health Education Resources, Inc.

Photo: Pixabay,

Sleep and Alcohol Don’t Mix

Sleep and Alcohol Don’t Mix

Think a nightcap may help you get a better night’s sleep? Think again.

A new review of 27 studies shows that alcohol does not improve sleep quality. According to the findings, alcohol does allow healthy people to fall asleep quicker and sleep more deeply for a while, but it reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is often considered the most restorative type of sleep.


Think a nightcap may help you get a better night’s sleep? Think again.

A new review of 27 studies shows that alcohol does not improve sleep quality. According to the findings, alcohol does allow healthy people to fall asleep quicker and sleep more deeply for a while, but it reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is often considered the most restorative type of sleep.


REM sleep happens about 90 minutes after we fall asleep. It’s the stage of sleep when people dream, and it’s thought to be restorative. Disruptions in REM sleep may cause daytime drowsiness, poor concentration, and rob you of needed ZZZs; so if you fell irritable after a night of drinking, it could be due to a lack of REM.


Dreams generally occur in the REM stage of sleep, during REM sleep the brain is more active, and may be regarded as ‘defragmenting the drive.’ REM sleep is also important because it can influence memory and serve restorative functions. Conversely, lack of REM sleep can have a detrimental effect on concentration, motor skills, and memory. REM sleep typically accounts for 20 to 25 percent of the sleep period.

The onset of the first REM sleep period is significantly delayed at all doses of alcohol and appears to be the most recognizable effect of alcohol on REM sleep, followed by a reduction in total night REM sleep.

Incidentally, alcohol is a diuretic, can make you need to go more, interrupting your normal sleep pattern.

Alcohol should not be used as a sleep aid, and regular use of alcohol as a sleep aid may result in alcohol dependence.


Want to sleep better, try these tips to develop some good sleep habits:

  • Get regular exercise, but no later than a few hours before bed.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, or nicotine.
  • Reserve the bed for sleeping.
  • Keep your bedroom at a cool temperature and dark.
  • Set regular wake and bed times.

Adapted by Charles Cleveland, MPH:

April 2013 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research

Web Med, Jan. 22, 2013

Unexpected Food Dyes Hiding in Your Holiday Treats?

Unexpected Food Dyes Hiding in Your Holiday Treats?

Temptation abounds during the holidays, but sugar and saturated fat are not the only reason to be wary of holiday treats. Even natural-looking colors, like brown and white, can contain hidden synthetic dyes that carry risks, from cancer to hyperactivity in children. Unnecessary synthetic dyes trigger adverse behavior in some children.

Thinking about using some marshmallows for treats over the holidays? Read the label before buying, some of them have blue # 1 dye. What about chocolate, isn’t it naturally colored? For some reason Nesquik thought it needed Blue #1, Red #40, and Yellow #6 in it’s hot chocolate?

Synthetic food dyes cause behavioral risks in sensitive children. They’ve been around for decades and are found in everything from pudding to potato chips to soft drinks. Their use has gone up fivefold in the past 50 years, which means people are consuming a lot of junk foods.

But recent studies linking food coloring to hyperactivity in kids is causing some experts to call on the FDA to ban foods containing them — or at least require a warning label.

Some of the studies are difficult or imperfect. But there is this body of literature that does suggest that food colorings are not as benign as people have been led to believe, according to Andrew Adesman, developmental and behavioral pediatrics expert.

Not surprisingly, there are countries that have banned or significantly regulated a number of artificial food dyes that are still widely available in the US — a fact that definitely makes one raise an eyebrow or two. If you’d like to err on the side of caution and avoid these specific food dyes, here are three of the most worrisome dyes you might not want your children eating.

FD&C Yellow #6

In the UK, it’s called Sunset Yellow FCF or E110. It’s petroleum-derived, which does not inspire much confidence.

FD&C Red 40

This is a hugely popular red dye, and is found in tons of US food products. You may also see it listed as Allura Red, Food Red 17. Interestingly, it was banned in countries including Denmark, Belgium, France, Switzerland and Sweden at one time, but since the EU allows it in food products; food manufacturers now remove it on a voluntary basis.

