By Kris Gunnars
Green tea is touted to be one of the healthiest beverages on the planet.
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By Dan Gray
Pediatricians are being urged to start writing "exercise prescriptions" for the children they see in their office.
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Yet another reason to avoid the typical western diet: eating high-fat, highly processed junk food filled with added sugars can impair brain function and lead to overeating in just one week.
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Coconut oil is widely marketed as a "superfood."
1. Coconut Oil Contains Healthy Fatty Acids<p>Coconut oil is high in certain saturated fats. These fats have different effects in the body compared with most other dietary fats.</p><p>The fatty acids in coconut oil can encourage the body to burn fat, and they provide quick energy to the body and brain. They also raise <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/hdl-vs-ldl-cholesterol" target="_blank">HDL (good) cholesterol</a> in the blood, which may help to reduce heart disease risk.</p><p>Most dietary fats are categorized as long-chain <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/triglyceride-level" target="_blank">triglycerides</a> (LCTs), while coconut oil contains some <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mct-oil-101" target="_blank">medium-chain triglycerides</a> (MCTs), which are shorter fatty acid chains.</p><p>When you eat MCTs, they tend to go straight to the liver. The body uses them as a quick source of energy or turns them into ketones.</p><p>Ketones can have powerful benefits for the brain, and researchers are studying ketones as a treatment for <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/epilepsy" target="_blank">epilepsy</a>, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/alzheimers-disease" target="_blank">Alzheimer's disease</a>, and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/15-conditions-benefit-ketogenic-diet" target="_blank">other conditions</a>.</p><h4>Summary</h4><p>Coconut oil is high in fats called medium-chain triglycerides or MCTs, which the body metabolizes differently than most other fats. MCTs are responsible for many of the health benefits of coconut oil.</p>
2. Eating Coconut May Benefit Heart Health<p>Coconut is an uncommon food in the Western world, with health-conscious people being the main consumers.</p><p>However, in some parts of the world, coconut — which is loaded with coconut oil — is a dietary staple that people have thrived on for generations.</p><p>A good example is the Tokelauans, a population who live in the South Pacific. According to a 1981 study, this population was getting over 60% of their calories from coconuts.</p><p>Researchers reported that this population had good health with very low rates of heart disease.</p><p>Another example of a population who ate a lot of coconut — along with tubers, fruit, and fish —and had little stroke or heart disease is the Kitavan population in Papua, New Guinea.</p><h4>Summary</h4><p>Several populations around the world have thrived for generations eating a substantial amount of coconut, and studies show they have good heart health.</p>
3. MCTs Can Encourage Fat Burning<p>Obesity is one of the biggest health conditions affecting the Western world today.</p><p>While some people think obesity is just a matter of how many calories someone eats, the source of those calories is important, too. Different foods affect the body and hormones in different ways.</p><p>The MCTs in coconut oil can increase the number of calories the body burns compared to longer-chain fatty acids.</p><p>One study found that consuming 15–30 grams of MCTs per day increased 24-hour energy expenditure by 5%.</p><p>However, these studies didn't specifically look at the effects of coconut oil. They examined the health effects of MCTs — excluding lauric acid — which make up only about 14% of coconut oil.</p><p>There's currently no good evidence to say that eating coconut oil itself will increase the amount of energy a person uses up.</p><p>People should keep in mind that coconut oil is very high in calories and can easily lead to weight gain when they consume it in large amounts.</p><h4>Summary</h4><p>Research says that MCTs can increase the number of calories burned over 24 hours by as much as 5%. However, research has not shown that coconut oil itself has the same effect.</p>
