August 11, 2020
The virgin coconut oil introduced to the world by Filipinos 20 years ago has become part of the “Mito Food Plan,” an anti-inflammatory, therapeutic diet that boosts energy for chronic disease patients and anyone health-conscious.
The Mito (mitochondria) Food Plan (MFP) is now prescribed to patients going through treatment in Functional Medicine. This is a twentieth century medical field that claims to address root causes of complex diseases.
That appears to be conflicting with modern medicine, a discipline more focused on finding symptoms and treating such symptoms. But in fact, Functional Medicine supports modern medicine.
A Filipino Functional Medicine specialist revealed VCO now significantly accounts for the essential fatty acid component in MFP.
VCO is from coconut oil which is abundant in the Philippines where Dr. Raymond Yee Escalona, co-founder of the Life Science Center, practices Functional Medicine.
Yes VCO is fat. But isn’t fat bad?
After several decades when some advocates of the sugar industry promoted fat as bad and carbohydrates as good, now scientific evidences show otherwise.
This fat, VCO, is a now a major component too of the ketogenic diet, a more popular nutrition plan that is similarly high in fat as the MFP.
However, the good news about MFP is it may be the more appropriate diet for more people to boost the immune system, stay healthy, and maintain high level of physical and mental energy.
It may be used for the long term, whereas the ketogenic diet can just be apt for a shorter term, after achieving a certain goal.
With MFP, patients have kept normal blood sugar, blood pressure, triglycerides, and other health parameters with the body’s production of ketones as energy source in the diet.
As an alternative fuel to generate energy, ketones improve health better compared to glucose, the fuel produced from the intake of carbohydrates.
Functional medicine involves a combination of many treatment-related activities– diagnostics, detoxification, treatment of fungi, yeast, and harmful microorganisms, identifying cause of inflammation due to patient’s genetics, lifestyle, and environment. It involves fixing hormonal imbalance, and supplementation of macronutrients and micronutrients from food as medicine.
VCO has a unique role in MFP. It has the needed macronutrient fatty acid found to facilitate speedy production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the unit of stored energy in the body.
Food’s 50% role
Food, particularly in MFP, plays up half of the role in the treatment of patients, said Escalona.
“And it’s the most powerful medication in the planet (accounting for) 50% (treatment ) of patients. That nutritionally balanced plates, with whole live, unprocessed, toxin-free, culturally and locally available food is where we should be leading our patients,” said Escalona in his World Coconut Congress paper on “Twentieth Century Medicine.”
Mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell, has more presence in important organ systems of the body that need energy—muscle, liver, and brain.
“What we know is that to produce energy in the mitochondria, we need these fatty acids. Coconut comes into the fatty acid macronutrient,” said Escalona.
VCO contains around 60% MCT (medium chain triglyceride)– fatty acid molecules that are absorbed more easily into the bloodstream from the gastrointestinal tract.
“Coconut oil, a brain-healthy saturated fat that contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), supports mitochondrial function and may help to improve cognition and modulate inflammation,” according to the Institute of Functional Medicine.
“All organic and unprocessed coconut-based foods (oil, milk, water, grated, flour) have benefits, but caution should be used with sweetened versions. The oil, however, has more of the high quality fats we are striving for.”
MCT has smaller and lighter molecular weight.
They “do not require bile or pancreatic enzymes, are directly absorbed into portal circulation bound to albumin, and do not require carnitine for transport into the mitochondria. (Shah, et al).”
Medium chain fatty acids (MCFA) in the body are absorbed directly from the intestinal lining into the portal vein and sent into the liver for oxidation and used as energy source.
“Where glucose metabolism is believed to be impaired, and energy demand is high, alternative ketones from ketogenic diet and MCFAs can be taken up. They bypass the channel,” said Escalona.
Mito Food Plan
The Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM) described the Mito diet as an “anti-inflammatory, low-glycemic, gluten-free, low-grain, high-quality fats approach to eating.”
Under MFP, the use of MCT oil has to go with feeding the body with every micronutrient it needs.
“The body needs all the micronutrients and antioxidants –magnesium and carnitine;
iron and glutathione; Vitamin B2 and manganese; Vitamins B1, B5, B6, Vitamin C, and other nutrients to boost energy,” Escalona asserts.
The MFP uses a “whole food,” plant-based diet –raw or cooked food at their most natural form– as cure or prevention for disease. Intake of processed, preservatives-laden salty foods is discouraged.
