Rigorous preclinical and clinical studies demonstrate that prescribing a ketogenic diet with supplementary virgin coconut oil appears to show promising and powerful option for adjuvant therapy for a range of cancers
Text and Photos by Henrylito D. Tacio
Although not a native of the Philippines, the versatile coconut can be considered as God’s gift to Filipinos. It is called the “tree of life,” a moniker that couldn’t be truer in the country where the coconut industry is touted as “the lifeblood of the Philippine agriculture.”
Unbelievably, coconut has been touted as a “lazy man’s crop.” A legend recounts: “(The lazy man) sleeps in the shade of the tree, is awakened when a nut falls, drinks the milk, and eat some of the meat. He then feeds the rest of the meant to the chickens and cattle, which produce eggs and milk and meat, respectively. The leaves provide thatch for the roof and walls of his coconut hut, and are also woven into hats, baskets and mats.”
While most Filipinos know of coconut’s economic importance, not too many are aware of the health benefits coconut gives. The coconut oil tops the list. Pina LoGiudice, Siobhan Bleakney, and Peter Bongiorno, co-medical directors of the New York-based Inner Source Health, wrote: “Conventional thought used to consider fats like coconut oil to be unhealthy and contribute to heart disease. We now know that this isn’t true. In fact, coconut oil is actually a heart-healthy food that can keep your body running smoother in a few different ways.”
Coconut oil is most potent when it’s virgin – that is, extracted through pressing without the use of heat. Thanks to the pioneering work of the late Dr. Julian Banzon and his protégé, Dr. Teresita Espino, the chemistry of virgin coconut oil (VCO) has been known and its beneficial effects on the human body have been confirmed.
“VCO is a natural oil from fresh, mature kernel of the coconut,” explains the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) in its Compendium of Commercially-Viable Coconut Technologies. “It can be obtained through mechanical or natural means. It can also be processed with or without the use of heat.”
Unlike the commercial coconut oil, VCO does not undergo chemical refining, bleaching, or deodorizing that leads to the alteration of the oil. The product is suitable for consumption without the need for further processing.
The late National Scientist Dr. Conrado S. Dayrit was touted to be the Father of VCO. His book, The Truth About Coconut Oil, published in 2005, became a bestseller and elevated coconut oil from folk medicine to a scientific therapy. A renowned cardiologist, pharmacologist, academician and researcher, he found that VCO is sort of a drug “that regulates the body’s functions and defense mechanism. It restores the normal balance of tissues or cells that have become dysfunctional.”
Since the publication of the book, the coconut oil journey has gone a long way. Because of many anecdotal evidences, which are hard to ignore, several studies have been carried out on it.
Last year, during the First World Coconut Congress, a neonatologist pointed out that VCO can be used as adjuvant treatment for cancer. In the Philippines, nine Filipinos are diagnosed with cancer every hour, based on recent data released by the Department of Health and the Philippine Cancer Society Inc.
The Paracelsus Medical University (PMU) in Salzburg, Austria is undertaking clinical trials on the use of VCO in ketogenic diet as supportive treatment for cancer and the initial results have been reported to be highly promising.
The home-produced VCO is a recognized source of beneficial fatty acid metabolized in the liver as ketones in ketogenic diets. In the PMU clinical trial, the target is for ketogenic diet to achieve the so-called “Warburg effect,” where cancer cells are prevented from using glycolysis in order to produce the organic chemical ATP (Adenosine triphosphate) needed in the multiplication of cancer cells.
“Based on the results of rigorous preclinical and clinical studies performed thus far, the ketogenic diet would appear to be a promising and powerful option for adjuvant therapy for a range of cancers,” the PMU study said.
Dr. Mary Newport she cited the PMU study in her presentation during the coconut congress. “It’s now being (used) for cancer because cancer cells like sugar. Some cancer cells use 200 times more sugar than the normal cell. They ferment sugar, the mitochondria ferments sugar. They don’t metabolize it normally. But most cancer cells don’t use ketones effectively as fuel,” she said.
In her presentation, “Combining Coconut Oil and Low Carbohydrate, Higher Fat Diet for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other Diseases,” Dr. Newport said: “Ketogenic diet attempts to starve the tumor, the cancer cells. But basically, your healthy cells and your brain can use ketones. So, it can help in cancer.”
The PMU clinical trial reported antitumor effect of ketogenic diet in 10 types of cancer. These are: glioblastoma, astrocytoma, medulloblastoma, prostate cancer, colon cancer, neuroblastoma, pancreatic cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, stomach cancer, and liver cancer.
VCO is rich in lauric acid, a mediumchain fatty acid (MCFA) that is converted to monolaurin by the human body. “When MCFAs are metabolized (in the human body), ketone bodies are created in the liver,” writes Ty Bollinger, a best-selling author, medical researcher, and health freedom advocate.
But what excites researchers about VCO is its lauric acid content. “Fifty percent of coconut oil is lauric acid, a compound found in human breast milk, which makes it one of the best food sources for this nutrient available,” Bollinger notes. Lauric acid, if you care to know is beneficial in deterring parasites, bacteria, fungi, yeasts and viruses.
According to some studies, one tablespoon of VCO contains 14 grams of total fat, of which 12 grams are saturated. Most of the saturated fat found in most food like meat and cheese are considered long-chain triglycerides (LCTs). In comparison, the saturated fat in coconut oil mostly comprised of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs).
The MCTs are easier for the human body to metabolize than LCTs. “While MCTs do not shrink cancer by themselves, but they have proved promising as a treatment for cancer,” a report said.
With the advancement of modern technology and breakthroughs in science, there will be more health benefits that can be unearthed from coconut oil. The Philippines, however, should lead such studies.
“In the Philippines, if we are to produce more understanding by the world that coconut oil is really quite safe internally and with food, we need to convince the doctors, the academics because they are after all the opinion leaders. They are the ones who told the rest of the world that coconut oil back in the 50s, 60s and onwards was not good for the diet,” said Dr. Vermen M. Verallo-Rowell, entrepreneurial founder of VMV Hypoallergenics who has published more than 150 articles in dermatology scientific journals.
In the United States, VCO has increasingly become popular in natural food circles and with vegans. It was described in a New York Times article as having a “haunting, nutty, vanilla flavor” that also has a touch of sweetness that works well in baked goods, pastries, and sautés.
The Philippines is the second largest coconut producing country in the world, after Indonesia. Of the 12 million hectares total agricultural land, 3.5 million hectares are dedicated to coconut production, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reports.
The Philippines has introduced VCO to the world in 2000-2001 and remains to be world’s number one VCO exporter. In 2015, VCO was exported to 46 countries, the United Coconut Association of the Philippines said. The top importers were United States, the Netherlands, Canada, Germany, and Japan. Other destinations were Belgium, United Kingdom, South Korea, and Australia. Smaller volumes went to Malaysia, Brazil, Taiwan, South Africa, France, China, Singapore and Czechoslovakia.