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Coconut Oil and Alzheimer’s Disease Patients

A form of dementia that worsens over time, Alzheimer s disease, or AD, ravages the brain causing severe memory loss and drastic behavioral changes. It is estimated that by the year 2050 over 15 million people in the United States alone will be afflicted with AD. Numerous drugs have been tried in an effort to stop or slow the progression of the disease; however, most have met with little success. As with many diseases, some research into Alzheimer’s suggests that a causal link can be established to nutritional deficiencies; some studies have shown that coconut oil may be of benefit.

Most commonly affecting people over 60, Alzheimer s disease is known to develop abnormal collections of proteins, called “plaque and tangles,” around the neurons in the brain, preventing the neurons from firing properly. In addition to medication that attempts to slow the progression of the disease itself, numerous other medications may be required to try to mitigate behavioral changes caused by the disease.

Image used under Creative Commons from Generaal Gibson.

For all the bad press dietary fat gets, it does have some very important functions within the body. In reference to AD, fat is responsible for transporting cholesterol within the brain. In a recent study, “Nutrition and Alzheimer s disease: The detrimental role of a high carbohydrate diet,” published in the European Journal of Internal Medicine, explored the correlation between insulin resistance in the brain and AD, as wells as other neurological diseases. Fat is required for cholesterol absorption and transportation with the cells, and cholesterol is a critical component of brain health, working as an antioxidant to prevent cell damage, maintaining protective insulation of connections and scaffolding for the neural network. In conclusion, the study suggests a lack of dietary fat may be indirectly responsible for the development of plaques and tangles though a lack of adequate cholesterol metabolism.

Coconuts contain high levels of fats, including Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats, both documented to contribute to brain health; while, as plant oil, coconut oil itself does not contain cholesterol, it is a highly efficient transport agent. Additionally, coconuts contain high levels of saturated fat that provides the brain with ketones, which are responsible for converting medium chain fatty triglycerides (MCT) into energy for the brain. One of the reasons the oil of the coconut may be effective at treating AD is that coconuts are the highest source of MCTs known in nature.

Smaller studies and numerous antidotal reports are showing promising results for the use of coconut oil in treating AD. In a report published by the St. Petersburg’s Times, “What if there was a cure for Alzheimer’s and nobody knew,” Dr. Mary Newport describes the positive effects coconut oil has had on Alzheimer’s patients, including her own husband, slowing or even improving symptoms.

More work is needed. Even through the benefits of coconut oil in treating patients with Alzheimer s disease seems promising; it should not be substituted for a complete regime supervised by a medical professional.