May 102012

We’ve received quite a few questions recently about whether or not coconut oil can be used to treat Alzheimer’s disease. This is a topic that comes up often, so I thought it would be helpful to provide some background:

The claim

This theory has to do with substances called ketones. The damage caused by Alzheimer’s disrupts the brain’s ability to use its primary energy source, known as glucose. The brain naturally gets a portion of its energy from ketone bodies when glucose is less available (e.g., during fasting, strenuous exercise and in newborns). Ketones may provide an alternative energy source to the brain’s cells to moderate the damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease. The body produces ketones when it metabolizes coconut oil and similar substances (fatty acids).

Beyond the headline

Unfortunately, there just isn’t any creditable science to support this idea. It is impossible for us to know how well coconut oil does or does not work in Alzheimer’s disease because there have not been rigorous, large-scale research studies done.

The bottom line

Because there haven’t been any large studies to test the effectiveness of coconut oil, we just can’t say whether it really helps people with Alzheimer’s disease. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. I personally suspect that it has little effect on Alzheimer’s symptoms but, to be fair, I haven’t had any family members, friends or clients who’ve tried it.

My rule of thumb is that if the risks and costs are low, you might consider trying it. If the risks or costs are high, don’t chance it. Think about how you would feel if you gave your loved one something and they lost ground and independence as a result.

Some alternative therapies have substantial risk associated with them; be careful and don’t assume that something that is “natural” is safe. If you are considering trying coconut oil, please consult your doctor first to make sure it will do no harm to the person with dementia

About the  author: Elizabeth Edgerly, Ph.D., is the chief program officer for the Alzheimer’s Association, Northern California and Northern Nevada Chapter. To read more blog posts by Dr. Edgerly, click here.

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  57 Responses to “Can Coconut Oil Treat Alzheimer’s?”

  1. Would cooking with coconut oil (instead of olive oil) and spreading it on toast (vs butter) be considered high risk?

    • No!! That is not possible. The only side effect is some stomach discomfort if you give too much and don't give the body time to adjust to it, and it does not take long for that to happen. After all, coconut oil is very good for you. Good luck.

  2. We saw this news broadcast and decided to give it a try. There has been a marked improvement in just weeks.

    Why isn't more research being done by doctors specializing in Alzheimer's? That's the question to ask

  3. I will say that this is a personal choice for anyone debating whether to try adding coconut oil to the diet of a loved one with Alzheimer’s. In MY experience, it has been effective but it’s not a cure(as of yet!!). It ha been effective in the things that matter the most: my 67 year old father has come back to us!! He participates in conversations again. He no longer seems spaced out. He smiles again. He helps around the house washing dishes and dusting, etc. As far as his memory is concerned, his recent memory has improved. Enough that his primary care physician has notices the improvement and is now interested in the research behind my fathers new diet. I could be here all day talking about the things that have improved but in the end this is a personal decision. But I leave you with a question…what do you have to lose??

    • Melissa – Thank you so much for sharing your story!! How much are you giving your father? I would like to give this a try with my 75 yr old mother. You are very right….what have you got to lose

    • how much do you give your dad?(daily?) and what do you do with do you cook/ serve it? i have some but it is like "waxy" and am not sure how to give to my mom? thanks for the help :))

    • Hi I am more than willing , what amount and how are you using it? Thanks so much for your input! I would stand on my head and eat it if it would help my mom. 🙂

    • Hi melissa may I ask what are you giving your father? I have been reading about coconut oil recently and have been wanting to have my dad start taking them. Just not sure if I should do oil or capsules. Thanks for your help!

    • How much have you added to his diet?

    • Not only coconut oil….which I use for cooking and in my wonderful goat milk soaps….my Traumatic Brain Injured husband who now has dementia (Lewy Bodies/Pugilista), drinks unpasteurized (REAL) milk and is doing a lot better. He would drink only a glass every few days, but now drinks it when I give it to him once or twice daily.

      Since he doesn't like anything on his toast except peanut butter and jam, I cook with the coconut butter. I melt on low heat & cook eggs, saute veggies, brown meat, etc in the melted oil. Any left in the pan/skillet is poured on top of what he's served.