Functional medicine considers in its treatment epigenetic (non-genetic) factors in the patient– nutrition, infection, toxic exposure . These factors contribute to the development of chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.
Functional medicine even looks into the environment the child was into while in conception.
“We have differences in short and long term development. By pre-programming genetics, we can have a good environment upon conception, we can pre-program health, said Escalona.
“(With) poor environment upon conception, maladies are preprogrammed – affecting development of the brain, metabolic system, and development of chronic disease,” said Escalona.
The practice starts with a comprehensive look into the lifestyle, eating, exercise, work habits, and stress factors surrounding the patient.
Functional medicine developed as the genome wide association sequencing genome (GWAS) technology came up in 2003 when the human genome was mapped.
“All the scientists in the world hugged this genome sequencing machine and decided to sequence everything in the human body.”
Scientists sequenced the DNA, RNA, protein metabolites, and specific macronutrients carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
The Functional Medicine concept relates that genetics takes up about 20% of the blame for the disease, and the environment, 80%.
When the treatment goes down to the cellular level, when genetic factors are considered, then the condition of mitochondria, the center of production of ATP, is targeted.
“At cellular level, we’re looking more into mitochondrial dysfunction—fatigue, low energy in the cell. We’re looking into high loads of immune response, toxin overload (mercury, aluminun, antimony), and hormonal imbalance, food sensitivities, infractions in the breath (oxygen in the body) and sleep,” said Escalona.
Stimulation of the brain cells is also important.
“We need to stimulate the neurologic system to exercise brain function. The moment you stop is the moment you start losing brain cells.”
Glucose, in the form of sugar intake, should be regulated. Sugar consumption should not be excessive so as to avoid ups and downs of glucose level that causes loss of energy when it is in the down level.
Escalona himself has seen MFP restore patients’ health.
One of his patients confesses significant health recovery after a year and a half of treatment under Functional Medicine, “Some days I wake up, and I feel I never had been sick in the first place. I’ve been to more than 10 doctors. And with Functional Medicine, I’m now able to drive. I’ve also started going back to the office—one to two days a week. The other day I was able to walk in front of my house for the first time in three years.”
In MFP, doctors approach patients’ treatment at the cellular level.
“We’re trying to create more synaptic integrity, more neural networks. We’re trying to create more bioenergy. We’re trying to reduce the toxin loads or reactive oxygen species. And that’s settled in this neuroprotection. (We facilitate) mitochondrial resuscitation because every cell in our body has mitochondria,” he said.
Along with enough supply of macronutrients (proteins, fats, carbohydrates), MFP provides one with ample amount of B vitamins, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), and antioxidants.
The right food includes a combination of phytonutrient-rich vegetables and fruits, fats and oils.
The following is a guide on the Mito diet by IFM.
- Certain vegetables, spices, and quality proteins enables one to obtain important antioxidants such as glutathione, vitamin C, and N-acetyl cysteine.
“The more you can use a variety of spices and phytonutrients (nutrients from plants) in your diet, the more you enhance the production of glutathione and other antioxidants that are critical for cell protection from destructive free radicals.”
2. Eating 8–12 servings daily of whole, colorful vegetables and fruits guarantees a generous supply of anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, minerals, and vitamins, without added sugars.
“Vegetables should be the primary focus, especially the bitter foods in the cruciferous family (broccoli, watercress and arugula) that have strong anti-inflammatory effects.”
2. Eating polyphenol-rich foods such as blueberries, strawberries, and walnuts have been found to sharpen cognitive function and decrease inflammation.
These help in the prevention of Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease.
“The spice turmeric contains the powerful anti-inflammatory substance curcumin.
People who eat curry, which contains turmeric, score better on cognitive tests.
3. Higher cognitive function has also been observed in people whose diet have a variety of high quality dietary fats such as DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). This quality fat is found in seaweed, egg yolks, and cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, cod, and sardines.
“Consuming adequate omega-3 fats, critical to the support of the brain’s mitochondria helps in burning fat to produce cellular energy. DHA also assists with communication between neurons and decreases inflammation, necessary for optimal brain health.”
4. Eating food with low calories also strengthens nerves.
“Eating fewer calories than required by your basal metabolic rate (BMR) allows the brain to make new neurons by decreasing free radicals, enhancing the ability to generate ATP for energy, and increasing the number of mitochondria present.” Melody Mendoza Aguiba