OBAMA: My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we the people have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our founding documents. Read the rest of this entry »

Medical Mysteries: Conditions and cases that have baffled doctors

I borrowed from MSN. Call center agents, check on Fatal Familial Insomnia below. It says, just a single night of missed sleep, you can expect a day of blurred vision, difficulty concentrating and gastrointestinal distress. Just read on.

I will continue posting health related articles and success tips. Note that health and success go hand in hand. Succes is nothing if a person is sickly. We can do it!


By Rich Maloof for MSN Health & Fitness


The human body is a fantastically intricate system. Even with some of the finest minds on the planet exploring the depths of its complexity, our anatomy still holds many secrets. We are reminded of how little we really understand when strange abnormalities arise. Here is a brief look at nine remarkable—and tragic—mysteries that have stymied modern medicine.

Phineas Gage

A View Into the Brain

© Courtesy of Harvard medical School/AP

In September 1848, railroad foreman Phineas Gage was packing sticks of dynamite into a rock with a heavy tamping rod. The dynamite exploded, sending the 3-foot 7-inch iron rod through his left cheekbone—and out the top of his head. Incredibly, his crewmen found him fully conscious and coherent, eager to get on his feet. He was rushed to Dr. John Marlow, who inserted fingers through Gage’s head and face, touching them together, before patching up the scalp and cheek flesh of his miracle patient. Gage recovered completely.

Doctors marveled that he survived at all. But the great contribution to science came with the realization that Gage later became a more violent and angry man after the front part of his brain had been traumatized. Never before had personality been identified with a specific part of the brain. The discovery paved the way for future understanding of brain functions.

Gage ran through our minds again in 2005 when construction worker Patrick Lawler fell down a staircase carrying a nail gun. Talk show audiences were amazed to see a fully recovered Lawler describing X-ray images of a 4-inch nail standing upright above his jaw. Lawler had used Advil to put off a “toothache” for six days before he realized there was a nail in his face.

Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva

The Second Skeleton

© Najlah Feanny/Corbis

Though FOP is extremely rare, cases have been documented as far back as the 17th century. More than 300 years later, physicians are still at a loss to explain what causes soft tissue in FOP patients to turn to bone.

The earliest sign of FOP is malformed toes, such as the toes of a little girl shown here. But the real damage is done in the coming years as muscles, tendons and ligaments in the neck, back and shoulder ossify. Connective tissue in the knees, hip and elbow can also turn to bone, locking limbs permanently in position. Attempts to surgically remove the new bones results in even more bone formation.

Unfortunately, it gets worse. Although people with FOP can live into their 70s, the disease is progressive, as the “progressiva” part of the name indicates. More FOP bones grow over time, often in response to injury. With an “extra skeleton” growing in the body, the FOP patient finds it ever more difficult to move.


Sensorial Crossroads

To be expressive with language, we often use metaphors that borrow from the senses: Earth tones are “warm,” and a brass section sounds “bright.” For people with synesthesia, the crossing of senses is not metaphorical but literal. Synesthetics may hear colors, see sound or smell numbers. Dr. Richard Cytowic, author of The Man Who Tasted Shapes, undertook his study after a friend cooking dinner exclaimed that “there aren’t enough points on the chicken.”

Synesthesia is not considered to be a disease (though it has not been well studied, either) and tends to affect people who are bright and colorful—er, that is, people who are intelligent and creative.

Congenital Erythropoietic Porphyria

Hypersensitivity to Light

© Jim Bryant/AP

Fewer than 200 cases of congenital erythropoietic porphyria have ever been documented, and not just because physicians can’t pronounce the name. Due to a gene mutation, the skin becomes extremely sensitive to sunlight. Areas of exposed skin can become blistered and infected. Sunlight exposure can also lead to scarring, changes in skin pigmentation and increased hair growth. Such symptoms have unfairly linked people suffering from the condition with the lore of vampires and werewolves. On overcast or very cold winter days, the symptoms of congenital erythropoietic porphyria (also called erythropoietic protoporphyria) are sometimes attenuated, allowing some safe exposure to indirect sunlight.


The Stone Baby

© Simon Kwong/Reuters

It sounds horribly tragic, but the rare medical phenomenon of the stone baby results from a process that protects a woman after a failed pregnancy.

When a fertilized egg attaches anywhere outside the uterus (an abdominal or ectopic pregnancy), the fetus may begin to grow but cannot survive. Under very rare conditions the miscarried fetus is neither expelled nor reabsorbed. Instead, it calcifies—effectively turning to “stone”—which protects the mother from infection.