    • I just found this post and wanted to add my personal anecdote. My mother-in-law has been diagnosed with dementia (probably Alzheimer's according to her physicians) She is taking Aricept and Namenda but wasn't seeing much improvement. Approximately 2 months ago my father-in-law added 1gram of certified organic coconut oil in capsule form sold by Swanson to her diet. The change has been amazing after only a few weeks. Yes, she still has the disease as well as other problems associated with aging but she is now much more engaged in life and seems to be much happier as well. As a practicing Elder Law Attorney and former clinical registered nurse I am a huge skeptic but seeing is believing.

  4. @ Melissa. Good, I am thrilled to hear it has worked well for your father. How does one obtain the oil and how is it used?

  5. How are you introducing it into his diet?

    • We add it to mom's diet mixed in hot drinks or smoothies. Also sautee' veggies in it or baking with it. We do one Tablespoon but realize it may cause some stomach problems. Lose stool being one of them. My mom has issues with that anyway with her medication so we don't figuire we have much to loose.

  6. I think that this is something that is worth the effort , research and money . The Alzheimer`s Association should put some of the money it gets from us behind it`s research…………Next time do the homework before you turn it in , thank you

    • This post was not meant to be pro- or against coconut oil, but rather a summary of where the current science is and a place for readers to converse and share opinions. While we are the largest private nonprofit funder of Alzheimer’s research and have been able to fund more than 2,000 grants since our program started in the eighties, even we cannot fund all of the studies that should be funded. While we’ve received few, if any proposals specifically studying coconut oil, we have received a little over half a dozen proposals on studies that look at substances derived from coconut oil such as ketones. Most recently, we funded a study in 2010 by David Morgan, Ph.D. from the University of South Florida. To learn more about where our research money goes, please visit: <a href="” target=”_blank”>

  7. I really believe that changing what you eat can help with Alz, and protect the brain. I am an Registered Dietician, and my father has been diagnosed since 2009, we tried coconut oil a year later but we were not really sure that it made a difference. We have made several other changes though, most specifically decreasing the simple carbs and limiting added sugars.There seems to be more and more research on diet for memory function but I wonder why there has not been more research on coconut oil specifically? I follow a blog on diet and AD and the most recent research supports berries as well (, along with specific types of fish with the Omega-3 "DHA".

    • Several people have commented on why there has been no research on it. It's because it's a food and the drug companies CANNOT patent it. Therefore, just because it helps people is meaningless and worthless to them. Put money in their pocket and they're your friend.

      But, we have the Internet.

  8. I'm not aware of any risks associated with using coconut oil unless you are allergic to it. We use it and have seen improvements.

  9. Why isn't more research being done by doctors specializing in Alzheimer's? And from the Alzheimer`s Association :That's the question to ask ?

  10. As someone who is now going through the heartbreak of seeing ANOTHER family member go down the dementia trail, I have to suggest that the only risk here is to NOT try this oil. It's oil. Just like corn oil, or olive oil. Since it will take medical researchers a lifetime to get some good studies going, it's up to us to be proactive now about our loved ones' care.
    I do not wish to sit back with my arms folded and watch this scenario unfold – again.

  11. perhaps there is no research because none of the pharmaceutical companies will benefit.

    • exactly!

    • Amen! I think you hit the nail on the head there TP… I understand that research costs money and I believe that it's the pharmaceutical companies that fund a lot of the research… but I also know that lots of people contribute money to the Alzheimer's Association and Alzheimer's Foundation of America and others… what about that money? Is is being used only to RUN those organizations and NOT for research? Their ads asking for "tax-exempt contributions" say that they need the money for research, so that's what the money should be used for… As for coconut oil… my dad was on Aracept for about 9 months with NO noticeable change. I read an article on coconut oil and finally got my Mom to give it to him. The change in him has been DRAMATIC! Prior to starting on the coconut oil he was very disoriented and basically was withdrawing from life. When I talked to him on the phone he would forget who I was… he would sometimes refer to my daughter (his granddaughter) as his niece! Prior to the Alzheimer's he walked EVERY day… but started getting lost, which really scared both him and my Mom. AFTER being on the coconut oil (my Mom cooks with it AND puts it in smoothies for him every day) for about 5 months now, he has come back to us!!! His short-term memory is still not great (it NEVER has been!) but he is not disoriented and is "present" and participates in whatever's going on at the time. I can have a conversation with him and he knows exactly who I am. I am so thankful that we tried this, and as long as there's not a specific medical reason or an allergy, I would recommend that anyone who has symptoms be started on coconut oil. I would say that you should check with their doctor, the problem is that MANY doctors don't believe in ANY treatments that are Holistic in nature so they'll recommend that you NOT try it. That's what my Dad's doctor said… it hasn't been "proven" so don't take it. My family rejected his advice, because I don't believe he is educating himself on what's going on with Alzheimer's patients all over the world! So what if there hasn't been a huge clinical trial!!! We saw DEFINITE results with my Dad on coconut oil. That's good enough for me. (Also, the article I originally found on coconut oil said that it HAD been scientifically PROVEN that it actually REPAIRS "connections" (not the medical terminology but I don't remember exactly how it was worded) and promotes growth of NEW "connections". If I can find the article again I'll post the link!)

