Canterbury GP Victoria Flight says nutritionally, coconut is a fascinating food Making coconut oil has proved therapeutic in more ways than one for a GP whose practice was destroyed in the big Christchurch earthquake, Katie Marriner reports.
Once Canterbury GP Victoria Flight started looking into the nutritional qualities of coconut oil, she became hooked. Now she has built a business, Blue Coconut, including a small factory, on the rural property at Little River where she lives with partner John Drew and their children.
Locals are employed to help with production, and Mr Drew, who has a business background, is also involved.
The venture came at a good time. In fact, Dr Flight says, it saved her. The couple's Christchurch practice, The Clinic, was destroyed when the CTV building collapsed in the February 2011 earthquake. Thirteen of The Clinic's staff were killed in the quake (New Zealand Doctor, 20 April 2011).
Blue Coconut meetings started at The Clinic in January 2011 but none of its staff were in the building at the time of the quake.
Dr Flight threw herself into the science and research side of the business last year. Research into saturated fats was part of a nutrition fellowship with the Australasian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine. She finished the fellowship in March.
Nutritionally, coconut oil is a fascinating food, Dr Fight says. It is high in saturated fat but does not contain cholesterol. It has a different composition from animal-based saturated fat, behaves differently in the body and has numerous health benefits.
Research suggests coconut oil use may ameliorate dementia and epilepsy because it acts as a fuel for the brain, she says.
It helps patients suffering from gut inflammation because it is hypoallergenic and does not require active transport across the gut.
The oil is stable when heated, and does not turn into "funny chemicals" at high temperatures, Dr Flight says. It is great for pan frying, roasting and baking.
Coconut oil can also be applied to the body like a moisturiser. Its antimicrobial properties are beneficial for skin conditions like eczema, dermatitis, nappy rash and, believe it or not, acne.
"You would think whacking oil on your face wouldn't be good for acne, but there is some good research on that," Dr Flight says.
Blue Coconut makes products specifically for household pets and horses. Coconut oil is good for animals that have been ill, or with arthritis or skin problems. In horses, the oil can help hoof problems; for racehorses it can provide energy.
Dr Flight is working as a locum GP, doing PRIME work and shifts at the Akaroa Medical Centre.
The business fits well with practising medicine. Dr Flight says it is great that it combines two of her interests, nutrition and health.