Lithopedions have been mistaken for benign tumors or ignored by mothers who may not even have known they’d been pregnant. In one case, surgeons found a stone baby in a 76-year-old woman who had apparently been carrying it for 50 years.

Fish Odor Syndrome (a.k.a. Stale Fish Syndrome or TMAU)

If you think the odor of rotting fish is offensive down on the docks, imagine it on your breath. The same chemical that causes stale fish to smell bad, trimethylamine, is naturally derived from our diet, and the body’s normal metabolism is supposed to break the chemical down. When it does not, as is the case with TMAU sufferers, the buildup is eventually excreted through urine, saliva and perspiration. Cruelly, the chronic condition tends to worsen around puberty. While there are no inherent physical dangers associated with TMAU, there’s no cure and the social and psychological toll on adolescents and adults can be devastating.


A Real Case of Creepy Crawlies?

© Rich Pedroncelli/AP

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have yet to recognize Morgellons as a legitimate disease, but there is no doubt for the 7,500 people nationwide who are plagued by a crawling sensation on their skin and intensely itchy lesions. The description of Morgellons is not entirely unlike scabies or lice, both of which are parasitic conditions. But the real head-scratcher is the appearance of mysterious fibers that seem to grow under the skin. Skeptics, noting that most Morgellons sufferers also experience cognitive or behavioral problems, have suggested the condition is psychological. But they’re at a loss to explain the documented finding of these strange fibers (shown here at the tip of a pen) that apparently bear no relation to cotton, wool or synthetic fibers. The Morgellons Research Foundation continues to urge the CDC to assign an investigative task force.

Fatal Familial Insomnia

When Can’t Sleep Kills

Lose just a single night’s sleep and you can expect a day of blurred vision, difficulty concentrating and gastrointestinal distress. In 1959, disc jockey Peter Tripp deprived himself of sleep for more than eight days as part of a publicity stunt, and he became paranoid, incoherent and believed he saw kittens and bunnies at his feet.

For the world’s handful of families with this type of insomnia, the symptoms are progressively and exponentially worse. Their continued lack of sleep leads first to panic attacks, then to hallucinations, then to full-on dementia. Eventually, they die from lack of sleep.

In the 28 families identified, a dominant gene leaves offspring with a 50 percent chance of acquiring the disease. FFI was first diagnosed by an Italian doctor in 1979, and it was nearly 20 years before scientists understood that it was caused by a mutated protein. The mutation leads to a buildup of plaque in the part of the brain that regulates sleep.

5-Alpha Reductase Deficiency

Nature’s Sex Change

The Intersex Society of America estimates that one of every 2,000 American children are born with an intersex disorder, so defined when one’s sexual anatomy does not fall neatly into the male or female category. 5-ARD is one such condition, and is due to an in utero complication with how a male fetus’ system uses testosterone. As a result, the newborn baby has male chromosomes but tends either to have “ambiguous genitalia” (male pseudohermaphroditism) or the genitalia appear to be that of a baby girl. During puberty, however, testosterone rages through the body and the male characteristics emerge: The voice drops, shoulders broaden and an Adam’s apple may start to develop. What appeared to be labia turn out be testicles, and what appeared to be a clitoris turns out to be a penis.

Advice for financial success

It’s a reality that not all the time life is full of glory. Two years ago, it was announced that our account or department would be dissolved. Of course the first reaction was to get disheartened. It happened again and again. Luckily we are still here. But, I had to come up to a wise decision to rather think of ways on how can I save myself, you know, from an unforeseen disaster. Anytime now, the account would just disappear. Or if not, they will let us disappear!

Two ideas came up to my mind. First, never lose faith to my God. I thought the more that I need Him. I shall prove that I deserve His support. So I would need to do more good than to wallow on frustration. Second, read more books and look for better ideas. We can get free knowledge, so no need to spend some bucks just to obtain that. My common sense came up to the scene. I have searched the net, read books at Powerbooks, interviewed people, and attended free trainings and seminars.

Well, I have with me 5 very important books. I cannot just lose them so I decided to procure them. They are full of basic know-hows and easy-to-follow guidelines. They seem like modules. I just have to follow through step-by-step. They are my new-found bestfriends!…Hehe… (note: please don’t ask their titles or authors. I like to give you the power of searching. Like me, it was my fuel – the hunger for knowledge. So start learning from there. Ok?)

