Can Coconut Oil Treat Alzheimer’s Disease?

By Maylin Rodriguez-Paez, RN

Coconut oil has been brought up a lot as a potential cure for Alzheimer’s disease lately.

In fact, if you do an internet search, you’ll probably find many accounts of people who claim coconut oil has reversed Alzheimer’s in their loved ones. But is there any science behind this? Let’s dig into the facts.

Coconut oil has actually been making a serious comeback in the health food world lately. For years, many health enthusiasts shied away from it for one reason or another.

However, these days, it’s gaining in popularity for several reasons. One of which is the fact that coconut oil contains a rich supply of medium chain triglycerides or MCTs, which are fats that the body can use as an energy source.

But how can this impact brain disorders like Alzheimer’s? Below we’ll take a closer look.

Alzheimer’s is “Diabetes of the Brain”

Alzheimer’s disease may be tied to a situation in which the brain can’t use glucose, its preferred source of energy. That’s why some researchers have labeled Alzheimer’s as “diabetes of the brain.” And there’s evidence for this too.

Scientists have discovered that people with Alzheimer’s disease may have defective brain insulin signaling.1 This is not a good thing.

The brain, like other cells in the body, needs insulin in order to use glucose. Insulin transports the glucose into your brain’s cells — kind of like a gatekeeper of sorts.

When brain cells lack glucose, they die. This in turn could lead to brain damage and neurological diseases, like Alzheimer’s.

Here’s where coconut oil may come into play. The medium chain triglycerides found abundantly in coconut oil can be readily used by brain cells as a fuel source.

The liver transforms these triglycerides into ketones, which in turn are used as energy to support brain cell structure, function, and connections — all of which are important factors in treating Alzheimer’s disease.2 Unlike sugar, these ketones act independently of insulin.

Medium Chain Triglycerides Improve Memory

All of this information about coconut oil and medium chain triglycerides sounds great, but is there any scientific support? Well, research shows that they do, in fact, improve cognitive function in both animals and humans.

Aged dogs, for instance, performed better on cognitive tests after receiving medium chain triglycerides.3 Not only that, the dogs that received these high-energy fats also had reduced amounts of amyloid beta plaque precursors, which are commonly seen in early Alzheimer’s disease.4

People taking MCTs also did better on cognitive tests as well. In a study involving type I diabetics, the participants were split into two groups. One group was given a placebo, while the other was given a drink rich in medium chain triglycerides.

Both groups were given insulin to lower their blood sugar which would impair the ability to think. They were then asked to complete cognitive tests. The medium chain triglycerides group performed better than placebo on the tests.5 Can we expect the same results in Alzheimer’s patients? Perhaps.

Remember, medium chain triglycerides produce ketones. Ketones are used as an insulin-independent energy source. This is important because, as stated above, Alzheimer’s patients may have problems with using insulin in their brains.

In a different study, Alzheimer’s patients were given ketones for 90 days. Researchers used a tool called the AD Assessment Scale-Cognitive Subscale to assess the cognitive function of the participants.

The results of the study turned out to be positive, with the Alzheimer’s patients showing significant improvement in cognitive function.6

Is Coconut Oil a Potential Treatment for Alzheimer’s?

The truth is that there’s no clear answer yet. However, according to studies, medium chain triglycerides certainly seem to protect brain cells and improve cognitive function. Of course, more research is needed.

What do you think? Do you see coconut oil as becoming a viable treatment for Alzheimer’s disease? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

References:

  1. J Clin Invest. 2012;122(4):1339–1353.
  2. Neurotherapeutics. 2008 Jul;5(3):470-80.
  3. Br J Nutr. 2010 Jun;103(12):1746-54.
  4. Brain Res. 2008 Aug 21;1226:209-17.
  5. Diabetes. 2009 May;58(5):1237-44.
  6. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2009 Aug 10;6:31.

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26 comments:

Anonymous said...

If there is evidence that it can help and not hurt, I say try it. You'll most likely not get it approved as a drug because it is not patten worthy. No Drug Co. is going to spend money on it. I say the pros outweigh the cons.

Anonymous said...

I distinguish the potential usage of this MCT in my everyday diet. If for any reason being quite helpful for my brain too I am going to keep it for ever. Everything that helps m e but not deconstruct me I shall be real and serious user.

