Coconut Oil: Miracle or Hype?

By Jim F
i-3303a94bf2aa5dde19d2c46e9f008950-coconut.jpg
Forget the coconut oil,
just give me the sunny beach

If you are interested in diet, then you’ve heard of Dr. Mercola (mercola.com).

Mercola’s natural health site is enormously popular and has many followers. He writes fascinating articles on a multitude of nutritional issues – however there is an edge of fear and paranoia that has always made me feel uncomfortable.

All that worrying about health and harmful food could end up making you sick…

One of the great debates is about the benefits of coconut oil and saturated fats.

Doctors Do Battle Over the Coconut

Dr Joel Fuhrman enters the arena with an intriguing series of blog posts that investigate Mercola’s claims one-by-one.

Dr. Mercola and the Weston Price Foundation flood the internet with their saturated fat is good for you message. They produce articles with supposedly scientific references that either quote the same bunch of people (each other), ignore a ton of modern reputable research, or distort what was said in the study, claiming saturated fat is okay and not related to heart disease.

Both of these doctors have authored books promoting particular nutritional regimes, and can quote scientific references like there’s no tomorrow.

The Miraculous Coconut Oil?

There are many people who happily promote coconut oil as a healthy addition to the diet, and an aid to weight loss. This is in extreme opposition to the current thinking that saturated fat is bad. 100 grams of coconut oil contains 86 grams of saturated fat (source).

Dr Fuhrman (in the comments of this post) explains in some detail – the nutritional profile of the oil. He goes onto outline why he believes coconut is completely over-hyped.

All the technical details are beyond me – but one statement stands out “We should be eating food, (as nature intended) not oil (isolated fat).” Then what about olive oil or flax oil – and other “healthy” supplements?

If you like it, use it

These high-powered nutritional debates leave me cold. Many of these doctors attract a loyal (and sometimes dogmatic) following. However that doesn’t mean that it’s the perfect way.

A small idea can quickly grow out of proportion, and next thing there is an entire supplement industry heavily promoting the idea. Coconut oil is a perfect example of this.

In amongst all the worrying about what’s good for you – don’t forget to enjoy food and enjoy life!

143 Comments

  1. Edward Stevens

    If coconut oil is so bad, why are not the South islanders not all dead from heart disease? How do one explain the French Paradox? What do you think of Gary Taubes book, “Good Calories,Bad Calories”? He spent fives researching this book, and debunks many studies that claim proof that saturated fats are unhealthy.
    Why would one disbelieve a lipid expert like Dr. Mary Enig, while endorsing the quacks in the You Docs organization? There are two side to every story–before you join one or the other, try coconut oil for yourself (like I did) and you will see that it does not send your cholesterol number to the ceiling as many claim that it does. I had a echocardiogram done recently–and my arteries were not clogged, and I have been eating coconut oil daily for years. Then what causes obesity, diabetes and heart disease? It’s the excessive simple carbohydrates in our diet. It’s the sugar–Its the sugar–how many time do you have to told??

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  2. natalie

    I totally agree with you. Moderation is the key. I get so frustrated with all this information about what is good for you, and then like 10 years afterwards those “experts” are like: Oops. Sorry. That thing that’s supposedly good for you? It can actually kill you. (Like in the case of magarine.)
    So yeah. Moderation (and variation) is the key.

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  3. Mike

    I have been eating coconut oil on and off for about 10 years. I personally love the flavor of Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, but some people do not. Don’t expect to lose much weight from coconut oil unless you are on a ketogenic diet where you are consuming fat for energy rather than carbs. This is not an unhealthly thing to do as many claim, because the human body did not evolve to eat grain and other concentrated sources of carbohydrates. Humans evolved living off of meat and seasonal berries, so fats have been a predominant energy source for most of human evolution up until agriculture was developed. Many scientists believe that there have not been enough generations for humans to have evolved to a new food source since the development of agriculture. Homo sapiens have existing for 195,000 years, while the homo genus has existed for about 2,500,000 years. Agriculture on the other hand began between 4,500 and 10,000 years ago depending upon the part of the world.