These two ideas have honed my esteem and skills. So far, the effect was good. Thanks to the authors who inspired me more to push through even in times of mishap. And much, to be grateful when in splendor. I affirm… that no matter what, in victory and in defeat, God is our buddy. We cannot fully expect other people to raise us up, but I know God can. Plus, our personal will, perseverance, and determination. All these, equal success. As I mentioned in my previous article: success is not a destiny, it is a journey.

So, let me share some of my inspirational collections. This, I know can also inspire you. Please bear with me if I was only able to present the pen name of the author. I forgot to get the resource link from the net. Anyway, including his name is already an intention of giving him credit.


Advice for young people who want to be financially successful:
You can control your financial destiny, live a good lifestyle, retire with security and grace — even luxury — if you make good decisions and avoid some of the mistakes your friends are making:
Plan for a good career.   Don’t just settle for whatever comes along.  You have to make your own way.  If you want financial success, you will have to take responsibility for preparing yourself to earn it through education, developing your skills and abilities,  and improving your worth to an employer or a customer every day.  If you fail to make yourself productive, there is no one else to blame but yourself.
Learn the value of saving money.  There are two ways that money is obtained:  1) you can earn it with your labor, ideas, or skills   2) the money you have will earn more money       Obviously, you have to do #1 before you have #2.  But if you never save any money, you will never accumulate wealth.   Don’t confuse making money with having money.  There are a lot of people out there driving a Lexus who will have only their social security or some other handout when they retire.  Start saving now, and let the miracle of compound interest make you rich.
Be patient.  Most people who are financially successful started out with nothing, just like you.  It takes patience, determination, and humility to avoid jumping at every temptation.  Every day that you delay buying something is another day that your savings are working for you.  Trust me, you won’t have to wait forever, just for a while. 
Don’t go into debt.  Someone who borrows money to buy something always pays more than the person who doesn’t.  That has a “double whammy” effect.  When you borrow money, you not only pay for the luxury of having it when you can’t afford it (interest) but you lose the income your money could have earned if you had delayed the purchase and saved up for it.   The two biggest culprits:  credit card debt and car loans.  Remember this:  If you never make a car payment in your life, you will spend half of what everyone else spends on cars for the rest of your life.  Pay cash for your cars — buy what you can afford — and one day (soon!) you will be able to walk into any showroom and write a check for the car you want.  But if you get in the “car loan” habit, trust me, you will never get there.  Another note:  sales people will try to talk you into buying a car that you can’t afford by selling you a long-term loan.  The payments might seem really affordable, but as soon as you drive off the lot you have immediately lost thousands of dollars, because you now owe more than the car is worth.  If you tried to sell the car the very next day, you would lose a ton of money.  That’s called being “upside down”, and it’s not a good position to be in.
Don’t take risks. Risk here is defined as possible life danger. Not risk in investing. Risk in investing is postive. Because the higher the risk the greater the gain or yield. So we usually have to take more risk in investing. (Italics mine) Insurance is necessary.  Saving for emergencies is necessary.  Keeping your job is necessary.  Grades and graduation are critical.  Don’t drink and drive.  Don’t smoke.  Don’t do drugs.  Be honest, don’t break the law.  Pay your taxes.  If you take risks with your money, health, and security, sooner or later you will get burned.  Trust your instincts — if it doesn’t feel right or safe, don’t do it.
Get in on your employers retirement plan.  One of the greatest wealth-builders out there is the 401(k) plan offered by most employers.  You take money out of every paycheck before tax is calculated (which means you pay less tax) and your employer will add a “matching” amount.  This money is put into an investment account of your choosing, and it builds like crazy.  Many people are retiring young with a million dollars or more in their 401(k) accounts.  Don’t miss out on this opportunity, and don’t be tempted to “borrow” the money out of your retirement fund for other purposes.
Marry someone who shares your economic values.  Divorce is a major cause of financial problems, and disagreements about money often cause divorce.  Your life partner should be your wealth-building teammate, not a financial enemy.
It’s important to understand that your future is within your control.  But you have to start now!  Learn all you can, be patient, work hard, and make good decisions.  You can join the millions of Americans who have taken advantage of the opportunity to become wealthy and happy.
Big Beanburger

NASA and the Bible

 e-mail forward


For all the scientists out there, and for all the students who have a hard time convincing these people regarding the truth of the Bible, here’s something that shows God’s awesome creation, and that He is still in control.

