Sunday, March 17, 2013

Is Coconut Oil a Remedy for Alzheimer’s?

Within three or four hours after giving Bruce the first couple of tablespoons (of coconut oil) he was speaking in clear sentences again. He did have one relapse, shortly after starting, but it lasted only a day. After that he sprang right back and has been doing well ever since, taking care of many things himself that he hadn’t been able to do for a long time. The doctor came to see Bruce yesterday. He was amazed. He ordered another cognitive test, but he could see for himself that Bruce was much better.
Carol Flett

Coconut is highly nutritious and rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It is classified as a 'functional food' because it provides many health benefits beyond its nutritional content. Coconut oil is of special interest because it possesses healing properties far beyond that of any other dietary oil and is extensively used in traditional medicine among Asian and Pacific populations. Pacific Islanders consider coconut oil to be the cure for all illness. The coconut palm is so highly valued by them as both a source of food and medicine that it is called 'The Tree of Life.' Only recently has modern medical science unlocked the secrets to coconut's amazing healing powers.
Dr. Bruce Fife

There have been several claims that coconut oil reverses the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, or at least prevents symptoms from progressing. How true and accurate they are? How reliable are the perceived outcomes?

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Recent Studies

The study from the European Journal of Internal Medicine referenced above notes that Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) all have an association with mitochondrial dysfunction. A study published in 2010 used coconut oil to show that a diet enriched in the saturated fatty acids of coconut oil offered strong advantages for the protection against oxidative stress in heart mitochondria.

Much research is also being uncovered now on the advantages of high HDL cholesterol levels, besides the study mentioned above in direct relation to Alzheimer’s. A study appearing in the American Journal of Cardiology in February 2011 showed that the higher men’s HDL cholesterol levels, the longer they lived and the more likely it was that they would reach the age of 85. A diet with adequate amounts of saturated fat is essential to keeping HDL high cholesterol levels. Those with deficiencies and suffering from neurological disorders need to consider a diet that is high in saturated fat, in stark contrast to the mainstream dietary advice for low-fat diets that might be causing many of these late-in-life diseases.

Another major advantage the saturated fat of coconut oil provides is its ability to provide the brain with an alternate source of energy in ketones. Ketones are high energy fuels that nourish the brain. Our body can produce ketones from stored fat while fasting or in starvation, but they can also be produced by converting medium chain fatty acids in certain foods. Coconut oil is nature’s richest source of these medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). A study done in 2004 took MCTs from coconut oil and put them into a drink that was given to Alzheimer’s patients while a control group took a placebo. They observed significant increases in levels of the ketone body beta-hydroxybutyrate (beta-OHB) 90 minutes after treatment when cognitive tests were administered. Higher ketone values were associated with greater improvement in paragraph recall with MCT treatment relative to placebo across all subjects.

Newport Phenomena

The interest in coconut oil as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease increased in the last few years when a physician from Florida, Dr. Mary Newport, used it to treat her husband’s dementia. Before she began the treatment, she had her husband try the clock-drawing test, and he performed very poorly. She began giving her husband coconut oil, and two weeks later, she noted dramatic improvement in his clock-drawing test. A few weeks later, after continued coconut oil use, he again improved significantly in his ability to draw the clock as well as his verbal expression, physical ability and memory. He told his wife, “I’m back.”

She has written about his improvement and has also been interviewed, and attributes his improvement to the coconut oil. The 700 Club and several other media outlets produced lengthy segments on this doctor’s experience with her husband.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Health Advantages of Coconut Oil

Before reviewing the potential positive effect of the Coconut Oil for Alzheimer’s treatment or management, let’s see the overall health-related benefits of this nutrition.

Anti-infective Properties

*Kills viruses that cause influenza, herpes, measles, hepatitis C, SARS, AIDS, and other illnesses.
*Kills bacteria that cause ulcers, throat infections, urinary tract infections, gum disease and cavities, pneumonia, and gonorrhea, and other diseases.
*Kills fungi and yeasts that cause candidiasis, ringworm, athlete's foot, thrush, diaper rash, and other infections.
*Expels or kills tapeworms, lice, giardia, and other parasites.
*Helps prevent periodontal disease and tooth decay.