    I find that coconut oil has a thermogenic effect and raises my body temperature (sometimes makes me sweat) and helps my brain work better on low carb diets. I like to consume it along with Isopure protein, which has no carbs. Too much in an empty stomach will cause cramping, so eat it with something. Coconut and MCT oil is a popular body building supplement before workouts, because it gives you more energy. Apparently the shorter length of the fatty acids are able to diffuse through the mitochondria, which can burn them rapidly.

    I wouldn’t take coconut oil though if you are eating a lot of carbs though as carbs + fat together will make you gain weight. Studies have been done using coconut oil that has been further separated into MCT oil (which lacks the saturated fat component) and shown that people lose weight more rapdily with MCT oil than olive oil or coconut oil. Therefore much of the positive effects of coconut oil can be attributed to the medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). However, someone making a diet off this might prefer to mix up coconut oil and olive oil or safflower throughout the day, because the body requires saturated fats as the precursor to cholesterol, which is used to manufacture hormones such as testosterone, which tend to decrease on a low carb diet. Additionally the olive oil and safflower oil contain essential fatty acids (EFAs) not present in coconut oil or MCT oil that your body is unable to manufacture. Anyways, something to think about if you are interested in losing weight on a keto diet.

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  4. bubs

    This is the best comment so far! Thanks Rainman!

    Reply
  5. Halfangelhalftart

    Ok. So about 3 weeks in of using coconut oil I have a tbsp in the morning with hot water and lemon and a tbsp in my hot choc at night. I use it as a cooking oil also – much to my hubby’s despair.
    Anyway, lots of loose stools. My psoriasis is the worst it’s ever been. I have hot flushes, I am tired all the time and have put on 3lb. Where am I going wrong?

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  6. Cara

    I have been using a teaspoon of coconut oil in my green tea. Is this suitable or do I really need to eat it raw? After 2 weeks I’m not seeing any difference

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  7. Rosegirl

    I have been taking extra virgin coconut oil for 4 days now. I have to take it at night (1 teas) because it gives me a headache and some heartburn with a little nausea. I know what detoxification feels like and I recognize this is what is happening. I will keep taking a teaspoon until I can increase to more. I plan on doing the coconut detoxification where you have to take up to 10-12 tablespoons a day for 3-7 days. (google it for more info). But for now, my skin looks so pretty! My energy had greatly increased, and I feel warm all the time now. I have already lost about 2 pounds! I know it’s not much but my stomach got flatter! I’m excited to continue this journey even though I kinda dread this “die-off” period, I obviously need it.

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  8. Sean

    Mel,
    It has been noted by a few others that these symptoms can occur, and it seemingly points to the death of bacteria and the like in your system. It is the fight in your body that is essentially causing this. Now, you could just be intolerant to the oil, as every ones body is different, but I suggest you give it some time, if you can stand fighting through the cold for potential better results.

    Give it, oh I don’t know, a week? Also, I would suggest if you are doing the 3tbsp. many talk about, start with less. If using it to cook with be sure you aren’t just simply adding it to your diet and keep all other fats. Keep balance in mind, as with any diet. Find out what your body needs, what feels best to you. This has worked best for me and others, replacing our butter and olive oil/other oils, with coconut. Maybe it won’t for you but it seems this produces (at least from the comments here and other places) the best results. Healthy natural foods in general, coconut oil, smaller portions of food per meal, and exercise or at least increased daily activity, and hopefully you (like myself) will experience great results in overall health.

    Patience is key, just listen to your body, and be prepared to fight a life time of less healthy choices.

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  9. Mike

    It will say virgin or extra-virgin on the label. If it doesn’t then it’s been almost definitely refined and would make a better fuel for a motor engine than a human body.
    They refine it to increase shelf life, I’ve worked in warehouses and depots and seen how long food sits around on pallets, it’s only sensible to prefer fresh unprocessed produce.
    By itself and on an empty stomach, eat a big spoonful of virin oil one day and then try the refined/hydrogenated version the next, see how you feel.. you’ll never go back.
    That’s the only test that counts for me, all the phds in the world wont change what’s right for you.

