Almost every day I see a new article or blog post, or an email proclaiming the varied and often remarkable benefits of coconut oil. Quite often I see a headline like Discover How Coconut Oil Can Rescue The Brain From Alzheimer’s or an advertisement selling a Coconut Oil Cure for Alzheimer’s. Those are real headlines — I didn’t make them up. I always approach claims like this with healthy skepticism; I have seen too many “miracle cures” turn to snake oil. But coconut oil seems to be getting more traction than most such proclamations. Might there be something to this one? We are learning more and more about the health benefits of certain foods. According to recent research coconut oil can improve brain health; but can coconut oil cure Alzheimer’s disease?
I’m not the only one impressed by the tenacity of these claims. The Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute at the University of South Florida is also interested. Scientists there are investigating the effect coconut oil has on the brain, and if it may indeed provide some clues to curing dementia. The study was inspired in large part by the work of Dr. Mary Newport.
The question, “Can Coconut Oil Cure Alzheimer’s Disease?” first occurred to Dr. Newport when her husband, Steve, showed marked improvement after she began to include coconut oil in his diet. Steve had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 51, and began presenting with some of the textbook symptoms; short term memory problems; a slow, unsteady gait; trouble with numbers, though he was an accountant. At one time or another he took all the usual drugs prescribed for his condition, but the progression continued.
Mary noticed that his symptoms would be less severe on some days and began to wonder if diet might have something to do with that.
But coconut oil seems an unlikely place to look for a cure. It is a fat, after all, and aren’t fats bad for our health? Well, yes. And no. Depends on the fat. And coconut oil has an especially bad reputation. In the middle of the last century, studies reported that coconut oil clogged the arteries of animal subjects. The conclusion was that fat in the diet leads to heart disease. The studies, however, did not use coconut oil; rather, they used hydrogenated coconut oil, which is a very different thing. The hydrogenation process changes the structure of the fat molecule, leaving behind something that bears little resemblance to the original. It is this hydrogenation process that creates the notorious trans-fats. And it is these trans-fats that have turned out to be the artery-cloggers. Any oil that is hydrogenated becomes bad eats.
From these bogus studies and misinterpreted findings concerning dietary fat have come our preoccupation with low-fat diets. Real coconut oil (and many other oils) are actually good for you. In fact, fat is a necessary component of a healthy diet. People in the Philippines depend on coconuts, and most include some form of coconut in their diet every day. Many use only coconut oil in their cooking. Yet the Philippines has one of the lowest rates of cardiovascular disease anywhere.
Unfortunately, many processed foods still contain hydrogenated oils (also known as shortening or margarine on the ingredients label). These unhealthy fats increase the shelf life of food products, so the food industry is very averse to getting them out of our food, even though we have known of their dangers for decades.
But, Can Coconut Oil Cure Alzheimer’s Disease?
Back to Mary. As she watched Steve’s condition steadily decline she researched the state of medical research as it relates to dementia. She found reference to a new drug that was showing some promise in improving the memory of people who have Alzheimer’s disease. In her study¹ she writes:
I learned that the promising “ingredient” in Ketasyn is simply MCT oil, and that a dose of 20 grams (about 20 ml or 4 teaspoons) was used to produce these results. The MCT oil that these researchers used was obtained from Stepan Company and consists of primarily 6 and 8 carbon chains, however they state that MCT of any combination of medium chains (6 to 12 carbon chains are medium chain) would also be effective. Just once in this application, the author mentions that MCT oil is derived from coconut or palm oil (this is incorrect, the author should have stated palm kernel oil.)
Shortly after Mary was told that Steve’s condition was now likely severe – no longer just moderate. That’s when she started adding coconut oil to his diet. The next morning she stirred the oil into his oatmeal. Just 4 1/2 hours later he was taking a scheduled screening. The result of the screening was that he showed a marked improvement in memory functioning over the previous test!
And he continued to improve. Many of the abilities he had lost returned. Even his memory was better. In Dr Newport’s own words:
At the time of this writing it has been 60 days since he started taking coconut oil (May 21, 2008.) He walks into the kitchen every morning alert and happy, talkative, making jokes. His gait is still a little weird. His tremor is no longer very noticeable. He is able to concentrate on things that he wants 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 I supervised him directly…
She knew she was on to something. And Steve continued to improve. As it turns out, coconut oil is brain food. The brain’s primary source of food is glucose (sugar). If sugar is not available, it can use ketones as fuel. Now, Alzheimer’s disease can make it difficult for certain areas of the brain to process glucose. Coconut oil makes ketones available to our brains. So it stands to reason that coconut oil can feed the brain when disease makes its preferred food difficult to obtain. Read more about the benefits of the Keto diet.