*Provides a nutritional source of quick energy.
*Boosts energy and endurance, enhancing physical and athletic performance.

Digestion and Metabolism

*Improves digestion and absorption of other nutrients including vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
*Improves insulin secretion and utilization of blood glucose.
*Relieves stress on pancreas and enzyme systems of the body.
*Reduces symptoms associated with pancreatitis.
*Helps relieve symptoms and reduce health risks associated with diabetes.
*Reduces problems associated with malabsorption syndrome and cystic fibrosis.
*Improves calcium and magnesium absorption and supports the development of strong bones and teeth.
*Helps protect against osteoporosis.
*Helps relieve symptoms associated with gallbladder disease.
*Relieves symptoms associated with Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, and stomach ulcers.
*Improves digestion and bowel function. (Clients tell me that taken 20 minutes before a meal, it relieves symptoms of heartburn and GERD.)
*Relieves pain and irritation caused by hemorrhoids.

Boosts the Immune System

*Supports and aids immune system function.
*Reduces inflammation.
*Supports tissue healing and repair.
*Helps protect the body from breast, colon, and other cancers.
*Functions as a protective antioxidant.
*Does not form harmful by-products when heated to normal cooking temperature like other vegetable oils do.
*Helps to protect the body from harmful free radicals that promote premature aging and degenerative disease.
*Does not deplete the body's antioxidant reserves like other oils do.
*Improves utilization of essential fatty acids and protects them from oxidation.
*Helps relieve symptoms associated with chronic fatigue syndrome.
*Relieves symptoms associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia (prostate enlargement).

Heart Health

*Is heart healthy; improves cholesterol ratio reducing risk of heart disease.
*Protects arteries from injury that causes atherosclerosis and thus protects against heart disease.

Organ Support

*Helps protect against kidney disease and bladder infections.
*Dissolves kidney stones.
*Helps prevent liver disease.
*Supports thyroid function.
*Reduces epileptic seizures.

Balances Body Weight

*Promotes loss of excess weight by increasing metabolic rate.
*Is utilized by the body to produce energy in preference to being stored as body fat like other dietary fats.
*Helps prevent obesity and overweight problems.
*Is lower in calories than all other fats.

Creates Healthy Skin and Hair

*Applied topically helps to form a chemical barrier on the skin to ward of infection.
*Reduces symptoms associated the psoriasis, eczema, and dermatitis.
*Supports the natural chemical balance of the skin.
*Softens skin and helps relieve dryness and flaking.
*Prevents wrinkles, sagging skin, and age spots.
*Promotes healthy looking hair and complexion.
*Provides protection from damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
*Helps control dandruff.

Coconut Oil and Alzheimer’s

So, no doubt, the coconut oil has multiple health benefits for consumers, but let’s get back to Dr. Newport story. Dr. Newport learned that the ingredient in the drug trial, conducted at the time, which was showing so much promise was simply MCT oil (patented synthetic substance) derived from coconut oil or palm kernel oil, and that a dose of 20 grams (about 20 ml or 4 teaspoons) was used to produce these results. When MCT oil is metabolized, the ketones which the body creates may, according to the latest research, not only protect against the incidence of Alzheimer’s, but may actually reverse it.

So Mr. Newport, not being able to get into the drug trial, started taking the coconut oil twice a day. At this point, he could barely remember how to draw a clock. Two weeks after adding coconut oil to his diet, his drawing improved. After 37 days, Steve’s drawing gained even more clarity. The oil seemed to “lift the fog,” and in the first sixty days, Dr. Newport saw remarkable changes in him: every morning he was alert and happy, talkative, making jokes. His gait was “still a little weird,” but his tremor was no longer very noticeable. He was able to concentrate on things that he wanted to do around the house and in the yard and stay on task, whereas before coconut oil he was easily distractible and rarely accomplished anything unless he was directly supervised.

Over the next year, the dementia continued to reverse itself: he is able to run again, his reading comprehension has improved dramatically, and his short-term memory is improving—he often brings up events that happened days to weeks earlier and relays telephone conversations with accurate detail. A recent MRI shows that the brain atrophy has been completely halted.