Did you know that the space program is busy proving that what has been called “myth” in the Bible is true? Mr. Harold Hill, President of the Curtis Engine Company in Baltimore, Maryland, and a consultant in the space program, relates the following development :

“I think one of the most amazing things that God has done for us today happened recently to our astronauts and space scientists at GreenBelt, Maryland. They were checking out where the positions of the sun, moon, and planets would be 100 years and 1,000 years from now. We have to know this so we won’t send up a satellite and have it bump into something later on in its orbits. We have to lay out the orbits in terms of the life of the satellite and where the planets will be so the whole thing will not bog down.”

They ran the computer measurement back and forth over the centuries, and it came to a halt. The computer stopped and put up a red signal, which meant that there was something wrong with either the information fed into it or with the results as compared to the standards.

They called in the service department to check it out, and they said, “What’s wrong?’ Well, they found there is a day missing in space in elapsed time. They scratched their heads and tore their hair.

There was no answer.

Finally a Christian man on the team said, “You know, one time I was in Sunday School, and they talked about the sun standing still”.

While they didn’t believe him, they didn’t have an answer either, so they said, ‘Show us.’

He got a Bible and went to the book of Joshua where they found a pretty ridiculous statement for any one with ‘common sense.’ There they found the Lord saying to Joshua, “Fear them not, I have delivered them into thy hand; there shall not a man of them stand before thee.” Joshua was concerned because he was surrounded by the enemy, and if darkness fell, they would overpower them. So Joshua asked the Lord to make the sun stand still! That’s right…‘The sun stood still and the moon stayed and lasted not to go down about a whole day!’ (Joshua 10:12-13)

The astronauts and scientists said, ‘There is the missing day!’ They checked the computers going back into the time it was written and found it was close but not close enough. The elapsed time that was missing back in Joshua’s day was 23 hours and 20 minutes… not a whole day.

“They read the Bible, and there it was ‘about (approximately) a day.’ These little words in the Bible are important, but they were still in trouble because if you cannot account for 40 minutes, you’ll still be in trouble 1,000 years from now. Forty minutes had to be found because it can be multiplied many times over in orbits.

“As the Christian employee thought about it, he remembered somewhere in the Bible where it said the sun went BACKWARDS. The scientists told him he was out of his mind, but they got out the Book and read these words in 2 Kings that told of the following story:

Hezekiah, on his deathbed, was visited by the prophet Isaiah who told him that he was not going to die. Hezekiah asked for a sign as proof. Isaiah said ‘Do you want the sun to go ahead 10 degrees?’ Hezekiah said, ‘It is nothing for the sun to go ahead 10 degrees, but let the shadow return backward 10 degrees.’ Isaiah spoke to the Lord, and the Lord brought the shadow ten degrees BACKWARD!

“Ten degrees is exactly 40 minutes!
Twenty-three hours and 20 minutes in Joshua, plus 40 minutes in Second Kings make the missing day in the universe!”
Isn’t it amazing?
Joshua 10:8 and 12, 13 and 2 Kings 20:9-11.

Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark. Professionals built the Titanic.

pluto: officially, no longer a planet

An update from MSNBC–

Scientists decide Pluto’s no longer a planet

Planet definition approved, but dissenters plan a counteroffensive

12 planets 

 View related photos

Martin Kornmesser / IAU

This lineup shows the 12 planets that were proposed last week, with a wedge of the sun at far left. Ceres, Pluto, Charon and 2003 UB313 are barely visible. Now Charon will continue to be considered Pluto’s satellite, and the three other worlds will be dubbed “dwarf planets” rather than full-fledged planets. The planets are drawn to scale, but without correct relative distances.



Pluto demoted
Aug. 24: The solar system has been downsized to eight planets.’s Dara Brown reports.

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See an ultraviolet sun, Jupiter’s red spots, Discovery’s red-white-and-blue blastoff and other highlights from July 2006.

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Pluto is safe as astronomers define planet size

Astronomers strip Pluto of its status as a planet

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By Robert Roy Britt

Senior science writer

Updated: 4:10 p.m. ET Aug. 24, 2006

Capping years of intense debate, astronomers resolved Thursday to demote Pluto in a wholesale redefinition of planethood that is being billed as a victory of scientific reasoning over historic and cultural influences. But the decision is already being hotly debated.

Officially, Pluto is no longer a planet. “Pluto is dead,” said Mike Brown, a planetary scientist at the California Institute of Technology who spoke with reporters via a teleconference while monitoring the vote. The decision also means a Pluto-sized object that Brown discovered will not be called a planet.

“Pluto is not a planet,” Brown said. “There are finally, officially, eight planets in the solar system.”