4. Coconut Oil Has Antimicrobial Effects<p>Twelve-carbon lauric acid makes up about 50% of the fatty acids in coconut oil.</p><p>When the body digests lauric acid, it forms a substance called <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/monolaurin" target="_blank">monolaurin</a>. Both lauric acid and monolaurin can kill harmful pathogens, such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi.</p><p>For example, test tube studies show that these substances can help to kill the bacteria <em>Staphylococcus aureus,</em> which causes staph infections, and the yeast <em>Candida albicans</em>, a common source of yeast infections in humans.</p><p>There's also some evidence that using coconut oil as a mouthwash, a process called <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/oil-pulling-coconut-oil" target="_blank">oil pulling</a>, could benefit oral hygiene, though researchers consider the evidence weak.</p><p>There's no evidence that coconut oil reduces the risk for the common cold or other internal infections.</p><h4>Summary</h4><p>Using coconut oil as a mouthwash could help to prevent infections in the mouth, but researchers need more evidence before they can make strong claims.</p>
5. MCTs Can Reduce Hunger<p>One interesting feature of MCTs is that they can reduce hunger.</p><p>This may be related to the way the body metabolizes fats, because ketones can reduce a person's appetite.</p><p>In one study, researchers fed varying amounts of MCTs and LCTs to 6 healthy men. The men who ate the most MCTs ate fewer calories per day.</p><p>Another study in 14 healthy men reported that those who ate the most MCTs at breakfast ate fewer calories at lunch.</p><p>These studies were small and had a very short timescale. If this effect were to persist over the long term, it could lead to reduced body weight over several years.</p><p>Although coconut oil is one of the richest natural sources of MCTs, there's no evidence that coconut oil intake reduces appetite more than other types of oils.</p><p>In fact, one study has reported that coconut oil is less satiating than MCT oil.</p><h4>Summary</h4><p>MCTs can significantly reduce appetite, which may lead to reduced body weight over the long term.</p>
6. MCTs May Reduce Seizures<p>Researchers are currently studying the <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ketogenic-diet-101" target="_blank">ketogenic diet</a> (very low in carbs, very high in fats) to treat various disorders.</p><p>The best known therapeutic use of this diet is treating drug-resistant epilepsy in children.</p><p>The diet dramatically reduces the rate of seizures in children with epilepsy, even those who haven't had success with multiple different types of drugs. Researchers aren't sure why.</p><p>Reducing carbohydrate intake and increasing fat intake leads to greatly increased concentrations of ketones in the blood.</p><p>Because the MCTs in coconut oil get transported to the liver and turned into ketones, healthcare professionals may use a modified keto diet that includes MCTs and a more generous carbohydrate allowance to induce ketosis and help treat epilepsy.</p><h4>Summary</h4><p>The MCTs in coconut oil can increase blood concentration of ketone bodies, which can help reduce seizures in children with epilepsy.</p>
7. Coconut Oil Can Raise HDL Cholesterol<p>Coconut oil contains natural <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/saturated-fat-good-or-bad" target="_blank">saturated fats</a> that increase HDL (good) cholesterol in the body. They may also help turn LDL (bad) cholesterol into a less harmful form.</p><p>By increasing HDL, many experts believe that coconut oil could be good for heart health compared to many other fats.</p><p>In one study in 40 women, coconut oil reduced total and LDL (bad) cholesterol while increasing HDL compared to soybean oil.</p><p>Another study involving 116 adults showed that following a diet program that included coconut oil raised levels of HDL (good) cholesterol in people with <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/coronary-artery-disease" target="_blank">coronary artery disease</a>.</p><h4>Summary</h4><p>A few studies have shown that coconut oil can raise blood levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, which is linked to improved metabolic health and a lower risk of heart disease.</p>
8. Coconut Oil Can Protect the Skin, Hair, and Teeth<p>Coconut oil has <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/31-coconut-oil-uses" target="_blank">many uses</a> that have nothing to do with eating it.</p><p>Many people are using it for cosmetic purposes to improve the health and appearance of their skin and hair.</p><p>Studies show that coconut oil can improve the moisture content of dry skin, and it can also reduce the symptoms of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/eczema" target="_blank">eczema</a>.</p><p>Coconut oil can also protect against hair damage. One study shows that it may work as a weak sunscreen, blocking about 20% of the sun's ultraviolet rays.</p><p>Oil pulling, which involves swishing coconut oil around the mouth like mouthwash, can kill some of the harmful bacteria in the mouth. This may improve dental health and reduce bad breath, though more research is needed.</p><h4>Summary</h4><p>People can apply coconut oil to their skin, hair, and teeth. Studies suggest it works as a skin moisturizer, protects against skin damage, and improves oral health.</p>
