The role of diet in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is continuing to make strong headlines here in 2011 as hundreds of millions of dollars in drug research have yet to produce any significant cure. One of the latest studies published appeared in the European Journal of Internal Medicine: “Nutrition and Alzheimer’s disease: The detrimental role of a high carbohydrate diet”1.The authors of this study have noted how researchers have begun to direct their energies towards understanding the earlier stages of AD, since drug research in later stages has not been very successful. They note that several researchers have noticed a strong correlation between insulin resistance in the brain and early AD, suggesting that AD might be considered a neuroendocrine disorder of the brain or so-called “type 3 diabetes.” Other observations have noted an association of AD with mitochondrial dysfunction, which is also common in Parkinson’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).But the authors’ main conclusions regarding the early causes of AD center around the transport of cholesterol from the blood stream to the brain. They state that there is mounting evidence which suggests that a defect in cholesterol metabolism in the brain may play an important role in AD. They give a nice summary of the brain’s dependency on cholesterol:The brain represents only 2% of the body’s total mass, but contains 25% of the total cholesterol. Cholesterol is required everywhere in the brain as an antioxidant, an electrical insulator (in order to prevent ion leakage), as a structural scaffold for the neural network, and a functional component of all membranes. Cholesterol is also utilized in the wrapping and synaptic delivery of the neurotransmitters. It also plays an important role in the formation and functioning of synapses in the brain.
Dr. Raymond Peat has talked about the difference between polyunsaturated oils and saturated oils in their importance for brain tissue for years now:
Brain tissue is very rich in complex forms of fats. The experiment (around 1978) in which pregnant mice were given diets containing either coconut oil or unsaturated oil showed that brain development was superior in the young mice whose mothers ate coconut oil. Because coconut oil supports thyroid function, and thyroid governs brain development, including myelination, the result might simply reflect the difference between normal and hypothyroid individuals. However, in 1980, experimenters demonstrated that young rats fed milk containing soy oil incorporated the oil directly into their brain cells, and had structurally abnormal brain cells as a result. Lipid peroxidation occurs during seizures, and antioxidants such as vitamin E have some anti-seizure activity. Currently, lipid peroxidation is being found to be involved in the nerve cell degeneration of Alzheimer’s disease.2
How Coconut Oil Can Help
Coconut oil, by contrast, is highly saturated, and in its natural unrefined form has a shelf life of more than 2 years. Unlike unsaturated oils, it is not prone to oxidation.
Also, 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.3
Much research is also being uncovered now on the advantages of high HDL cholesterol levels, besides the study we mentioned above in direct relation to Alzheimer’s. A study appearing in the American Journal of Cardiology earlier this month (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 85.4 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.5 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.
As coconut oil’s use becomes more accepted and widespread, and as people begin to realize the dangers of the low-fat dietary belief, we expect to see more testimonies in relation to diseases like Alzheimer’s. One of the most widely published reports recently was from Dr. Mary Newport as reported by the St. Petersburg Times on October 29, 20086. Dr. Newport’s husband had been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s and was watching her husband quickly deteriorate. After using drugs that slowed down the effects of Alzheimer’s, she looked into clinical drug trials and found one based on MCTs that not only slowed the progression of Alzheimer’s, but offered improvement. Not being able to get her husband into one of these trials, she began to give him Virgin Coconut Oil, and saw incredible improvement in his condition.
The coconut oil he’d ingested seemed to “lift the fog.” He began taking coconut oil every day, and by the fifth day, there was a tremendous improvement. “He would face the day bubbly, more like his old self,” his wife said. More than five months later, his tremors subsided, the visual disturbances that prevented him from reading disappeared, and he became more social and interested in those around him.7
You can read Dr. Newport’s entire case study here.
Carol Flett came across Dr. Newport’s research while praying for a solution to her husband’s worsening dementia. In her blog post Can God Use Facebook to Answer Prayers? she reports:
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. I told him about the answer to prayer. He believes in God. He didn’t scoff. He just said, “Keep doing what your doing because it’s is working.” I believe God can use whatever method he chooses. If He chooses to use part of his creation such as coconut oil, I won’t complain, and if He gives direction to His praying child through Facebook, that is His prerogative as well.8
She has since posted a video of Bruce thanking people for praying for him, and explaining how his condition changed dramatically after taking coconut oil. He reports how he was diagnosed with dementia and could no longer care for himself, and that the doctors recommended that he be put in a nursing home. Watch and listen to him now:
A little further reading, and ALL references are available here.