  12. Medical research takes years, and it usually only happens if a pharmaceutical company can profit from it. So, if you have a family member or friend with Alzheimer's, by all means try cooking with coconut oil, which is a healthy oil. Put it in smoothies, use it in recipes that call for butter or oil, and see if it helps. I personally am now very suspicious of the Alzheimer's Association's motivations. Do they only sponsor drug-related research?

  13. Big Pharma will not spend money on research when they know they can't patent it. Coconut oil is a food, its an oil, solid until the temperatures are in the mid 70's, then it turns into liquid. Google coconut oil and alzheimers and you will be shown thousands of websites that explain the science behind how coconut oil works in alzheimers patients. If you are taking care of someone with alzheimers, get rid of all your vegetable oils, canola oil and shortning, anything that you would cook with veg oil use coconut oil to fry and bake. Finally start off with 1 tablespoon with every meal and work up to 3 tablespoons per meal, over the course of a few weeks, your body needs time to acclimate to it, otherwise you might get diaharrea!

  14. Hi, I just wanted to say that my mother is diagnosed with alz. and we give her coconut oil regularly. We mix it in hot chocolate or pudding, spread on toast or saute' veggies in it. I even bake things with it. Mom is much more social when she has eaten it. It disturbs me that the assoc. hasn't pushed for research on this all natural product, but, there lies the problem. It is natural and no pharmacutical company can make money on it. I would encourage anyone that is using it to make sure you use Virgin Coconut Oil!! It is unprocessed and has a very slight coconut flavor. It is very healthy and can not hurt you.

  15. It may cause upset stomachs until your body is use to it. It is recommended to use 1 teaspoon and build up to two tablespoons a day or more. We put one Tablespoon in moms drink or smoothy as she has an upset stomach most of the time with the medicines she has to take anyway. It seems to bring her out of a daze or fog. I don't really know how to describe it. Tropical Traditions is a great website to order it from and if you watch, you might even get free shipping which helps alot!! Also, The Coconut Diet has alot of information on coconut oil for not only alz., but other health issues too.

  16. It's helped our son quite a bit. He has autism, which is known to affect the same area of the brain as alzheimer's. Lots more speech, eye contact, and cognition! Also, motor skills were greatly improved. LOVE IT!

    • Philly, I started out by gnviig it to Bruce mixed half and half with butter on his toast, on his potatoes, and carrots, etc and then later started gnviig it to him without the butter. I also fry with it, even french fries,? and it’s still good for him. For more info you could check my How-to listed above

  17. I find this to be utterly ridiculous: "If you are considering trying coconut oil, please consult your doctor first to make sure it will do no harm to the person with dementia." It is a FOOD. This article is deliberately slanted, albeit ever so delicately, to make it sound as though coconut oil could be risky.

    "If the risks and costs are low, you might consider trying it." There ARE no risks. It is a natural, healthful food that has been used in abundance for thousands of years. The cost IS low. So why not come out and apply your own stated rule of thumb and SAY "the risks and costs are low, so consider trying it!" instead of telling people to get a doctor's advice, which is an effective way to scare them off of trying it.

    • I highly agree Carma! Coconut oil has been around for ever! raw cold pressed C O is the best for a lot of things! Government wants control! anything healthy is bad for government and business. pharmacies might go broke if people would wake up and start eating healthy and use more natural products. chemicals cause health problems!!