9. MCTs Can Boost Brain Function in Alzheimer's Disease<p>Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/dementia" target="_blank">dementia</a>. It usually affects older adults.</p><p>In people with Alzheimer's disease, the brain's ability to use glucose for energy is reduced.</p><p>Researchers have suggested that ketones can provide an alternative energy source for these malfunctioning brain cells to reduce symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.</p><p>The authors of a 2006 study reported that consuming MCTs improved brain function in people with milder forms of Alzheimer's disease.</p><p>However, research is still early, and there's no evidence to suggest that coconut oil itself helps with Alzheimer's disease.</p><h4>Summary</h4><p>Early studies suggest that MCTs can increase blood levels of ketones, supplying energy for the brain cells of people with Alzheimer's disease and relieving symptoms.</p>
10. Coconut Oil May Help Reduce Harmful Abdominal Fat<p>Given that some of the fatty acids in coconut oil can reduce appetite and increase fat burning, evidence suggests that it can also <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/coconut-oil-and-weight-loss" target="_blank">help you to lose weight</a>.</p><p>Abdominal fat, or visceral fat, lodges in the abdominal cavity and around organs. MCTs appear to be especially effective at <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/20-tips-to-lose-belly-fat" target="_blank">reducing belly fat</a> compared to LCTs.</p><p>Abdominal fat is the most harmful type and has links with many chronic diseases.</p><p>Waist circumference is an easy, accurate marker for the amount of fat in the abdominal cavity.</p><p>In a study of 40 women with abdominal obesity, those who took 2 tablespoons (30 mL) of coconut oil per day had a significant reduction in both BMI and waist circumference over 12 weeks.</p><p>Another study in 20 males with obesity noted a reduction in waist circumference of 1.1 inches (2.86 cm) after 4 weeks of taking 2 tablespoons (30 mL) of coconut oil per day.</p><p>Coconut oil is still high in calories so people should use it sparingly. Replacing some of your other cooking fats with coconut oil could have a small weight loss benefit, but the evidence is inconsistent overall.</p>
The Bottom Line<p>If you want to buy coconut oil, there's an <a href="http://amzn.to/2nepI91" target="_blank">excellent selection online</a> with thousands of customer reviews. It's also available in most health food stores.</p><p>In order to get the potential health benefits outlined in the article, make sure to choose organic, virgin coconut oil rather than refined versions.</p>
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A new report from The American Cancer Society has identified the largest single-year decline in the U.S. cancer death rate to date, likely spurred by new treatments and reductions in smoking.
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One of America's already widespread health issues is projected to worsen over the next decade, as new research from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health suggests that almost half the adult population in the U.S. will be obese by 2030.
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A time-restricted eating plan provides a new way to fight obesity and metabolic diseases that affect millions of people worldwide. RossHelen / iStock / Getty Images Plus
By Satchin Panda and Pam Taub
People with obesity, high blood sugar, high blood pressure or high cholesterol are often advised to eat less and move more, but our new research suggests there is now another simple tool to fight off these diseases: restricting your eating time to a daily 10-hour window.
Now, a study from University of Southern California researchers suggested that early exposure to traffic pollution increases the risk of childhood obesity in later life, adding more evidence that dirty air is a public health threat to children.
Coca-Cola intentionally funded the Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN) as a "weapon" in a "growing war between the public health community and private industry" on the causes of obesity, according to a press release sent to EcoWatch by consumer group U.S. Right to Know.
The quotes come from documents obtained in a Freedom of Information Request filed by U.S. Right to Know that formed the basis for a study published Wednesday in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. The study's authors focused on the documents because they definitively proved that Coca-Cola funded the GEBN with the intention of influencing public health debate in their favor.
If Americans knew exactly how much added sugar came with the food and beverages they and their families consume, many might make different choices.
A coalition of public health organizations is calling on the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require that food labels display information on added sugar.
