Coconut Pioneers: Mary Gertude Enig

Mary Enig iconoclast and champion of coconut oil

Mary Gertrude Enig is one of the first establishment figures in America to challenge the orthodox view that saturated fats in a diet increase the risks of heart disease. Her research clearly shows the importance of including fats such as coconut oil in a healthy diet. Enig at one point was a whistle blower when research data was altered to promote polyunsaturated fats. In many ways Mary Enig PhD is a pioneer for the cause of  coconut oil in the diet.

Not a Maverick

Mary Enig is not a maverick with an obscure educational history. Far from it; she is at the heart of the educational establishment in America. Enig attended the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP). She received an MS, and later a PhD in Nutritional Sciences in 1984. She was a faculty research associate at UMCP with the Lipids Research Group in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry from 1984 to 1991. She has published scientific papers on food fats and oils and is a former editor of the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.

Enig first caught the attention of the public with her early work on trans-fats. She was one of the first to warn that trans fatty acids lower the amount of good cholesterol (HDL) in the body and campaigned for proper labeling on food items to inform people of this. Her pressure helped to make this mandatory in the USA.

She soon established her position that butter and coconut oil were not bad as previously thought and did not lead to heart disease. She has been tireless advocate of using coconut oil in the diet. She cited from the research of Jon J. Kabara that showed that coconut oil has antimicrobial properties that could be used to treat HIV and other viral diseases.

She was also influenced by the work of Weston A. Price who advocated traditional diets that were often high in so called ‘saturated fats’. With Sally Fallon Enig wrote the book Eat Fat, Lose Fat in which she explained that butter, coconut oil, cream, lard and goose fat were all part of a healthy diet. She also posited that people on low fat diets were drained of energy and suffered from ‘fat deficiency’. This very much challenged the orthodoxy that polyunsaturated fats were healthy and that saturated fats were unhealthy.

Enig the whistle blower

In 1977 Mary G. Enig was invited to join a US Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs that was chaired by Senator George McGovern. The official conclusion of the committee stated that the consumption of saturated fats had been ‘related to 6 out 10 of the leading causes of death’ in the USA.

Enig blew the whistle on what she saw as a deliberate manipulation of data and stated that the Committee findings were inaccurate since the consumption of animal fats and in particular saturated fats had fallen since the Twentieth Century. She also showed that the data pointed to the fact that vegetable fat consumption increased the risk of cancer and that there was no correlation between animal fats and cancer. Enig did not mince her words in declaring that the analysts for the committee had manipulated data to obtain inaccurate results.

The power of the American agribusiness sector

Here clearly is an example of the power and influence of the agricultural sector in America. Corn and soy each take up 2% of America’s land mass and corn oil, soy oil and other vegetable oils are leading profit makers for America’s food Brahmins. Such is the power of agribusiness in America that they were able to ‘fix’ a report to suit their needs.

Mary Enig published a paper in 1978 explaining her findings. The edible oils industry were horrified and tried to discredit her. Enig continued her studies at the University of Maryland despite a deliberate lack of funding. Enig and a team of scientists analysed the amount of trans fats in food stuffs in America. They also sought to prove that trans fats interfered with enzymes that neutralized carcinogens. The work culminated in a paper in 1983 which showed that margarine contained between 31% and 45% trans fats. Shortenings found in cookies and baked products contained 35% trans fats. The paper concluded that the average America ate 12 grams of trans fats a day. This was in contradiction to the Institute for Shortening and Edible Oils (ISEO) that claimed Americans only had 6 to 8 grams of trans fats in their daily diet.

Europe supports Enigs findings

It was not until the 1990s that the mainstream media and the political machine in Washington started to take seriously what Enig and her colleagues at UMCP had been saying for nearly 20 years. The breakthrough came with a number of papers from Europe confirming Enig’s research that trans fats in vegetable oils and soy oil was causing cancer and heart disease.

Mary Enig is now regarded as one of the leading authorities on trans fats. Throughout she has been a tireless advocate for coconut oil in the diet. Recently she has taken up the subject of fighting AIDS through nutrition.

Mary Enig on the Forward Motion Show talking about trans fats, coconut oil etc.

Watch this youtube clip to get a quick idea of Mary Enigs ideas. The hostess of this show is a bit irritating but eventually she lets the scientist speak and then the facts and the conspiracy of saturated fat being bad for you comes out.