  18. There is no doubt that coconut oil has a whole range of health benefits, some of which the establishment medical science people don't particularly want us to believe in or know about, just as it also doesn't advertise the fact that the neurotoxic aluminium in vaccines is a major cause or contributing factor to Alzheimer's/dementia. Dr Russell Blaylock MD has e.g. warned that people who have the flu shot five years in a row have a ten-fold increased risk of getting Alzheimer's.

    • I BELIEVE that!!! Im 37, and two years ago I got temporary amnesia after having the flu vaccine. It was terrifying! I went to the ER. They never figured out what was wrong. I couldnt remember anything for about 10 hours. I have always suspected the flu vaccine.

  19. This article is incredibly sad. I use coconut oil, on my skin, to bake and sauté, as a conditioner for my hair, on burns, on mosquito bites, must I go on?!!
    No problem for the medical community to over dose our Alzheimer's loved ones with a multiple drug cocktail to put them in a vegetative state. People, wake up! There is no money to be made by pharma if coconut oil is used, only for their drugs, of course there are no "studies" because pharma makes no money from cocnut pil! how about it has been used for thousands of years? Is that a long enough study?
    Dr. Eagerly, how do you sleep at night writing and passing on such ridiculous statements. I watched the drug cocktails take my dad away from us – I know for a fact they were giving him drugs that were not tested on the elderly, in fact on the label it said not to give to the elderly. Why not address that issue? – shame on you, you are not for the people. You, are as many support groups find themselves, in the pockets of big medicine/pharma and will uphold their bidding, not those you claim to assist.
    So sad.
    People do your own research and always be an informed advocate for your loved one, which are only a commodity in the hands of the drug pushers called doctors as well meaning as some may appear to be.

  20. Emily –Yes, shame, shame, shame on any physician, nurse, or anyone else working in the medical field who refuses to open their minds to something wholesome that can heal patients.. This idea of double-blind study is worthless. How many drugs haven't been produced by such studies that have proven to be harmful to our bodies and brains. I won't enumerate since the list would be too long. My experience has been that when I have found something natural that has worked fantastically well for family , the physicians don't want to hear about it. No wonder our health care is so terrible and expensive. Oh, yes, big pharma is god. Our medical personal and all of our facilities that train our doctors and pharmacists bow to this god, big Pharma. How exceedingly sad for our country. We pride ourselves as being the best, but in fact, we are one of the worst of the industrialized nations.
    Isn't it enough to see the evidence of how well former Alzheimer's patients are doing to at least make people aware of the hope that exists? Please physicians, show your humanity. What was that oath that you took?

  21. I have yet another success story to add. Three family members, one with mod stage ALZ, two suffering from decades of scitzophrenia and bipolar ALL have been helped dramatically with coconut oil. How’s that for a case study? 🙂

  22. On my blog, I posted Dr. Newport's original video on dosing her Alzheimer's afflicted husband with coconut oil. But then I researched if further and found there is no scientific evidence supporting these anecdotal claims and that Dr. Newport (along with Bruce Fife, the Coconut OIl MIracle author) are making $$ selling books about these unfounded claims. See:

  23. Coconut oil is 57% Medium chain triglycerides (MCT), which are found in breast milk, cow milk, goat’s milk and are added to preemie and baby formula. If they are safe for babies why would they cause harm in seniors? Certainly eating coconut oil is safer than margarine with all its unsaturated, hydrogenated, preserved, trans fats and coloring. There are in fact, studies being done on MCT’s by Axona. I also understand that a recent study of 152 Alzheimer’s patients eating coconut oil yielded at least 50% improvement in symptoms. Check out at about min 42 of the 46 minute podcast on Dr Newman’s website for details.

  24. My husband has Alzheimer's and could not talk or read. We hace been giving him coconut oil in his coffee e ery morning for the last few months and he is one reading the television captions aloud and is speaking short comments. I don't think he understands what he is reading bUt his brain is engaged and he is happily doing something he enjoys.

  25. What more evidence do you need other than that provided by Dr. Mary Newport and the remarkable well-documented changes in her husband Steven.

    I feel you write like you work for the FDA or one of the drug companies poisoning people with their chemical drugs..

