Can coconut oil ward off memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease? That was the conclusion reached in 2008 by pediatrician Mary Newport. Her husband Steve was starting to show signs of progressive dementia – loss of cognitive function.
Steve’s mental fog and general confusion prevented him from carrying what we now call activities of daily living (ADLs). He was unable to manage using silverware or remove items from the refrigerator. He forgot to do things only to remember them days later.
Significant parts of Steve’s brain were shriveled and atrophied. An MRI in May 2008 revealed damage to the parietal and frontal lobes (important for processing sensory information, spatial orientation, and body awareness), the hippocampus (key to memory and how knowledge is obtained), and the amygdala (emotional processor). All of this supported a clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.
Steve’s short-term memory was shot. He could only retain new information for a few days. Physically, he was still in good condition. Emotionally, Steve had overcome depression due to “counseling, Lexapro and Wellbutrin, or maybe worsening of his disease,” according to Mary.
His doctors prescribed therapeutic drugs (Aricept, Exelon, and Namenda) which were not helpful. When Steve began to display tremors and limited motor function, his medical wife Mary turned to what he was eating. Perhaps a solution to her husband’s declining condition lay in his diet?
The Newports traveled to St. Petersburg, Florida so Steve could screen to participate in a vaccine study for a new drug called Elan.
While comparing Elan to another dementia-fighting drug trial for Eli Lilly, Dr. Newport discovered a drug called Ketasyn AC-1202. Initial clinical trials had already shown significant improvement over 90 days for about half of the subjects who took a dose of 20 grams (about 20 ml or 4 teaspoons).
The main ingredient of Ketasyn AC-1202 is MCT (medium chain triglycerides) oil which metabolizes as ketone bodies, also called ketoacids. These may be effective not only in treating but in preventing Alzheimer’s.
MCT oil may also prove to be an effective treatment for Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), drug resistant epilepsy, brittle type I diabetes, and diabetes type II.
Dr. Newport reported many other possible important benefits from MCT oil:
“Ketone bodies may help the brain recover after a loss of oxygen in newborns through adults, may help the heart recover after an acute attack, and may shrink cancerous tumors. Children with drug resistant epilepsy sometimes respond to an extremely low carbohydrate ketogenic diet. MCT oil appears to be useful as an aid in weight loss and body builders use it already to improve their lean body mass.”
The theory is that Alzheimer’s occurs when neurons (nerve cells) in the brain can’t use glucose to produce energy properly and therefore “starve.” The human body can substitute ketoacids for other food-based fuel sources. Neurons in the brain must get glucose (sugar) to survive – or they can use ketone bodies. Ketones are produced by eating a low-carb diet or fasting (starving) for a couple of days or longer.
Unlike other fats we consume, the liver converts MCT oil directly to ketoacids to use immediately as energy. With or without sugar, the brain can survive on ketone bodies.
MCT oil is made from palm kernel oil – more commonly known as coconut oil. Dr. Newport continued her research and found out that “coconut oil is about 60% medium chain fatty acids (MCFA), contains no cholesterol and also contains omega-6 fatty acids and some other short and long chain fatty acids.”
All that means that coconut is extremely healthy for humans which is why it is readily available in vitamin shops, online, and even at big-chain stores. Avoid coconut oil that is hydrogenated and contains any transfat.
Coconut oil comes from India, Thailand and Southeast Asia, the Caribbean Islands, and south Florida. But the largest producer is the Philippines, a country with one of the lowest incidences of cardiovascular disease in the world.
According to Dr. Newport:
“My nurse friends from the Philippines tell me that many of their relatives back home cook everything in coconut oil and have coconut in one form or another at nearly every meal.”
Steve started taking 100% “virgin” coconut oil. Mary “calculated that in order to provide 20 gm of MCT, he would need to take 35 grams or just over two tablespoons (about 35 ml or 7 level teaspoons) of coconut oil.”
Two months later, Mary reported that her husband was seeing definite improvement. He now started his days “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, a source of some
contention between us!”
Unfortunately, clinical tests in the United States on coconut oil’s effectiveness against dementia have been discontinued “as the number of people enrolled on the trial was not enough to give robust results.”
Until scientific studies prove – or disprove – how well coconut oil stops the heartbreak of memory loss and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s, all patients can do today is perform their own trials at home. Log the results and it should be easy to see if the results match that of Steve Newport.