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Secrets of Virgin Coconut Oil: An Interview With Brian Shilhavy

October 06, 2004 | 50,796 views

By Dr. Mercola

I've written a lot over the years about the countless advantages of coconut oil. So much so, I even considered writing a book about it. Because I have so many irons in the fire along with maintaining my Natural Health Center, Brian and Marianita Shilhavy beat me to it. After reading their book, Virgin Coconut Oil: How It Has Changed People's Lives and How It Can Change Yours! , I'm glad they did!

This exceptional book provides a comprehensive look at the health-promoting properties of coconut oil, one of the most misunderstood and overlooked foods of recent times.

Virgin Coconut Oil is probably the most practical book I've read about the health benefits of coconut oil, supported by scientific research and countless testimonies from people whose lives have been changed merely by using coconut oil.

Probably the most delicious section of Shilhavy's book is the final third, which is devoted to more than 75 delicious recipes for sauces, soups, and main dishes.

Busy promoting the new book, Brian Shilhavy chatted via e-mail with me about the many virtues of coconut oil, how it has changed the lives of many people, and of simpler times living in the Philippines.

You feature an extensive list of frequently asked questions in the beginning of your book about the advantages of using virgin coconut oil. What makes virgin coconut oil more effective and advantageous than other oils on the market?

Virgin coconut oil's many health benefits come from the medium-chain length of its fatty acids, or triglycerides (MCTs). Most of the other edible oils on the market today are comprised of long-chain fatty acids. MCTs have many health benefits, including raising the body's metabolism, and fighting off pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, funguses, and others.

Coconut oil  is nature's richest source of MCTs outside of human breast milk. Virgin coconut oil is very stable oil that does not oxidize and break down quickly like other oils. It also has a shelf life of more than two years.

Typically, when one thinks about cooking oils, weight loss rarely comes to mind. Yet your book includes a number of stories about people who have done just that. What's the connection between virgin coconut oil and losing weight?

Well, the word is finally getting out that low-fat diets don't work. Our bodies need fat and depriving ourselves of it can actually lead to an increase in cravings for other foods, such as refined carbohydrates, that do lead to weight gain. Coconut oil is nature's richest source of MCTs that increase metabolic rates and lead to weight loss. MCTs promote what is called thermogenesis.

Thermogenesis increases the body's metabolism, producing energy. This phenomenon has been shown in many scientific studies. We have also found many people have underlying physical conditions that prevent them from losing weight. One of the most common is a low functioning thyroid. Also, many Americans today suffer from poor digestive health. Coconut oil really shines in these areas, improving thyroid function and digestive health.

Your book does a good job balancing the documented scientific research with lively testimonies that illustrate the benefits of virgin coconut oil. That approach makes for an easier read too. Some writers would've stayed away from using consumer testimonies, but you didn't. Why?

These testimonies are the main reason we wrote the book! It is the story of virgin coconut oil and how it has changed people's lives.

The world needs to hear these people's stories, which we receive on almost a daily basis. It is one thing to quote scientific studies, but quite another to hear the stories of people whose lives have actually been changed by a pure, unrefined coconut oil. This book is as much their story, as it is Marianita's and my story.

According to your book, virgin coconut oil has had its biggest impact on thyroid problems. How can thyroid problems be helped with coconut oil?

Hypothyroidism is truly one of the biggest epidemics of our time, and we have met so many people who have been told that their blood tests are normal, and yet find themselves with symptoms of hypothyroidism. There are very few options today offering any kind of hope of dealing with the underlying cause of this condition.

Probably the most dramatic results we have had reported to us are from those who have thyroid problems and have eliminated polyunsaturated oils from their diet, and started incorporating virgin coconut oil in its place. People's body temperatures increase, they have more energy, and some, for the first time, are actually able to start losing weight.

Which skin problems can be helped the best by using virgin coconut oil?

We have had probably more testimonies in the area of skin health than any other one area. This is one benefit of coconut oil that has been well known even in the United States for quite some time.

When we first brought virgin coconut oil to the market to the United States in 2002, there were very few other quality coconut oils available, and the few that did exist were almost exclusively marketed for cosmetic purposes. As we began to publish the research on coconut oil as an edible oil -- that is considered a "functional food" by some like Dr. Mary Enig -- many people began to not only apply it to their skin but also consume it.

The result has been fantastic. We have seen reports of success for almost any kind of skin problem for those who both consume the oil and apply it to their skin. Skin problems related to fungal infections seem to be the most positively affected by the healing properties of Virgin Coconut Oil.

One of the more interesting parts of your book was the extended section on recipes. How did you find all those recipes?

All of the recipes were developed by a professional chef in California. Many of them were prepared in our own kitchen where the chef would come on a regular basis to cook for us. Marianita is a certified nutritionist in the Philippines and, of course, knows how to cook traditional Filipino foods with coconut oil. But we had to learn how to incorporate it into a more eclectic American-type menu once we moved back to the United States.

So we worked with the chef for many months developing the recipes. Unlike other coconut recipes that might simply take traditional recipes and just substitute coconut oil as an ingredient, our recipes were actually developed in the kitchen by our chef.

For those trying to get a certain amount of coconut oil into their diet each day, each recipe lists the amount of coconut oil per serving. So it is perfect for those on the coconut diet.

So many people have enjoyed great success adding coconut oil to the diets of their various pets, but no studies have been done to date. Is coconut oil beneficial to pets in different ways than ones enjoyed by their human caretakers?

We first noticed that many animals enjoyed eating coconut when we lived in the Philippines. Our dogs and cats on the farm would try to get the little bits of coconut out of the shell after they had been grated.

The people who made virgin coconut oil for us would take the coconut pulp after the oil had been extracted and feed it to their livestock. From the reports we have received from people here in the United States, the benefits to pets and animals are much the same as for humans. It increases metabolism, fights off infections, and leads to a healthier coat of hair.

We have people giving it to race-track horses and one guy running a study right now is giving it to one of his sled-dog teams. The reports we are getting have been phenomenal!

In what way has virgin coconut oil changed your life the most?

Well, we are certainly grateful to the Lord in that it has kept our family healthy. But probably seeing how virgin coconut oil has changed so many other people's lives has affected me more than anything else. It humbles me to see how a completely natural product like this can give such incredible health to people, without being created in a laboratory or by years of labor and expense.

It is a God-given simple crop given to the people of the tropics and known as the "tree of life."

Part of your book is devoted to a memoir of living in the Philippines. You learned a great deal about living healthfully there. What do you miss most about those times?

I miss the simplicity of the agrarian lifestyle in the rural Philippines, where most people can live off the food they grow themselves. People there are so much more connected to their communities where the food is grown, and the traditional knowledge of the plants and herbs are still commonplace.

I also miss growing our own upland rice, pineapples, and other foods free of pesticides or other chemicals, or of picking wild berries and fruit that grew everywhere. We had guava and tiny little hot peppers that were literally weeds and would just pop up everywhere without being planted. The Philippines is seen as a poor country, but they actually have incredible wealth in the land where about 50 percent of the population is still family farmers.

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