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The Coconut-Cholesterol Relation (The C C Relation)
By Dr. Mohan Shenoy

         Cholesterol is formed in the liver from fats absorbed from intestines. There is need for bile acids to be formed from cholesterol to send them back to the intestines to facilitate digestion of food substances. This is done by the liver which by degrading cholesterol converts them into bile acids. Cholesterol esters are also formed in the liver and travel to various parts of the body.

        Now the cholesterol level in the serum is estimated by a chemical reaction. Blood is collected from a vein in the forearm. Serum is obtained after allowing the blood to clot and separating the clot to obtain what is left, i.e. serum. This serum is subjected to enzyme reaction and development of a colour. The intensity of the colour is measured. If the cholesterol level is high then the colour is dark; if low, light. This is the total cholesterol estimation.

        After total cholesterol, we have to give attention to the two kinds of cholesterol viz. the High Density cholesterol (heavy cholesterol, HDL) and Low Density cholesterol (light cholesterol, LDL). The HDL does not rush itself to form plaques in the arteries while the LDL does. The plaque formation is easy with LDL. More the LDL, the quicker the plaque formation. Plaques harden the arteries and thickens the wall of the arteries leading to a block in the blood-flow. If the coronary arteries of the heart get blocked the patient may die. Therefore it is better to have enough HDL and low levels of LDL.

        The coconuts are an important part of the diet of the Gowda Saraswath Brahmins (GSBs). The GSBs also use coconut oil for cooking. In the western countries the GSBs have a high incidence of heart attack because of coronary artery disease. The GSBs were eating quite a lot of coconuts and using quite an amount of coconut oil. Some one said that there is a relation between the coconuts and the cholesterol, the C-C relation. They suggested that the use of coconuts and coconut oils should be stopped to reduce the incidence of heart attack among the GSBs.

        However, the research done by Indian scientists at the University of Kerala has revealed why the GSBs in India do not have a higher incidence of heart attack than the average population. The scientists, Padmakumaran, Rajamohan and Kurup have discovered that the coconut kernel contains a good protein that reduces formation of fat in the liver and in the intestines. If the coconut kernel is not consumed and only the coconut oil is consumed then there is an adverse effect. There will be increase in cholesterol level in blood. But if the coconut kernel is also consumed then there is a significant decrease in the total cholesterol level, increase in the HDL and decrease in LDL; there is also decrease in the level of Triglycerides according to the Kerala scientists. Coconut kernel causes increase in the cholesterol degradation in the liver to produce bile acids. Esterification of cholesterol is decreased also. Coconut kernel fed to rats reduced the serum levels of cholesterol, phospholipids and triglycerides. High levels of cholesterol, phospholipids and triglycerides are not desirable in humans because it leads to atherosclerosis and later to heart disease and stroke.

        The coconut kernel is rich in fibres and provides an ideal dietary constituent for man and therefore GSBs who consume plenty of coconut kernels are benefited. Those GSBs who live in the coastal regions of south India use a lot of coconut in their cooking. Coconut provides good health to these people with its properties of reducing the cholesterol level in blood and acting as roughage in the intestines.

        The coconut-cholesterol (C-C) relation is good for all people if they consume limited quantity of coconut oil and plenty of coconut kernel. The benefits of coconut kernel are always there whether coconut oil is consumed at the same time or not. But if the oil is consumed then it is likely that it might increase the level of cholesterol unless coconut kernel is also consumed along with the oil. Regular consumption of Coconut kernel keeps the cholesterol level down in those people who otherwise have raised levels of cholesterol. The rise in cholesterol could be due to intake of either coconut oil or any other fatty diet. In all cases the coconut kernel reduces the cholesterol levels to normal.

        Coconut kernel is best used as a masala ingredient. When we use any masala powder to make any side-dish, then we add the powder directly to the dish either in the beginning or at the end of the cooking. But if we grind the masala powder with twice or thrice the quantity of coconut kernel, then the mixture gives a thickness and consistency to the dish that is indescribable. Add this mixture to the dish instead of the masala alone. This is one of the ways to use coconut kernel in our cooking. Coconut milk obtained by grinding the coconut shreds and then straining it through a cloth is deficient in the fibres but rich enough in kernel protein.