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  10. Mel

    I have purchased my first jar of organic unrefined virgin coconut oil. After two days, I went to bed feeling like I was getting a cold: stuffy nose, sore throat and my head just hurt. Now I am questioning if the coconut oil was used like a detox in my body. I have hypothyroidism and wanted to see if it would help with my constant fatigue, low metabolism and overall intolerance to cold. If my symptoms were related to the oil, will I have to stop taking it or do I just continue taking the oil in small doses?

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  11. RainMan

    I agree that humans are to smart for their own good. Well, I understand more than agree. Because, isolating components from their source has been the tradition of medicine since the beginning of… well, medicine! Not pharmaceuticals that take the molecular level and create new mophed and dangerous derivitives… but, ancient western, eastern, and homeopathic medicine. The decline of man occured the moment we steered from these naturalistic ways and began to alter the cures that mother nature has provided for us.

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  12. RainMan

    Doctors and scientist do not always know everything. They are human and form strong opinions based on what they want to perceive as truth. They are no different then any other bias, racist, and stubborn person you know. However, they are more clevor and can take bits of evidence from many places and sew it up anyway they wish in-order to make a blanket to cover up the truth. Unfortunately, they are very persuasive to the less educated. Which is where debate forms between 2 educated opinions.

    The only truth you will find is from trying it yourself! Trying new things is one of the healthiest things you can do. Nothing in life thrives on the same thing everyday. I live by this. I wish I could try something new ever day. I have substituted almost every oil with coconut oil for the past month. Barely altering my diet at all. Right now, I feel the best I have in 20yrs.

    My advice is this… stop relying on what everyone has to say and try it. If you don’t like it or it doesn’t feel right to you… then you simply stop using it. Too many people rely on what others have to say and don’t listen to their own bodies. Everyone is different!! Nobody, no matter their education and qualifications, can generalize or lump health products and diets into a neat package that fits everyone. Thats why so many things work for some and not for others. However, given time and patience, you will find the things that do work best for you. Your body, mind, and soul will appreciate your diligence. Peace!

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  13. Fred Acereto

    Canola oil is a poisonous substance, an industrial oil that does not belong in the body.

    “Canola oil comes from the rape seed, which is part of the mustard family of plants. Rape is the most toxic of all food-oil plants. Like soy, rape is a weed. Insects will not eat it; it is deadly poisonous! The oil from the rape seed is a hundred times more toxic than soy oil.”

    Reply
  14. Fred Acereto

    Coconut Oil is Dangerous? Whoever wrote this statement is very confused or a shill for the Food Giants and FDA. All polyunsaturated oils, canola, soy, safflower, corn, etc are are poisonous oils to the body. They do not belong in the body, even if they have no trans-fats. coconut is the best to use if it is Virgin and organic. I feel great after using coconut oil, more energy, loss of weight, blood sugar controlled and less cravings for bread, pasta, rice and high glycemic foods. Even animal fat is better than those vegetable oils.

    Cholesterol is not a deadly poison, but a substance vital to the cells of all mammals. There are no such things as good or bad cholesterol, but mental stress, physical activity and change of body weight may influence the level of blood cholesterol. A high cholesterol is not dangerous by itself, but may reflect an unhealthy condition, or it may be totally innocent.

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  15. ^_^

    Have it on a piece of Eziekel toast. That’s what I do. I can’t eat the oil by it’s self on a spoon.

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  16. Catherine

    No one has mentioned yet that there are more than kind of saturated fat. Coconut oil, while it is a saturated fat, is a medium chain saturated fat (as opposed to long chain saturated fat) and is digested very differently. It is absorbed and converted into quick energy. This is the source of much confusion. Simply put, coconut oil is extremely healthy for you and it is not really up for debate.

