Coconut oil used to be thought of as an artery-clogging, cholesterol-raising food that should be avoided at all costs. But recently it’s health benefits have become known. Not only has it become a popular general-purpose cooking oil, there is even evidence that it could help to cure Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia.
This idea took off after Dr. Mary Newport wrote Alzheimer’s Disease: What If There Was a Cure? which detailed how her husband’s early onset Alzheimer’s positively responded to the addition of coconut oil to his diet.
But is coconut oil really a cure or is this just wishful thinking?
How Coconut Oil Got a Bad Reputation
Before we examine coconut oil’s potential to treat Alzheimer’s, let’s look at the history of how this healthy oil was vilified.
In the 1950s, research speculated, wrongly as history has shown, that hydrogenated fat was the cause of heart disease and that butter, lard, coconut oil, and palm oil were the culprits. Many of the early studies citing coconut oil as unhealthy were done with the partially hydrogenated form, which put it at a grossly unfair disadvantage.
Tariffs were even placed on coconut oil to encourage people to buy new partially hydrogenated oils like margarine and Crisco instead. Now it’s known that these highly processed vegetable oils contain dangerous trans fats that are so unhealthy they are banned in some places like New York City and even in entire countries like Iceland, Sweden, and Austria.
Why Coconut Oil?
You may wonder why Dr. Newport decided to try feeding her husband coconut oil in the first place. As a neonatal physician, she was familiar with the use of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), the kind found in coconut oil, for feeding newborns. MCTs are administered to premature babies because they are easily utilized even before they have developed digestive enzymes. MCTs naturally occur in mother’s milk and are added to all infant formulas. Because of her background, Dr. Newport understood how MCTs could supply energy to the brain.
How MCTs Uniquely Feeds the Brain
Normally your brain’s main fuel is glucose. Insulin allows glucose to enter the brain cells.
But our bodies have a back-up system for times when we can’t get enough energy from carbohydrates. The liver then kicks in to produce ketones that can be used as a substitute fuel during times of starvation.
But you don’t have to starve to access ketones as a source of energy! The medium-chain triglycerides in coconut oil can be broken down into ketones by the liver. Ketones can then cross the blood-brain barrier to provide instant energy to brain cells with no insulin spike.
It is this unique quality – it’s high MCT content – that makes coconut oil a possible Alzheimer’s treatment. (Other typical vegetable oils contain long-chain fats which aren’t broken down the same way.)
Alzheimer’s – a Form of Diabetes
Some researchers believe that Alzheimer’s is a actually type-3 diabetes. A lifetime of too many carbohydrates can cause brain cells to becomes insulin-resistant so they no longer uptake the glucose they need. Eventually brain cells start to die leading to Alzheimer’s, unless there is another source of brain cell energy, such as the kind supplied by coconut oil.
Signs of Growing Acceptance
Dr. Mary Newport publicized her husband’s story in hopes that it could help others and that the medical community would become aware of coconut oil as a possible Alzheimer’s treatment. The medical community largely thinks her idea is a bunch of bunk.
However, there are scientists, doctors, and researchers working on using coconut oil, MCTs, and ketones to treat Alzheimer’s. One drug company has come up with a prescription-only “medical food” called Axona that works by providing the brain ketones, similar to the kind provided by coconut oil.
Currently, the University of South Florida is conducting a clinical trial studying the benefits of coconut oil on people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s. The study will be using Fuel for Thought concentrated coconut-MCT oil beverage which can be purchased online without a prescription. You can learn more about the study here.
A month’s supply of Axona costs $120 while a month’s supply of coconut oil costs $6.60. A month’s supply of Fuel for Thought will run slightly less than Axona but much more than coconut oil.
Why Coconut Oil Should Be in Every Kitchen
Coconut oil is one of the best oils for cooking. It’s 90% saturated fat which may sound bad, but that’s what makes it so stable. While monounsaturated vegetable oils like extra virgin olive oil are healthy to use “as is”, they become unstable at relatively low temperatures and burn easily. Heat turns them into trans fats, the dangerous unhealthy fats you want to avoid!
Vegetable oils like canola, soybean, and safflower are bad news! If you have these in your kitchen, toss them today. They are high in inflammation-producing omega-6 fatty acids. They are processed with heat and toxic chemicals and contain the trans fats you want to avoid.
Coconut oil is 50% lauric acid which is antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal. It lowers risk of heart disease by increasing good cholesterol and boosts the immune system. Lauric acid naturally occurs in breast milk. Coconut is the only way to get it in your diet.
Coconut oil is unique in that it melts at 76° so, depending on the temperature in your home, some days it’s solid and some days it’s liquid! I can’t think of anything else that changes form at room temperature, can you? Don’t keep it in the fridge or it will turn rock hard.
The Bottom Line
Alzheimer’s is a complicated disease. Some experts even question whether we should call it a disease. There is no conclusive way to diagnosis it except by doing an autopsy after death and there is no effective medical treatment. There are many suspected causes and there almost certainly will be no one cure that works for everyone.
The bottom line? Coconut oil is not a “magic bullet” but is definitely a viable treatment that shows great promise in halting and even reversing Alzheimer’s in many cases.
If you want to improve your mental function or prevent mental decline in the future, coconut oil is a healthy addition to any diet that anyone can safely start today. With 1 in 3 people in the US currently dying with Alzheimer’s it only makes sense to take this easy, inexpensive precaution.
Your brain was meant to last a lifetime, but… the assaults of modern life are aging our brains before their time. Brain fog, lack of focus, indecision, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and feeling overwhelmed can all be signs that your brain is not aging as well as it should. There are common lifestyle mistakes that almost everyone, no matter how healthy their lifestyle is, makes. Learn how to easily avoid the three most common brain mistakes that contribute to brain aging.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Deane Alban is co-founder of BeBrainFit.com, where you can learn how to keep your brain as young, healthy, and fit for life. Sign up for her newsletter Brain Builder and claim your FREE Special Bonus Report – “5 Causes of Brain Aging“.