FD&C Yellow 5

When you see the generic ingredient “color,” this artificial azo dye is typically what is being described. You can also find it listed on labels as Tartrazine, CI 19149, Acid Yellow 23, Food Yellow 4, and E102. Of all the azo based food dyes, this is the one that some UK studies have determined causes the most intolerant and allergic reactions.

In general, for your health and the health of your children be cautious of any ingredient label that states, “color added.”

December 18, 2017

Frequency of Meals and Weight Loss

Frequency of Meals and Weight Loss

Eating” by Sole Treadmill is licensed under CC BY

A study by researchers from the Loma Linda University School of Public Health and the Czech Republic has found that the timing and frequency of meals play a role in predicting weight loss or gain.

Using information gleaned from more than 50,000 participants in the Adventist Health Study-2 (AHS-2), the researchers discovered four factors associated with a decrease in body mass index: eating only one or two meals per day; maintaining an overnight fast of up to 18 hours; eating breakfast instead of skipping it; and making breakfast or lunch the largest meal of the day. Making breakfast the largest meal yielded a more significant decrease in BMI than did lunch.

The two factors associated with higher BMI were eating more than three meals per day —snacks were counted as extra meals — and making supper the largest meal of the day.

As a practical weight-management strategy, Hana Kahleova, MD, PhD, recommends eating breakfast and lunch, skipping supper, avoiding snacks, making breakfast the largest meal of the day and fasting overnight for up to 18 hours.

A postdoctoral research fellow at Loma Linda University School of Public Health when the study was conducted, Kahleova is director of clinical research for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, DC.

Do we really use that much sodium to salt our foods at home?

Do we really use that much sodium to salt our foods at home?

You have probably noticed how when anyone is identified as having high blood pressure their physician advises them to cut back on using salt. But just how much does it help if you stop using salt at your dinner table?

Researchers at the University of Minnesota and elsewhere have meticulously charted the sources of sodium in the diets of 450 representative adults living in Alabama, California, and Minnesota.

The volunteers recorded everything they ate and drank for four days and provided duplicate samples of the salt they added to food to during cooking and eating. In some cases, they even turned in samples of their tap water. The result is the most detailed picture of the sources of dietary sodium in the U.S. diet in 25 years.

Where the sodium came from

The men and women consumed an average of 3,501 mg of sodium from all sources. That’s about 50 percent more than the recommended amount.

Sodium in supermarket and restaurant foods accounted for 71 percent of the total amount of sodium in their diets. That was far more than the next biggest source: the sodium naturally found in food, which amounted to 14 percent.

Next was the sodium added to foods prepared in the home, such as adding salt to boiling pasta: a daily average of about 200 mg or 6 percent of the total. Tap water, dietary supplements, and medications added less than 1 percent.

The sodium added during meals at the dinner table?

The 450 men and women in the study added a daily average of 170 mg, just 5 percent of the day’s sodium. Store-bought foods and restaurant meals provided 14 times that much! So the salt shaker seems to have a only a minor role in our sodium over-indulgence.

Other findings: The least amount of sodium consumed was by women, college graduates, the normal or underweight, and residents of California and Minnesota. Alabama residents added three to four times as much sodium to their food at the table as California and Minnesota residents.

The lesson from this study

“The sodium that we’re getting in our diet is largely coming from processed foods and from foods we eat in a restaurant,” says Wendy Post, an editor at the journal Circulation which published the study.

One way to deal with this is “for our patients to read food labels and to make smart choices when they are shopping for processed foods in the supermarket,” she suggests. Another “is for food manufacturers to decrease the amount of sodium in the products they are making.” And restaurants should “notify their clientele of what foods are potentially lower in sodium and calories.”

Sodium recommendations

The American Heart Association recommends that consumers should limit sodium to 2,300 milligrams a day (1,500 mg for people with prehypertension or high blood pressure).

The saltiest six foods, based on earlier surveys: bread and rolls, cured meats, pizza, poultry, soup, and sandwiches.

Source: Circulation 135: 1775-1783, 2017.

David Schardt in: Salt in Food, May 15, 2017

Center for Science in the Public Interest, the nonprofit publisher of Nutrition Action Healthletter, 1220 L ST NW Suite 300 | Washington, DC 20005




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