Coconut oil appears to raise “good” cholesterol; also, melatonin shows promise in treatment of GERD, and turmeric can ease arthritis symptoms.

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Q. I’m confused about the health benefits, or lack thereof, from coconut products. Are they helpful or harmful?

A. For years, nutrition experts warned that coconut oil contained saturated fat and therefore would raise cholesterol and put people at risk for heart disease. That is why people were cautious about eating coconut or cooking with coconut oil.

A study published in BMJ (April 12, 2016) questions the entire diet-heart hypothesis. A reanalysis of data collected between 1968 and 1973 found that people eating corn oil in place of saturated fat did have lower cholesterol, but they were no less likely to have heart attacks. If anything, the people on the low sat-fat diet were more likely to show signs of a heart attack at autopsy.

Coconut oil appears to raise good HDL cholesterol and lower triglycerides. It also may help control blood sugar (Indian Journal of Pharmacology, May-June 2010). A Brazilian study found that giving people with heart disease extra-virgin coconut oil helped them reduce their waist circumference and raise their beneficial HDL cholesterol (Nutricion Hospitalaria, Nov. 1, 2015). One review suggests that coconut oil might be beneficial against Alzheimer’s disease (British Journal of Nutrition, July 14, 2015).

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Q. As I understand it, Prilosec is useful for Barrett’s (and GERD). It helps heal irritation in the esophagus that could lead to cancer. But it seems there is no conclusive evidence that using Prilosec prevents cancer.

Today I read that melatonin does just as good a job at healing the body. Apparently, it takes about 30 days. You can even take it with Prilosec, and that will make it easier to get off the acid-suppressor.

I plan to gradually reduce my dose of Prilosec by taking melatonin. I’ll use an H2 blocker or an antacid like Tums instead if I have symptoms. This seems to be working for me.

A. A pilot study found that melatonin, alone or in combination with omeprazole (Prilosec), “is a promising therapeutic agent for the treatment of GERD. It is an effective line of treatment in relieving epigastric pain and heartburn” (BMC Gastroenterology online, Jan. 18, 2010). A review of other studies concludes that melatonin supplements can speed ulcer healing (Current Pharmaceutical Design, Vol. 20, No. 30, 2014).

Q. What are your views on turmeric for arthritis? What is the appropriate dosage?

A. Many readers have reported that turmeric helps their joint pain. A review of clinical trials found that turmeric-based products were better than placebos and about as effective as NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or naproxen (Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine online, March 14, 2016). One study that showed benefit compared 1,500 mg of turmeric extract to 1,200 mg of ibuprofen per day (Clinical Interventions in Aging online, March 20, 2014). The researchers prepared the extract themselves to provide 250 mg of curcuminoids per dose. Since products vary, that dose is what you might look for.