Interesting is that the trial, where Dr. Newport was dreaming to put her husband in, has failed to proof any usefulness of the new drug. Actually, two American pharmaceutical companies stopped drug development based on Coconut oil and Alzheimer's disease treatment after two clinical tests. They concluded that the drug couldn’t help patients, at least based on the obtained results of the researches.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Mechanism of Action

If one wished to try coconut oil as a health supplement, virgin (unrefined) coconut oil would be preferable since it contains higher levels of beneficial “polyphenols” (specifically, ferulic acid and p-coumaric acid).

Polyphenols in coconut oil could be potentially useful for Alzheimer’s (and other diseases) since they act as antioxidants. Antioxidants help temper the harmful effects of inflammation, e.g., free radical production, which causes so much damage in Alzheimer’s and other diseases involving tissue degeneration.

Some other virgin oils have also been reported to be useful for lowering Alzheimer’s pathology in animal models. These include extra virgin olive oil and virgin grapeseed oil, both of which are high in polyphenol content as well. So, one benefit of coconut oil in Alzheimer’s could derive from polyphenols acting as antioxidants.

The second possible way coconut oil could be useful for Alzheimer’s is based on the high levels of “ketone bodies” in the oil. 

Coconut oil produces ketone bodies when the fats in the oil are digested by the body. Ketone bodies serve to provide dearly needed “fuel” and energy to the brain when glucose levels are low, as in the case of Alzheimer’s patients.

When brain glucose levels are low, the brain breaks down fats to produce ketone bodies as an alternate source of energy. This energy is needed for nerve cell survival and for synaptic activity that underlies learning and memory. Virgin coconut oil contains the fats that can be converted into ketone bodies, which can serve as an alternate energy source for the brain. The ketone bodies could potentially provide energy to nerve cells and synapses in the glucose-deprived brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

Many caregivers for Alzheimer’s patients report that when they give the patient high sugar snacks like candy and ice cream, they perk up and become more alert, at least temporarily. Ketone bodies can also do this by supplementing the brain's need for glucose by breaking down fats, like those in coconut oil. And, ketone bodies are longer lasting than simply ingesting. So, the results are longer lasting.

In summary, in addition to the polyphenols in coconut oil (acting as antioxidants), it is also possible that the ketone bodies (acting as an alternate energy source for the brain) could underlie the positive effects on Alzheimer’s disease reported by some users of coconut oil.

However, it must be emphasized that the use of coconut oil to treat or prevent Alzheimer’s is not supported by any peer-reviewed clinical data; any positive findings are based solely on anecdotal evidence. Unfortunately, that’s it. What is still missing is evidence of scientific research to test the actual benefit of coconut oil. There is no respectable research so far that’s been conducted to determine if coconut oil clearly and consistently does indeed reverse symptoms of Alzheimer’s and/or prevent them from worsening.

As per Alzheimer’s Association public release, some people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers have turned to coconut oil as a less expensive, over-the-counter source of caprylic acid. A few people have reported that coconut oil helped the person with Alzheimer’s, but there’s never been any clinical testing of coconut oil for Alzheimer’s, and there’s no scientific evidence that it helps.

Side Effects

Professor Rudy Tanzi, director of the Genetics and Ageing Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital and professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, noted that “the fats (found in coconut oil) can be potentially harmful to the heart, so it would be wise to regularly monitor cholesterol and triglyceride levels if you are taking it.”

Consumption Dose

Therapeutic levels of MCTs have been studied at 20 grams per day. According to Dr. Newport's calculations, just over two tablespoons of coconut oil (about 35 ml or 7 level teaspoons) would supply you with the equivalent of 20 grams of MCT, which is indicated as either a preventative measure against degenerative neurological diseases, or as a treatment for an already established case.

Remember though that people tolerate coconut oil differently, and you may have to start slowly and build up to these therapeutic levels. My recommendation is to start with one teaspoon, taken with food in the mornings. Gradually add more coconut oil every few days until you are able to tolerate four tablespoons.
Coconut oil is best taken with food, to avoid upsetting your stomach. The oil can be served on bread like butter, warmed and added to hot cereal, eaten right off the spoon (its flavor is delicious), served on vegetables, baked with, or used in any way that oil, animal fats or butter can be used.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Sources and Additional Information:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...