Bertil Wosk

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We ask Bertil Wosk: Does coconut oil really live up to its claimed health properties?

Yet again, coconut oil is the subject of the day. All of us at FP use coconut oil when we cook and we frequently receive inquiries about whether or not it actually stands up to the many alleged health claims. Most recently, a reader sent a link to this article in Aftonbladet and asked if we could comment. In the article Karin Michels, a professor at Harvard, states that coconut oil is poisonous.

 

In order to properly immerse ourselves in the topic we asked nutritionist Bertil Wosk if he could give his opinion on the matter. Today we share his reply.

– How do you view using coconut oil, Bertil?

Karin Michels claims in the article that coconut oil is a poison. The focal point is that coconut oil is like butter and lard in that it is dangerous due to its high concentration of saturated fat (92% saturated fat). Saturated fats are considered by some medical experts to be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

There are good fats ​​and bad fats. And there is also good saturated fat and bad saturated fat, as well as good and bad polyunsaturated fats. The body needs saturated, unsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Polyunsaturated fatty acids such as omega-3 and omega-6 are important because they form prostaglandins that act as local hormones and are very potent. However, too much polyunsaturated fats are not good either.

Saturated fat is important for several reasons, one of which is as an energy reserve. Both saturated fats and cholesterol are part of the makeup of  the cell membrane for all cells and fulfill an important function. But all saturated fats are not equal. Short chain saturated fatty acids are not stored as fat in the body but are broken down directly and used as energy by the cells. And short chain saturated fatty acids are found, for example, in coconut oil and butter, which Karin Michels and Sweden’s Food Administration warn for in Aftonbladet’s article. But these short chain fatty acids found in coconut oil and butter are also used as nutrition by good bacteria in the intestine, and assist these good bacteria in propagating and in turn helping to strengthen the intestinal mucosa. They are therefore beneficial. Of course, you can overdo these fatty acids just like anything else, but it has not proved to be of any major concern so far.

The main issue is that Karin Michels, like the Food Administration, assumes that all saturated fat is dangerous. So the conclusion is drawn that, if all saturated fat is dangerous, butter and coconut oil which have more saturated fat than other fats are then most dangerous. But that conclusion stands unsupported, there are still no studies showing a related link between saturated fat and cardiovascular disease.

Karin Michel’s statement has also been criticized, for example here and here.

Personally, I recommend using only butter and coconut oil because they contain the good forms of saturated fat. As well as olive oil which is rich in omega-9 and contains a lot of antioxidants. Other oils like soy, corn, sunflower, safflower and rapeseed oil, I believe should be used with care because they contain far too much omega-6, which can be a problem as it contributes to inflammation. Rapeseed oil contains 10% omega-3, but also twice as much omega-6. If you want to have a lot of omega-3 from the plant kingdom, I recommend linseed oil that has about 60% omega-3.

Butter has been eaten for centuries all over the world and coconut oil is and has been a staple for millions of people in Asia for hundreds of years, both without giving rise to problems. It is however important that coconut oil is virgin oil and not refined, bleached and deodorized coconut oil. The latter has been shown to have harmful effects that virgin coconut oil does not have.

The increased rate of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as well as most other chronic diseases, is not due to saturated fats but to processed industrial food, especially fast carbohydrates. If any fat is poisonous, it is margarine which is an unnatural industrial-made product that does not belong in a kitchen.

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Bertil Wosk

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Let’s Ask Bertil Wosk: Can You Have Too Many Antioxidants?

A while ago, we received a tricky question about antioxidants. And, what do we do when we get tricky questions? Well, we send them to nutritional therapist Bertil Wosk.

– Hi Bertil!

We received a question from a reader about antioxidants and smoothies that we were unable to answer. In an episode of Trust Me I’m a Doctor (BBC), a volunteer was asked to drink an antioxidant-rich smoothie. The doctors took blood samples right before, and then continued to analyze the blood for 24 hours. After an initial rise in the antioxidant status, the concentrations fell below the levels seen before the smoothie. And after 24 hours, they were back to normal. Apparently, the body has a mechanism to deal with the sudden rise in antioxidants, and “unnecessary” antioxidants in the blood are quickly removed. We drink lots of antioxidant-rich smoothies and can’t help but wonder: Can you have too many antioxidants?

Good question! Antioxidants inhibit oxidation, a chemical reaction that can produce free radicals. And when antioxidants are unavailable, the free radicals can damage the cells. For proper physiological function, the body needs access to both oxidants and antioxidants. There has to be a balance. It’s the same with almost everything in the body – think about the balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, for example. Unfortunately, most people have too little of both antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids.