“While current regulations stipulate what foods can be labeled ‘No Sugar Added’ or use a similar phrase, there is currently no requirement that added sugars be shown separately on the ingredients list,” the group wrote FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg. “We recommend that FDA require that added sugars be listed on the ingredients section of food labels so that consumers can make healthier choices when they shop.”
According to the American Heart Association, which signed the letter to Hamburg, Americans’ average intake of added sugars is around 22.2 teaspoons per day, or 355 calories. The AHA’s daily-recommended limit for added sugar is 100 calories for women, and 150 for men.
Research by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found more than 33 percent of adults and roughly 17 percent of children and adolescents living in the U.S. are obese.
“Many in the sugar and food industry like to encourage personal responsibility over government regulation of food and ingredients,” the coalition wrote. “Without specific information on the amount of ‘added sugars’ on the labels of food products, consumers can hardly exercise that responsibility and make smarter choices in the grocery aisle.”
Late last year, EWG reviewed the sugar content for more than 80 popular cereals market toward children and found most loaded with the ingredient. In fact, a one-cup serving of the Kellogg's Honey Smacks brand packs more sugar than a Hostess Twinkie, and one cup of any of the 44 other children’s cereals has more sugar than three Chips Ahoy! cookies.
The following organizations signed the letter to Commissioner Hamburg:
Environmental Working Group, American Association for Health Education, American Heart Association, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Corporate Accountability International, Defeat Diabetes Foundation, American Association for Health Education, National Association of School, Nurses Young People’s Healthy Heart at Mercy Hospital, Indiana Rural Health Association, American Society of Bariatric Physicians, The FGE Food & Nutrition Team, and Cambridge/Somerville WIC and Iowa Public Health Association.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), the ranking Democrat on the House appropriations subcommittee responsible for funding the FDA, has called on the agency to disclose added sugar.
For more information, click here.
By Marion Nestle
Nature, the prestigious science magazine from Great Britain, has just published a commentary with a provocative title–The toxic truth about sugar—and an even more provocative subtitle—Added sweeteners pose dangers to health that justify controlling them like alcohol.
The authors, Robert Lustig, Laura Schmidt and Claire Brindis, are researchers at the University of California medical center in San Francisco (UCSF).
They argue that although tobacco, alcohol and diet are critically important behavioral risk factors in chronic disease, only two of them—tobacco and alcohol—are regulated by governments to protect public health.
Now, they say, it’s time to regulate sugar. By sugar, they mean sugars plural—sucrose as well as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Both are about half fructose.
- Consumption of sugars has tripled over the last 50 years.
- Many people consume as much as 500 calories a day from sugars (average per capita availability in the U.S. is about 400 calories a day)
- High intake of fructose-containing sugars induce metabolic syndrome (high blood pressure, insulin resistance), diabetes, and liver damage.
- Sugars have the potential for abuse.
- Sugars have negative effects on society (mediated via obesity).
- Too much of a good thing can be toxic.
Therefore, they argue, societies should intervene and consider the kinds of policies that have proven effective for control of tobacco and alcohol:
- Distribution controls
- Age limits
- Bans from schools
- Licensing requirements
- Zoning ordinances
- Bans on TV commercials
- Labeling added sugars
- Removal of fructose from GRAS status
In a statement that greatly underestimates the situation, they say:
We recognize that societal intervention to reduce the supply and demand for sugar faces an uphill political battle against a powerful sugar lobby, and will require active engagement from all stakeholders.
But, they conclude:
These simple measures—which have all been on the battleground of American politics—are now taken for granted as essential tools for our public health and well-being. It’s time to turn our attention to sugar.
What is one to make of this? Sugar is a delight, nobody is worried about the fructose in fruit or carrots, and diets can be plenty healthy with a little sugar sprinkled here and there.
The issue is quantity. Sugars are not a problem, or not nearly as much of a problem, for people who balance calorie intake with expenditure.
Scientists can argue endlessly about whether obesity is a cause or an effect of metabolic dysfunction, but most people would be healthier if they ate less sugar.
The bottom line? As Corinna Hawkes, the author of numerous reports on worldwide food marketing, wrote me this morning, “there are plenty of reasons for people to consume less sugar without having to worry about whether it’s toxic or not!”
For more information, click here.