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  17. Bruce

    I tried coconut oil sold at a raw foods health restaurant and it seemed to work quite well with moderate usage. It also seemed to have a subtle but unmistakable thermogenic effect, which was helpful as I had low basal temps from sub-clinical hypothyroidism. After finishing the quart over several months I purchased a different brand at a health food store which I returned as it seemed to be an inferior product. Eventually I tried another bottle at the restaurant, but of a later lot. I couldn’t tolerate it either, and when I later tried it on salads, it seemed to really clog me up.

    Since this time I still have an issue with many oils, and some oil-based supplements (e.g., phos-serine in soft gels) that I never did before; they seem to build up in my system where they did not before as if I’m not metabolizing them but sequestering them somehow in my system.

    It seems that the quality and kind of the oil, (processing and source) the amount consumed and in my case at least the individual all seem to come into in play.

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  18. kristen

    how do i know if i bought the right coconut oil? i bought tree of life expeller pressed orgainc coconut oil… is this a good brand? i took a table spoon the 1st day and this second day i ate a tablespoon and a half and got diarrhea. the coconut oil as a little bit of a smell to it and really has no taste. i though it was supposed to taste like coconuts..??

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  19. Rob

    how can you tell if coco nut oil is hydrogenated or not.i bought a jar in the local asian shop, and the labeling just says 100% pure coconut oil.need to go organic maybe.

    Reply
  20. joyfulmtbr

    Simply put: I started using coconut oil years ago in my cooking. When I began to eat it raw three years later, within about a week my skin got itchy. I gave up eating it raw. Three more years later after doing an anti-candida diet and supplements, I tried eating coconut oil raw again-no rashes. And my hair became more youthful and soft as opposed to coarse (I am 47). Clearly there is a difference between using it in cooking and eating it raw. That’s enough proof for me that it’s healthy.

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  21. Tina F

    I don’t do the cocnut oil pills, but I take the virgin coconut oil straight fromt he jar. I feel the same way you do, more energy, less cravings and losing weight. Its not a hype to me, I had no matabolism before and im peri memopause. But now I have lots of energy and feel great! I am so glad I found the oil and its cheap too.

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  22. Tina F

    I don’t do the cocnut oil pills, but I don the virgin coconut oil straight fromt he jar. I feel the same way you do, more energy, less cravings and losing weight. Its not a hype to me, I had no matabolism before and im peri memopause. But now I have lots of energy and feel great! I am so glad I found the oil and its cheap too.

    Reply
  23. drew

    I been taken organic extra virgin coconut oil for 3 months…i’m 24..and been diagnosed with high blood pressure since my early teens..probably since like umm..16…and i’m overweight..i just started taken blood pressure medication about 2 years ago..it never worked..but since i been taken the coconut oil it lowerd my blood pressure..taken it with the medication made it too low..and i had to stop my medication.. but now my b/p is stabilized and i have alot more energy. and i lost a couple pounds without even trying.. i think people should ignore the mainstream media..and give this stuff a try..but it have to be organic

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  24. george

    Not sure if this recent peer reviewed study was discussed, but it does support the positive anecdotal claims made here. If you want to see the abstact for yourself, google pubmed and type in the appropriate keywords. Here’s a link to a summary of that study:

    http://www.naturalnews.com/026547_coconut_oil_fats_health.html

    If that link doesn’t work, just google coconut, women, cholesterol

    Reply
  25. dianna

    3 tablespoons a day is too much to start with!
    no wonder you have loose bowels.
    it is much better to start (any new thing) with a small amount – maybe 1 teaspoon or 1 tablespoon and see how you react and then slowly add more.

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  26. Dave

    Laura,
    I eat like you do. I am 43 and feel like I am in my twenties!

    I stopped eating well for about 8 months (Thought I was too busy to take the time!) My health and over all energy went to hell. Soon as i started eating right again, Bam! Feel fantastic.

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  27. Dave

    This is Retarded!

    It is not the fats. Its the processing that is killing Americans. Even the bad food that is pumped out of the factories as “healthy choice”.

    I love organic unprocessed coconut oil. I cook with it all the time. But I also love olive oil lightly on my salad. Hemp oil on my toast and a variety of other oils. It really depends upon what I am looking for in terms of taste.