The antioxidants from the smoothie is quickly taken into the blood, but then the body works to return its antioxidant levels to the ideal. It’s the same with sugar – it causes a spike and then a sudden dip. After a while the level of both antioxidants and sugar in the blood will be back to normal.

You might think that getting more antioxidants is better. But antioxidants aren’t the only thing that keeps us healthy. And as I said, it’s a matter of balance. More is not always better. But if you drink a green smoothie, you will not only get the antioxidants. Provided that it contains good things, you get, in addition to antioxidants, a lot of vitamins, minerals, fibers, water and many other things that are also useful. A diet that is naturally rich in a mix of antioxidants is something to aim for. For example, try to mix at least three colors each time you eat vegetables. Different colors contain different antioxidants, which additionally have the great ability to strengthen each other if eaten together.

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Let’s Ask Bertil Wosk: Should You Filter Your Water?

It’s time for another segment of “let’s ask Bertil Wosk” here on the blog. Finally! Our dear friend Bertil, nutrition guru and founder of the supplement brand Holistic, is as wise as an owl. The last question was about eggs and this time, we asked him to tell us about tap water.

– Do we need to filter our drinking water?

I wish I could say no, but tap water can contain toxic chemicals you don’t want to consume. Here in Sweden, it’s a modern problem that did not exist 50 years ago. The wastewater treatment plants kill bacteria and remove contaminants (larger particles) from raw water to produce water that is pure enough for human consumption. Ultraviolet (UV) light, for example, has been used to disinfect water supplies for many years.

Most contaminants are filtered out or killed at treatment plants, but since wastewater treatment plants are not designed to remove chemicals, many industrial toxins still manage to sneak through. The treatment plants are only able to remove urine, faeces and toilet paper – that’s it. And therefore, unused drugs, pharmaceuticals, household cleaners and skincare products should never be flushed.

Unfortunately, our urine also contains toxins and chemicals. Many of them come from pharmaceuticals, or they’re excess estrogen from birth control pills. Other toxins that wastewater treatment plants are not designed to remove are xenoestrogens (a type of xenohormone that imitates estrogen), pesticides and Bisphenol A (BPA). Even though chemicals are present in trace amounts, we drink approximately 2-3 liters of water daily, and ingestion over a longer period of time can have significant health consequences.

– Is bottled water better?

Most bottled water is just tap water in a plastic bottle. Basically, you are paying to drink tap water. Bottled spring water is better, but you should still consider BPA, a chemical used in some plastic bottles. Some experts believe that BPA can leach from the plastic into the liquid inside.

This may sound like a lot, but remember, water is essential to your health. Drinking a lot of water every day is incredibly important for keeping both body and mind working in optimum condition. One glass of wine or a piece of chocolate won’t damage your health, but changing your daily habits may actually change your life. In the future, when the earth is clean and healthy, this will be a non-issue. Hopefully, that day will be here soon.

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Let’s Ask Bertil Wosk: How Healthy Are Eggs?

Remember Bertil Wosk, the founder of the supplement brand Holistic, who provided us with the recipe for his very own witches’ brew a couple of months ago? It’s time for a new segment on the blog and we call it “let’s ask Bertil Wosk”. He knows everything and is kind enough to answer some of our questions.

– We’re curious about eggs. How will they affect your health? Is it all bad, or is it okay to eat eggs now and then?

It depends on who you’re asking. A vegan will say NO because they’re animal products. Many vegans avoid honey as well. But nutrient-wise, both eggs and honey (in reasonable amounts) are good for you. Eggs are a nutrition powerhouse. They contain high quality protein, minerals, vitamins, and lecithin, which contains necessary nutrients for bodily functions and is especially good for the nervous system and the brain. However, foods that are high in protein, such as eggs, meat and fish, lead the body to produce excess acid. But you can compensate by eating lots of vegetables. Some say that eggs contain harmful bacteria (similar to those in meat and fish), but if you’re healthy, that shouldn’t be a problem. Especially if the eggs are boiled or cooked.

Because they’re high in cholesterol, eggs have gotten a bad reputation. Well, we need to sort this out. There is no evidence that cholesterol is bad for you. On the contrary, cholesterol production is incredibly important, and 80% of the cholesterol in you body is in fact manufactured in the liver. Only about 20% comes from the foods you eat. Also, your cholesterol levels are more influenced by fast carbs (carbohydrates that digest quickly), than eggs. In general, people who eat a lot of fast-digesting carbs have higher cholesterol levels, than, for example, people on LCHF diets.

To sum up, eggs are not the villains they have been made out to be. In fact, they’re probably healthier than most foods on the store shelves. Okay, a varied raw food diet is probably more beneficial to your health, but eggs are not the reason chronic diseases are on the rise.

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