Coconut oil: Superfood or 'Pure poison'?
Also zinc for colds and brain food claims..
I hope you are safe and well. We are deep into our next Member review on Anxiety. Meanwhile, here’s what I’ve learned from experts this week on Metafact:
Coconut oil is not a healthy choice
Coconut oil has attracted alot of attention for its many claimed health benefits. Fuelled by celebrity endorsements, this ‘superfood’ claims to help you lose weight, boost your immune system, prevent heart disease, and protect you against Alzheimer’s disease. Meanwhile, some experts say coconut oil is ‘pure poison’. Karin Michels, an epidemiologist got alot of attention in 2018 adding it’s “one of the worst things you can eat”. Superfood or poison - what is it?
Coconut oil is extremely high in saturated fat, at over 80% - way more than butter. Saturated fat is known to raise cholesterol levels and in general and our experts say that countries with higher levels of cholesterol have higher rates of heart disease. There are some exceptions to this (France) and it’s also true that populations that use coconut oil as part of their traditional lifestyles do appear to have lower rates of heart disease. So is coconut oil the better choice for the western diet?
We asked 6 independent cardiologists and nutrition scientists to share the facts on coconut oil. It’s not ‘pure poison’ but it’s definitely not a healthy choice.
Eating well could help against dementia
Every time a neuron in your brain sends out a message to another one down the road, substances like sodium and potassium are pumped in and out of the neuron in a wave that spreads along its membrane. Then, once the signal gets to the end of the neuron, there will be a signal to fire and the neuron will immediately release a bunch of neurotransmitters to its neighbors. This process is repeated over and over again in your brain - and for that, you need lots of energy.
The brain is a hugely demanding machine and burns about a fifth of all the glucose in our body - but even that is not enough. Like other organs, it needs a number of different nutrients in the right amount to function well. So can your diet affect cognitive function?
We asked 6 neuroscientists to share the facts. Yes diet is important.
Zinc helps the common cold - but there’s a big caveat…
Background: On average we get about 2-3 common colds per year. Mostly caused by a virus called rhinovirus, they tend to last about one week causing the familiar runny nose, sneezing and congestion. Once we get a cold, we all would love a helpful remedy. You’ve probably heard many from chicken soup, honey tea, to vitamin-C or garlic. None seem to work. But what about Zinc? A question was asked whether it helps.
Zinc is an essential mineral and we generally get enough if eating a well-balanced diet, but does taking zinc help for the common cold? A 1974 paper showed Zinc to inhibit the replication of rhinovirus. Since then, there’s been alot of interest. A number of zinc-based cold remedies and vitamin formulas have popped up on the market. We asked relevant experts and:
‘There is strong evidence’ that zinc lozenges speed the recovery of the common cold writes Professor Harri Hemila from the University of Helsinki, who has published the most recent trial on this topic. Other experts like Professor Tom Fitzgerald from the University of Michigan were deeply skeptical that zinc could help. So they designed a study themselves to find out, writing how he has changed his mind:
In our studies, zinc lozenges reduces the number of days of cold symptoms by 2 to 3 days.
It’s unclear how zinc works but ‘Zinc may bind to the rhinovirus and prevent it from attaching to the cell’ writes Professor Paul Ernsberger from Case Western University.
What about using zinc supplements on the market? Not so fast.
Before you start buying up zinc tablets to take the next time you get a cold - the experts were clear - nothing on the market is likely to help - since “The zinc lozenges were specially designed for the study and are not commercially available,” says Professor Fitzgerald. Professor Hemila published a study this year showing a commercially available zinc lozenge did not help for common colds:
Although there is strong evidence that properly composed zinc lozenges can increase the rate of recovery from the common cold, the majority of zinc lozenges on the market appear to have either too low doses of zinc or they contain substances that bind zinc ions, such as citric acid. Thus, the results of the randomized trials should not be directly extrapolated to the wide diversity of zinc lozenges on the current market…The characteristics of zinc lozenges that are clinically efficacious should be evaluated in detail before they can be widely promoted for common cold treatment” writes Professor Hemila.
Side-effects and safety have also not been studied to the extent needed - so although Zinc losenges look promising in potentially helping to reduce the length of colds - there’s not much we can do but wait until more research is done and they become available on the market.
Hope this has helped and remember May the facts be with you!
Ben McNeil, Founder of Metafact
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