    I am 43, fit and leaner than most men in their 20’s. The secret? Four years ago I started exercising and I stopped eating crappy food and started cooking for myself. I lost forty pounds in six months.

    Heavy on the greens, good quality meat and fish and light on the starchy carbs (I love good bread, but I have learned to have a slice or two and not devoure the whole loaf!).

    Americans need to stop looking for a easy excuse as to why they are a fat unhealthy lot and start putting more effort into what they consume and moving their bodies.

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  28. tselliott

    After about 6 months of switching to expeller pressed virgin coconut oil, real butter, and expeller pressed virgin olive oil in cooking (the coco oil in my fruit smoothies), I had my cholesterol levels checked. My Dr. called me personally he was so blown away. He said that my overall cholesterol was high- but in a good way. My bad cholesterol was the lowest he’d ever seen – and my good cholesterol was way high. So Coconut Oil does affect your cholesterol…for the good in my opinion. Going to try taking more now that I’ve read about the weight loss…

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  29. A. Lehman

    Mother had a stroke 5 years ago. Within this past year we started her on organic extra virgin coconut oil to supplement her diet. It is supposed to be good for the brain’s cognitive and metabolical function.

    Within the time frame of including coconut oil in her diet, she started to have uncontrollable urges to chew on anthing that was within her grasp including the telephone receiver. Everybody’ physical body is different and therefore would respond to foods, medication, vitaminss, herbs, etc.. differently. Even age plays a part on how we react to substances ingested.

    We plan to remove coconut oil from her diet to see what happens. Has anyone heard or experienced anything like this? The coconut oil may not be the problem but it will be the 1st start in figuring what is causing the ‘chewing anthing’ urge. She has broken 1 tooth from intensively chewing a sippy cup straw. Now, monitoring her new habit is essential.

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  30. AliBee

    I do wonder if the reaction you have experienced may actually be due to the way the coconut oil works against pathogenic microbes/fungus living in your throat and digestive tract.

    I got quite a bit of catarrgh when I first started using the oil but I put it down to a microbial reaction. Some people get obvious throat, nose, sinus problems, etc., when they first start on the oil but it usually abates after a period of continuous use.

    Changing the brand may help – it is surprising how different they can be.

    The current brand I have is going back (I won’t mention it in case it is just an isolated batch problem) – it tastes really soapy. Apparently that is indicative of stray lipase or moisture in the oil causing rancidity, and is suggestive of a problem in the manufacturing process.

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  31. AliBee

    Your symptoms may well be due to a die-off or ‘Herxheimer’ reaction of pathogenic microbes like Candida or something. It is not uncommon to experience this kind of reaction after starting on Coconut oil.

    The oil is a very strong anti-microbial, anti-fungal and anti-viral due to the properties of the Lauric and Capric Acids that cause the breakdown of the microbial cell walls.

    It is those factors that make coconut oil such a strong aid to health restoration. By destroying the microbes it removes them as a drain on our resources which means that we then are able to utilise far more of the nutrients we receive from our food and therefore benefit from higher energy levels.

    Along with the fact that the energy produced by the oil is in a form that can be more easily used by the liver and the cells and it tastes good too, it is beneficial all-round.

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  32. dianna

    i am 49 years old and have been eating virgin coconut oil for about 2 years. when i first started taking it i felt a warm rush for a few minutes. now i don’t feel that; but i did notice that my hands and feet have not been as cold nor was i as cold in the winter as usual.
    all the women in my family have some sort of thyroid problem. myself i am diabetic. for years i had very dry itchy skin and brittle hair. when i take the VCO regularly and use it on my skin and hair it is not dry.

    i tested this theory. i stopped using VCO for a month because i was tired of it. all of a sudden my hands and feet started getting very cold even though it was not cold in our house. i noticed myself wearing sweaters again and having to sleep with 2 blankets.

    so i went back to eating the VCO and i’m getting better. another thing i noticed is that i do not gain weight even if i eat 4 tablespoons of VCO a day – but when i recently added 2 tablespoons of olive oil to my diet i immediately gained weight. why is this? i thought raw olive oil would be just as good for you; in a different way.

