A blog maintained by Tevita Kete, PGR Officer
Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Suva, Fiji Islands
This weblog documents the activities of Pacific Agricultural Genetic Resources Network (PAPGREN), along with other information on plant genetic resources (PGR) in the Pacific.
The myriad varieties found within cultivated plants are fundamental to the present and future productivity of agriculture. PAPGREN, which is coordinated by the Land Resources Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), helps Pacific countries and territories to conserve their crop genetic diversity sustainably, with technical assistance from the Bioversity International (BI) and support from NZAID and ACIAR.
SPC also hosts the Centre of Pacific Crops and Trees (CEPaCT). The CEPaCT maintains regional in vitro collections of crops important to the Pacific and carries out research on tissue culture technology. The CEPaCT Adviser is Dr Mary Taylor (MaryT@spc.int), the CEPaCT Curator is Ms Valerie Tuia (ValerieT@spc.int).
PAPGREN coordination and support
Mr William Wigmore
Mr Adelino S. Lorens
Dr Lois Englberger
Mr Apisai Ucuboi
Dr Maurice Wong
Mr Tianeti Beenna Ioane
Mr Frederick Muller
Mr Herman Francisco
Ms Rosa Kambuou
Ms Laisene Samuelu
Mr Jimi Saelea
Mr Tony Jansen
Mr Finao Pole
Mr Frazer Bule Lehi
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Thursday, July 13, 2006
Posted 5:06 PM by Luigi
Coconut and health
VERENAISI RAICOLA, Fiji Times, Friday, July 14, 2006
THERE is a misconception that coconut is unhealthy.
The encouraging news is that it is not.
Instead, coconuts have many health benefits and believe it or not, prevents many lifestyle diseases.
Our ancestors not so long ago used every part of the coconut tree from the top of the leaf to the bottom of the tree.
Coconut oil, flesh, milk and other products have been staple diets of our people.
But since people became more conscious of their health, coconut oil has been blindly considered unhealthy.
That is why many people associate coconut oil and milk with heart diseases.
But the perception must now change thanks to a study conducted by Doctor Bruce Fife who was engaged by the Coconut Industry Development Authority to speak on coconuts and its advantages in Fiji.
Today, Dr Bruce is the world's leading expert on coconut.
He is the director of the Coconut Research Centre, a non-profit organisation dedicated to educating the public and the scientific community on the nutritional and health benefits of coconut.
Dr Bruce said many thought that coconut oil was unhealthy and promoted heart diseases but it was a wrong perception.
"In fact, unsaturated coconut oil is good for the body. Doctors do not know the difference because they are not nutritionists.
"But there is a difference. The fat in coconut oil is known as medium chain fatty acid.
"Other oils in food are made up of a long chain of fatty acids so it really has a size difference," he said.
Dr Bruce said the body processed fats differently depending on size.
"They digest differently, grow in the body differently and have different effects on blood flow," he said.
Dr Bruce, who used to believe that coconut oil was harmful saturated fat, changed his mind after researching coconut oil.
"I could not find anything negative about coconut oil.
"Information I found showed coconut oil protected against heart diseases and this is natural coconut oil, not chemically altered."
Dr Bruce said a remarkable aspect was that coconut oil had the ability to kill diseases causing bacteria, virus and fungus.
"The medium chain fatty acid in coconut oil is identical to the fatty acid in breast milk.
"So coconut oil and breast milk are similar because they contain the same fat.
"That is the primary reason breast milk protects babies from infectious diseases because of fatty acid. Coconut oil contains the same fatty acid that kills bacteria which causes throat infection, ear infection, sinus infection, urinary tract infections, pneumonia, fungus that cause ringworm and athlete's foot.
"It also kills virus that causes influenza, measles, herpes, hepatitis C and kills HIV.
Doctor Bruce said this was confirmed at a clinical study in the Philippines where HIV patients were given three and a half tablespoons of coconut oil a day without any other treatment.
"In three months they were showing signs of recovery so this was the first stage that showed that coconut oil had a antiviral effect in human beings.
"That is why there is a multi-national study in Africa right now using coconut oil as a treatment for HIV but it would be a couple of years before there are results on that," he said.
Dr Bruce said coconut oil prevented heart diseases, dissolved kidney stones, controlled diabetes, enhanced the immune system, prevents heart disease, increases the metabolism rate and loses excessive body fat, contrary to our beliefs.
He recommended people to use coconut oil in their everyday cooking because it is heat stable.
"The nut can be eaten raw and the cream is excellent," he said.
Coconut Industry development Authority chairman Ken Roberts said more people needed to be aware of the potential benefits of planting more coconuts.
"More important, we would have more healthy people and we need not worry so much about exporting coconuts as we would end up eating all ourselves," Mr Roberts said.
He boasts that after having virgin coconut oil scoops for the past couple of months he has managed to lose five kilograms.
"Virgin coconut oil is different because it is pure with the least amount of mechanical processing-similar to what our grandmothers made," he said.
Mr Roberts said coconut oil gave him a feeling of fullness and that was why he did not eat much but managed to lose weight painlessly.
His message to Fiji is: "Plant more coconuts it is healthy and has been used for centuries without harmful effects try it."
Organic Pacific Ltd director Peni Drodrolagi who manages an indigenous company that produces cold-pressed virgin coconut oil.
The processed coconut oil will soon be available in local supermarkets and for export.
Mr Drodrolagi said Fijians needed to be more aggressive in doing business to succeed.
Mr Drodrolagi, a former general manager for Shell, said people undermined coconuts not knowing it had many values.
He left a highly paid job to work with rural village communities to produce coconut oil.
"Fiji Niu oil is unrefined and made from hand- picked coconuts through direct micro expelling technology designed specifically for coconuts.
"As a consequence technology produces natural coconut oil of vastly superior quality with no chemicals used to produce the product."
Mr Drodrolagi said he preferred to set up the coconut business instead of joining politics because he wanted to give more back to the community.
"I have two daughters who have a passion for agriculture and who are in the business.
"That is why I prefer to work and operate a family-based business that helps villages in Taveuni and Moala in the Lau group.
"This business is great but the biggest obstacle is finding the starting point," said Mr Drodrolagi.
"That is why it is a real struggle for Fijians to start a business, unlike the Gujeratis who had great business networking skills.
"We are at a disadvantage because unlike the Gujeratis who run family businesses, we start on our own without proper financial channels to help us progress further in this arena."
Mr Drodrolagi said he had no regret establishing the family business because in eight weeks he is able to spend one week in Moala or Taveuni with his relatives who produce virgin coconut oil.
"Our coconut oil is produced in a totally different way we take small scale processing to the nuts rather than taking the nuts in debased forms to a large scale processor.
"We concentrate on small and manageable, daily batches and this allow us to produce oil on average, within one to two hours of opening the coconuts."
He said the process depended on simple, easily learned skills rather than sophisticated equipment.
"This makes it ideal for rural communities, creating regular, meaningful employment for the entire villages.
"Now we know why the coconut tree is sometimes called the tree of life.
"It meets so many basic needs including food and can be used to make shelter and fuel.
"All these are some of the reasons why people should see the humble coconut in a different way," said Dr Bruce the coconut expert.
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