The vote involved just 424 astronomers who remained for the last day of a meeting of the International Astronomical Union in Prague.

“I’m embarrassed for astronomy. Less than 5 percent of the world’s astronomers voted,” said Alan Stern, leader of NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto and a scientist at the Southwest Research Institute.

“This definition stinks, for technical reasons,” Stern told He expects the astronomy community to overturn the decision. Other astronomers criticized the definition as ambiguous.

The resolution

The decision establishes three main categories of objects in our solar system.

  • Planets: The eight worlds starting with Mercury and moving out to Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.
  • Dwarf planets: Pluto and any other round object that “has not cleared the neighborhood around its orbit, and is not a satellite.”
  • Small solar system bodies: All other objects orbiting the sun.

Pluto and its moon Charon, which would both have been planets under the initial definition proposed Aug. 16, now get demoted because they are part of a sea of other objects that occupy the same region of space. Earth and the other eight large planets have, on the other hand, cleared broad swaths of space of any other large objects.

“Pluto is a dwarf planet by the … definition and is recognized as the prototype of a new category of trans-Neptunian objects,” states the approved resolution. Dwarf planets are not planets under the definition, however.

“There will be hundreds of dwarf planets,” Brown predicted. He has already found dozens that fit the category.

Contentious logic

The vote came after eight days of contentious debate that involved four separate proposals at the group’s meeting in Prague.


Pluto’s day: 6.4 Earth days.

Pluto’s year: 248 Earth years.

Average distance from sun: 3.7 billion miles, or 5.9 billion kilometers.

What’s in a name? Pluto is also the name of the Roman god of the underworld. It was suggested by many people, but credit was given to an 11-year-old girl from England.

Click for more from “The Nine Planets”


The initial proposal, hammered out by a group of seven astronomers, historians and authors, attempted to preserve Pluto as a planet but was widely criticized for diluting the meaning of the word. It would also have made planets out of the asteroid Ceres and Pluto’s moon Charon. But not now.

“Ceres is a dwarf planet. it’s the only dwarf planet in the asteroid belt,” Brown said. “Charon is a satellite.”

The category of “dwarf planet” is expected to include dozens of round objects already discovered beyond Neptune. Ultimately, hundreds will probably be found, astronomers say.

The word “planet” originally described wanderers of the sky that moved against the relatively fixed background of star. Pluto, discovered in 1930, was at first thought to be larger than it is. It has an eccentric orbit that crosses the path of Neptune and also takes it well above and below the main plane of the solar system.

Recent discoveries of other round, icy object in Pluto’s realm have led most astronomers to agree that the diminutive world should never have been termed a planet.

‘A farce’
Stern, in charge of the robotic probe on its way to Pluto, said the language of the resolution is flawed. It requires that a planet “has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.” But Earth, Mars, Jupiter and Neptune all have asteroids as neighbors.

“It’s patently clear that Earth’s zone is not cleared,” Stern told “Jupiter has 50,000 Trojan asteroids,” which orbit in lockstep with the planet. Stern called it “absurd” that only 424 astronomers were allowed to vote, out of about 10,000 professional astronomers around the globe.

“It won’t stand,” he said. “It’s a farce.”

Stern said astronomers are already circulating a petition that would try to overturn the IAU decision.

Owen Gingerich, historian and astronomer emeritus at Harvard who led the committee that proposed the initial definition, called the new definition “confusing and unfortunate” and said he was “not at all pleased” with the language about clearing the neighborhood.

Gingerich also did not like the term “dwarf” planet. “I thought that it made a curious linguistic contradiction,” Gingerich said during a telephone interview from Boston (where he could not vote). “A dwarf planet is not a planet. I thought that was very awkward.”

Gingerich added: “In the future, one would hope the IAU could do electronic balloting.”

Years of debate

Astronomers have argued since the late 1990s on whether to demote Pluto. Public support for Pluto has weighed heavily on the debate. Today’s vote comes after a two-year effort by the IAU to develop a definition. An initial committee of astronomers failed for a year to do so, leading to the formation of the second committee whose proposed definition was then redefined for Thursday’s vote.


Nightly News/NASA

Even though Pluto may have lost its official status as a planet, the frozen world and its kin are still worthy of study, says Louis Friedman, executive director of the nonprofit Planetary Society. “Anytime we visit a new world — planet, moon, asteroid, comet, whatever — we make exciting and surprising new discoveries about the evolution of our solar system and about our own planet,” he said.

