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PCA: Timidity or creativity

The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) is at a crossroads. It has to choose between being timid and confront the powerful American Heart Association (AHA), or being creative and search for a win-win solution.

Coconut is an export product. Virgin coconut oil (VCO) is its top non-traditional export. Top importers are the United States accounting for 60 percent, followed by Netherlands, Canada, and Germany at 10 percent each, and Japan at 5 percent.

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But our VCO exports are endangered because of an AHA Presidential Advisory issued last month. It stated that consumers who wanted to avoid cardiovascular disease (CVD) should decrease saturated fats, including coconut oil, in their diet.

The AHA said, “The fatty acid profile of coconut oil is 82 percent saturated. Because coconut oil increases LDL cholesterol, a cause of CVD and has no off-setting favorable effects, we advise against the use of coconut oil.”

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This was the same misleading campaign against coconut oil that was launched in 1980. Now, 30 years later, it is happening again. Why? Probably because the health and wellness consciousness that is sweeping the United States and other countries is favoring VCO over other alternatives.

The AHA says coconut oil has no “off-setting favorable effects.” But according to Rafael Guerrero III, “more than 1,500 studies have found that VCO is good for you. It combats Alzheimer’s disease, reduces inflammation and arthritis, improves memory and brain functions, prevents osteoporosis, and promotes weight loss.”

Defective research

The claim that VCO increases the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) is also without merit. A closer look at the defective research will show that VCO does not in any way increase CVD. Dr. Fabian Dayrit, chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee for Health, Asian and Pacific Community, proves this with scientific evidence.

In a June 19, 2017 document titled “The Warning on Saturated Fat: From Defective Experiments to Defective Guidelines” (www.icp.org.ph – 2017/06), Dayrit showed the AHA claim was severely flawed. No distinction was made between medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) and long chain fatty acids (LCFAs). It is the LCFAs that have the alleged dangers, not the MCFAs. VCO is in the MCFA category. To not consider this important distinction is almost criminal. This is because a statement condemning VCO with no justifiable basis will decrease our VCO exports significantly. This will jeopardize current and future jobs for our already impoverished 3.5 million coconut farmers.

But that is not all. Other defects are that the study used hydrogenated coconut oil, instead of VCO, as a basis for condemning coconut oil. Hydrogenation, because of its nature, produces harmful transfats. But the VCO we offer is not hydrogenated, and therefore does not produce these transfats. Simply put, the study based its conclusion on the wrong kind of coconut oil.

Another of its several defects is that VCO is lumped together with animal fats in its cross-country study to justify AHA’s position opposing VCO. But coconut oil was an insignificant portion in this study. Consider the table below:

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AREA ANIMAL FATS COCONUT OIL
Northern Europe 68% 6%
Southern Europe 36% 2%
USA 50% 3%

Because of the above findings, the Agri-Fisheries Alliance (AFA), spearheaded by Coalition for Agriculture Modernization in the Philippines (CAMP) chair Emil Javier, president Ben Peczon and Alyansa Agrikultura leader and Coconut Industry Reform Movement (COIR) executive director Joey Faustino, has moved quickly to expand its roster of allies. An example is the Management Association of the Philippines-Agribusiness and Countryside Development Foundation (MAP-ABCD) chaired by Ramon Ilusorio. But these private sector efforts will have limited effectiveness unless the government’s PCA takes on a creative, rather than a timid, stance.

PCA role

Timidity on PCA’s part will leave unchallenged AHA’s Presidential Advisory. This will mean less jobs for our coconut farmers. PCA’s creativity can include a win-win solution by requesting AHA to amend its advisory with the help of the research provided by Dr. Dayrit and other prominent scientists.

If AHA does not respond, and it can be proven that there are vested interests funding a fallacy, a court case can be filed in the United States to correct this situation. This will receive widespread attention, allow the truth to be revealed, and set our coconut farmers free.

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TAGS: American Heart Association (AHA), coconut, export product, Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA)
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