    i love both oils and am happy to be able to use VCO for so many things. i eat VCO on oatmeal and on my breakfast toast with jelly.

    djh

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  33. dianna

    i use virgin coconut oil on my skin and also eat it. however, i have recently started eating olive oil a lot – because we found an italian deli here and have been eating sun-dried tomatoes and roasted red peppers in olive oil. well, i have gained weight from the olive oil! this is funny to me. i have frequently eaten up to 4 tablespoons of VCO a day and never gained weight and now i’ve actually gained weight by eating tomatoes and red peppers soaked in olive oil! i do love both oils though; and see no reason to quit using either one.
    djh

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  34. Ben ji

    I think that Brett has some good information and intelligent conclusion here. He may be suffering from a relative inability to quickly metabolize fats (weak/congested gall bladder/liver) and, as a result is sensitive to any concentrated amount. The fats get straight into his blood stream, causing coagulation of the blood in his capillaries and a resulting loss of oxygen in his extremities. If you examine the live blood under a microscope, you can see what I mean.

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  35. Ben ji

    What a confused statement! It looks like the author simply tagged the title “COCONUT OIL IS DANGEROUS” to an article about trans fats and hydrogenation of oils – there is no actual info presented here about coconut oil at all.

    Get your facts straight before you put the word “danger” in capitals.

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  36. cindy

    I’ve taken coconut oil and in three months I felt better than I had ever felt.I lost 30 pounds, my hair and skin improved and I had energy like never before.So whatever the doctors think I know it is good for you because I’m the proof.

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  37. Britdog

    Having been vegan for 20 years and eated tons of soya, both myself and my partner have ended up with hypothyroidism and that has to be down to all the phytoestrogens in soya, eating soya at all now makes both of us ill. It was only on reading about the effects of soya that I started to realize why my health was falling apart.

    Anyone that says that soya is good for you has been misinformed by the hype put out by the soya industry. Also it’s nothing but drivel to tell people to eat flax seed, a seed which actually has 3 times the thyroid destructive power of soya, unfortunately for me I usewd to eat a wide variety of foods that destroy the thyroid on the bs basis that they are healthy. As eat soya and flax for their healthy properties you might as well go and shovel up some dog crap and put it on your plate because both will kill you in time.

    It’s high time we had some real research done by people who aren’t in the pocket of some pharmo of agri monster company, research that actually sets out to find out what is safe to eat, not what gives some scumbag a profit by killing us.
    Governments like to blame us for our illhealth, the same Governments who take massive backhanders to pass toxic crap as safe. Well its about time we brought back the death penalty for treason, we should drag them and their corrupt scientists and corrupt governing officials to the gallows when they knowingly release toxins onto the market. If we had the guts to do that you’d see half the filth in the shops disappear overnight. You might think that hanging is a bit extreme, but think about all the poor people who have suffered nightmare lives and horrific deaths because of these scum. Countless millions in early graves while the vermin who put them there get away with billions upon billions in blood money. The reality is that the longer we do nothing the worse it will get and they haven’t even got started with GM yet.

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  38. Jodi

    How much should I give my children

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  39. Sharon

    My director at work actually told me about the Virgin coconut oil. He is also hyperthyroid. I really like coconut so I thought what the heck, I’ve tried a lot of stuff. I bought a container of Virgin coconut oil at the Vitamin store in the mall. It was, I think about $12.00. I think it’s good. I’ve only been on it for 4 days but I like it a lot and put it in a container so I can indulge in a tablespoon now and again at work. I am now taking 3 tablespoons per day. It may be in my head, but my sugar cravings have all but ceased. (I love sugar). And, my energy level appears to be a lot better but because I want it to work so badly, it may be in my head. I truly hope not. One girl said to try it on popcorn which I will because that is my favorite food. Good luck.

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  40. Jodi Strycharz

    Is it safe to give my children coconut oil and how can I incorporate it in our diets

    Reply