Unfortunately, after seeing such remarkable improvement, Steve’s condition worsened in 2013, partly due to depression following the death of his father. Alzheimer’s disease eventually beat his efforts, and the efforts of his wife, Mary. Steve died on January 2, 2015, but his life with coconut oil was almost assuredly better than it would have been without. In his case coconut oil did not cure the disease, but Steve was approaching the later stages of Alzheimer’s when he began to use the oil. How much more could it help if introduced into the diet earlier in the progression of the disease? Or before the disease has taken hold?
Steve and Mary’s story has most certainly given us a new avenue to research, and it could very well be the thing that eventually leads us to a cure. For once and for all. It may be that the answer to the question, “can coconut oil cure Alzheimer’s?” will turn out to be an emphatic “YES!”
So here’s your challenge. Try it. And please let us know what you discover. Get a tub of 100% Organic Coconut Oil. (Be sure it’s not hydrogenated. Organic coconut oil is very available now- I get mine at Costco.) Use it in your cooking. Put it in your oatmeal. Use it in Smoothies. Rub it on your face (I do — it’s a great natural skin conditioner, especially with a little Frankincense oil). If you are caring for someone with dementia especially, make sure they get it every day. Dr. Mary Newport recommends that you begin with about 2 tablespoons per day. (Download Dr. Mary Newport’s Coconut Oil Dietary Guidelines) The only reported side effect of coconut oil is indigestion in some cases. Very minor when compared to the possible effects of any drug on the market. And a very minor inconvenience if your loved one gets anything near the benefits that Steve Newport experienced. Indigestion can result with a new type of food, and the inconvenience may likely go away with continued use. Weigh that against the possible benefits.
“Can coconut oil cure Alzheimer’s?” is a big question, and many more questions arise when considering it, like:
- good fats vs. bad fats (the important thing to remember here is that organic, non-hydrogenated, unprocessed coconut oil is one of the good fats, and all hydrogenated oils, margarines, and “shortenings” are bad fats)
- coconut oil and other health issues (there is evidence that coconut oil in the diet can lower risk of cardiovascular disease and help to avoid obesity), and other diseases like arthritis and diabetes that coconut oil might help. Hopefully we will be looking at some of these in the future. In the meantime, try it. And let us know what you discover.
A couple of more lifestyle issues to consider; possibilities I want to explore in depth in the near future…
Statins are one of the most prescribed drugs in all of human history. Statins are designed to lower serum cholesterol (cholesterol in the blood). Aside from netting huge profits for the pharmaceutical industry, statins are so often prescribed because of the belief that serum cholesterol increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. As we saw earlier, the belief that there is a connection between cardiovascular disease and serum cholesterol levels is based on old, poorly designed studies. I have seen some evidence that a slightly elevated cholesterol level after a certain age might even protect against heart attack.
And there is a growing concern that statins may be in part to blame for the meteoric rise we are witnessing in rates of Alzheimer’s disease² ³. The brain is, after all, made essentially of cholesterol; though it weighs only 3 pounds, the brain contains about 25% of all cholesterol in the body. It makes sense that cholesterol would be necessary for its functioning, and science is beginning to prove that out.
And one that at first seems contradictory America’s low-fat diet fetish might in part be responsible for our obesity epidemic.
We are not recommending that you stop taking statins or any other medication prescribed by your medical professional. We are suggesting that you be an enlightened consumer; research the potential problems, side effects, and dangers of any drug that you are taking. And talk to your doctor from an informed perspective. See our legal disclaimer here.
As a post script, both the Keto diet and the Paleo diet use a lot of good oils like coconut oil. Both are being investigated for their potential benefit for brain health.
More Research for “Can Coconut Oil Cure Alzheimer’s Disease?”
- Dr. Mary Newport (2008); What If There Was a Cure for Alzheimer’s Disease and No One Knew?
- Dr. Stephanie Seneff (2012); The Clue to Why Low Fat Diet and Statins may Cause Alzheimer’s.
- West R, Beeri MS, Schmeidler J, Hannigan CM, Angelo G, Grossman HT, Rosendorff C, Silverman JM (2008). Better memory functioning associated with higher total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels in very elderly subjects without the apolipoprotein e4 allele. Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2008 Sep;16(9):781-5. doi: 10.1097/JGP.0b013e3181812790.
- U.S. study looks into the benefits of coconut oil on patients with Alzheimer’s
- Bentham Science Publishers. (2016, February 10). Lipid-based diets effectively combat Alzheimer’s disease in mouse model: Researchers have devised several lipid-based diets aimed at slowing down progression and relieving symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 28, 2016
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- We see smiles and feel relieved that, even though we can’t make her well, we can make her comfortable and content without resorting to brain fogging drugs or, worse, restraints. Carla