NASA’s New Horizons probe is in the midst of a 9½-year journey to study Pluto and other icy mini-worlds, and NASA’s Paul Hertz said Thursday’s decision would have no effect on the mission. “We will continue pursuing exploration of the most scientifically interesting objects in the solar system, regardless of how they are categorized,” he said.

Probe begins journey to Pluto

Video: NBC on New Horizons’ mission

Pluto found to have two more moons

Reality check: Coconut oil is not healthy? Beware?

Coconut Oil

cconut Coconut oil gets a bad rap because it mainly contains saturated fat, but proponents claim it helps fight disease. Is it really bad for your health? Get the facts.

by Rich Maloof for MSN Health & Fitness

Find More

Many readers of MSN Health & Fitness took issue with our advice in the article “The Cholesterol Connection” to avoid coconut oil because it is a saturated fat. We listened, even appreciated, the flood of feedback in our inbox. This week, “Reality Check” takes a closer look at both sides of the debate over this tropical oil. Is it bad for you?

Reality Check

In health circles, coconut oil remains a subject of controversy.

Proponents of coconut oil cite the health and longevity of tropical populations that have been consuming large quantities of coconut oil for centuries. They maintain that coconut oil has been unfairly caught up in the fat-fearing food fads of the past few years.

In contrast, the Food and Drug Administration has informed consumers to avoid coconut oil, a saturated fat. (The American Medical Association agrees that saturated fats should be limited in our diets.) Evidence in favor of coconut oil has not yet met the FDA’s standards for recommendation; studies are regarded as either inadequately controlled or not extensive enough to be conclusive.

Reality Check

Coconut oil comes under fire because its main component is saturated fat.

Coconut oil is challenged on two fronts. First is the erroneous belief that all dietary fat becomes body fat—not all “fat in” equals “fat on.” Second is that it’s a saturated fat like the fat in beef, cheese, eggs and butter. “Saturated fatty acids tend to raise levels of LDL cholesterol (‘bad’ cholesterol) in the blood. Elevated levels of LDL cholesterol are associated with heart disease,” an FDA spokesman reminds us.

True enough, but studies increasingly indicate that a heart-healthy diet does not exclude saturated fat; rather, an appropriate balance of saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats is best. Only a mixed-fat diet promotes a healthful ratio of LDL to HDL—the “good” cholesterol—and lowers the risk of heart disease..

Reality Check

Processed or “partially hydrogenated” coconut oil is unhealthy.

One thing both sides agree on is that when coconut oil is hydrogenated it becomes a trans fat, and trans fats are bad news. Trans fats have been closely associated with heart disease because they not only increase LDL cholesterol but impede the body’s ability to utilize HDL.

Unless you are cooking with virgin coconut oil, the only coconut oil in your diet may be hydrogenated, since that’s the form it takes in snack foods and nondairy creamers.

Reality Check

It’s been suggested that coconut oil bolsters the immune system.

Coconut oil may have properties like a natural antibiotic that renders some viruses, bacteria and fungi inactive. The work of Mary G. Enig, a biochemist who also has a doctorate in nutritional sciences, is often referenced by coconut oil enthusiasts. Enig says that the body uses an ingredient in coconut oil to make the disease-fighting substance monolaurin. (Read her speech “Health and Nutritional Benefits From Coconut Oil”). Infants use breast milk to make monolaurin, which keeps them from getting certain infections.

However, the FDA has strict guidelines for validating the health benefits of foods and drugs, and told MSN Health & Fitness that the administration “has not been petitioned to review claims for coconut oil.” More strongly, the Department of Health and Human Services sends warning letters to Web sites that market coconut-oil products based on therapeutic claims.

Reality Check

The assertion that coconut oil can cure hypothyroidism appears to be untrue.

The idea that coconut oil could cure an underactive thyroid was promoted in a 2003 article in Woman’s World  magazine as well as other materials on coconut oil; however, the sources for these pieces have been questioned. According to experts at Mayo Clinic, “there is no evidence that coconut oil stimulates thyroid function. In fact, some research suggests that coconut oil may have a negative impact on the thyroid.”

Reality Check

The debate on coconut oil continues …

Used in moderation and in its virgin, unprocessed form, coconut oil may ultimately be revealed as a harmless, neutral food. But the dust is still settling on this battlefield.

Reality Check: Coconut Oil” has been reviewed for accuracy by MSN Health & Fitness nutrition expert Keecha Harris, Dr.P.H., R.D., president of Harris and Associates.