Fresh news on an old product Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
October 1, 2002

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FOR decades there has been a debate on whether coconut oil as an edible oil is healthy or not in the human diet.

In this health conscious era, the debate seems to have ended with the conclusion that coconut oil is unhealthy for humans since it is high in cholesterol - a factor contributing to heart disease.

But is that really so?

For the Indo-Guyanese who came here as indentured labourers and their offspring to this day, coconut oil and other coconut products have been almost essential items - as food and for other purposes.

It is not known that those who through the years have used coconut oil have suffered from diseases related to the use of the oil.

In fact, those generations produced some of the most hard working and healthy people this country has known.

The diseases that afflicted most people of the older generations were more related to the environmental and sanitary conditions at that time.

The immigrants and the subsequent generations used fresh coconut oil made by manual means, to cook and rub into the skin and hair throughout their lives.

In India and other Asian countries it has been in use for centuries.

However, in this highly commercial and consumer-oriented world, a health campaign was launched against coconut oil, no doubt perhaps because the huge industrial corporations wanted to create a market for their products.

These huge corporations have the commercial clout to manipulate the market to suit their whims and fancies - such is the corporate power of the highly developed world.

The influence of the corporate world on the politics and socio-economic life of the people in the developing countries, especially in Latin America, has been well established over the years.

Through this influence, people have come to regard coconut oil with reservations and more and more have been turning to other products, most churned out by the multinationals in the developed world.

Now there is fresh news about coconut oil.

According to The Times of India, recent studies and findings have shown the opposite of what the Western world has been propagating about coconut oil.

It reports that research by U.S. medical doctor and naturopath, Bruce Fife, in the Philippines, has vindicated the coconut oil.

According to the newspaper, he says it "has no cholesterol and its lauric acid component protects daily users from heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and cancer, while improving digestion, strengthening the immune system, and reducing excess fat."

The Times of India also pointed out that this is further endorsed by Dr. Mary Enig, an international specialist in fats and oils, who says the monolaurin formed in the human body can fight and destroy lipid, coated-viruses such as those in herpes, influenza, HIV and others.

"The bells will ring in palm-fringed Goa, India (where more than half the population thrives on the coconut and its liquor), in the Tiptur coconut markets in Karnataka and in palm-rich Kerala", the newspaper said.

Dr. Fife blames "U.S. economic lobbies" for putting coconut oil on the back burner, when all saturated oils were "tarred with the same brush."

The bells should also ring among coconut farmers here with this bit of news.

The Ministry of Fisheries, Crops and Livestock has referred to the coconut industry as a sleeping giant and there have been efforts to put it on a better footing.

The coconut industry has huge potential, and if developed and expanded, could provide valuable employment opportunities and economic impetus in Guyana.

The ministry should use this bit of good news to get more aggressive in awakening the sleeping giant.