Anonymous said...

Google, Dr Mary Newport..."What if there was a cure for Alzheimers Disease and nobody knew?"

In a nutshell...she gave her husband who had Dementia,large amounts of coconut oil and had very positive results in helping him.

Life Extension said...

Anonymous –Dr. Newport claimed her husband’s memory improved after taking coconut oil. She suggests it for conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Marilyn Bellantoni said...

It doesn't sound like coconut oil actually reverses Alzheimer's, it rather provides the brain with an alternate energy source. If a person/animal who showed cognitive improvement after regular consumption of coconut oil were to discontinue use, I suspect cognitive decline would reoccur because no action was taken to correct the brain's insulin resistance. Perhaps, if we treated early signs of Alzheimer's naturally the way we treat metabolic syndrome, we could prevent the death of many brain cells.

Anna said...

Wow! This is a great news. This will really help people to be treated on this disease as well as they can save money.

Life Extension said...

Marilyn Bellantoni - You bring up an interesting point! Research shows there seems to be an association between Alzheimer’s disease and metabolic syndrome.

Unknown said...

I think you have certainly provided a good overview of what coconut can do for the human body with some excellent references as well. I am a student at Harvard. I have a blog myself and have written an article on coconut and cognitive function which your readers might find of interest: http://www.nutritas.org/blogs/news/6775702-can-coconut-cure-alzheimer-s-disease

Life Extension said...

We appreciate the kind words. Thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

So are we to suggest drinking coconut oil? If so how much?

LifeExtension said...

Anonymous - Good question. Based on existing research it looks like coconut oil might be a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s, but not for everyone. At this point we don’t know enough to pinpoint an effective dose. Here’s a link to a study in which ketones (byproducts of coconut oil) were used in Alzheimer’s patients: http://ow.ly/fpFIe

melissafitz said...

I read about Dr. Mary Newport and how she treated her husband's AD with organic coconut oil. It's very interesting and there's also a video about it. I say, also, if it can only help, then why not?

LifeExtension said...

melissafitz - Good point!

Jamaican Black Castor Oil said...

Nice post! Your blog is a good source of great stuff and insights. I’ll surely be coming back. See you around!

LifeExtension said...

Jamaican Black Castor Oil - Thanks for the feedback! We appreciate your support. :)

Anonymous said...

Surely if the person with Alzheimer's quality of life, and that of their carer's, will be improved it is worth taking Coconut Oil. It can be stopped if there is no improvement. I read a great improvement was made with a teaspoon of Coconut oil twice daily with food. I think the benefits might out weigh the risk of heart disease. The life expectancy of a person with Alzheimer's should be taken into account, when not taking Coconut Oil, against how long it would take to develop heart disease. If the person is more active there is less chance of the heart disease.

LifeExtension said...

Anonymous - Many times it doesn't hurt to try a remedy! Thanks for chiming in.

Anonymous said...

My father has been diagnosed with Dementia and has been taking coconut oil for a few months now, he is doing very well and has improved. After not seeing him for a few months some members of my family could not believe how well he is doing. So i am very hopeful for the future and hoping to get my brilliant father back.

LifeExtension said...

Anonymous - Awesome! We're glad to hear that. We hope your father continues to improve. :-)

assisted living said...

Great article. We hope to get some good results on the coconut oil.

LifeExtension said...

assisted living - Thanks! Keep us updated. :-)

Anonymous said...

I love you

Anonymous said...

Coconut oil does offer lots of health benefits. My question would be - does it offer any of those same benefits if used as a body/skin oil? Thanks

LifeExtension said...

Anonymous - You won't reap the same health benefits we've mentioned in the blog by applying it to your skin. But when applied to the skin, it has moisturizing effects.

LOUFS said...

I started my husband on NOW MCT Oil over a year ago finally ending at a dosage of
3 tsp three times a day. When winter came, his memory started to slide and I thought we have to eat more food in the winter for energy so I upped his dosage to 4 tsp three times a day and that did the trick. I will go back to the lower dosage when warmer weather gets here. He has done very well with this and is able to function which keeps him out of assisted living or a nursing home. Please try it for your loved one. A bottle lasts about a month and runs around $20.00.

Life Extension said...

LOUFS - That's awesome. Thanks for sharing your story!

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