  26. Hmmm

    Wow here it is 2012 and Alzheimer's is running rampant. Big pharma swears they are doing every thing possible. And yet despite thousands of years of safe use and all sorts of evidence that it helps the disease not one major study by the industry has been done to date? I think they are lying. I think dozens of major studies have been done. And these studies have all shown that Coconut oil can cure many people of the disease. The problem for the industry is that because it is so plentiful (read cheap) and they can't figure out a way to patent it they are attempting to put doubt in the minds of consumers with articles the this one. These type of articles are all over the net. Of course they are paid for by the industry. This is just one more example of the Big Pharma mafia in action.

  27. Follow my family’s journey with the coconut oil program in a personal blog at dedicated to my dad, diagnosed with Alzheimers Disease. Positive changes HAVE been seen by many family members and hopefully we will continue to see them. There are so many great benefits in the extra virgin coconut oil, even for so many other diseases, it’s a shame not to try, if only to buy a little more time with our loved ones.

  28. The medicines for this ailment is worse than the sickness!

  29. Insulin levels are low in the brain of the people suffering from Alzheimer's disease. That means neurons and the other cells are not being asked to synthesize protein, use fuel for energy generation and storage. It means they are in no growth mode that perhaps leads to neuro degeneration in a way similar to the diabetic muscle degeneration. It the low levels of insulin in the brain were the only problem, then adding insulin to the cerebro spinal fluid might help recover from Alzheimer's.

  30. If adding coconut oil to the diet can only help, then why not give it a try. The high content of medium chain fatty acids found in the oil are what's essential for a healthy brain. It's very interesting and there really should be more research done on the benefits of coconut oil.

  31. This is even more proof that diabetes and Alzheimers share the same properties in illnesses…

  32. Dear people, get a grip. It’s not just “big bad pharma” doing studies (or not), it’s also universities and hospitals investigating drugs and substances. My wife has been in four different studies at Yale (New Haven), including Omega 3 and Vitamin E, and one study at Lovelace (I think it was) in Albuquerque. None of the substances proved effective, though there are/were testimonials and anecdotal “proof” galore.

    Since my dearest was diagnosed 14 years ago we’ve tried all the fads, miracles, and testimonials (where can I get some Gila Monster saliva), and still today she’s in an Alzheimer’s wing. So why do we see improvements? The fact is that when the brain’s pathways are destroyed, the wonderful brain naturally finds (or tries to find) new pathways to function. This morning my wife, who is in such desperate condition that she’s also under hospice care, was remarkably sharp and responsive–as she has been these past few weeks. Why? Nothing in her care-plan has changed. I say it’s that fabulous brain of hers doing what it does.

    My advice to all you wonderful caregivers is this: try it. Try every damned thing you can think of, find on the Internet, or watch on CBN. Don’t give up, but don’t get your hopes to the point that if it fails, you feel devastated and guilty for not saving the day. I said above the brain is doing what it does (finding new pathways). How do I help her brain? I visit her every second day (for a year now), for 45 minutes, stimulating her brain by talking her talk, teasing out a one-word answer or a smile, smoothing her hair, rubbing her hands, massaging her forehead, playing her favorite music (Barry Manilow, arrg), sneaking her tiny pieces of chocolate, slowly pushing her wheelchair through the wing, and on and on. It’s all stimulating. It’s all brain exercise. Whether it’s in the wing or at home–brain stimulation.

    One more suggestion: go to my website (I think the link will display), and click on “Barbara/ Alzheimer’s” for a series of photos following her struggle to live with Alzheimer’s.

    • BLESS YOU FOR SHARING VINCENT! You are doing all the right things! I wish more people could find out what works and how to care for our loved ones! Talking her talk is one of the best suggestions. A person has to enter their world for continued happiness and cooperation.

  33. My mother used to give me the exact same advice

  34. Lol! How typical of the medical mafia–no credible "science".

    Who cares? The REAL stories of recovery from debilitatating disease is overwhelming. People are becoming enlightened finally to the fact that medical science has NO answers to either preventing or curing disease. Their 3 therapies of slash, burn or poison have pretty much run their course, as did blood letting that killed our first President, George Washington, or the use of mercury as a "curative".

    If people who are reading this want a REAL cure, your only option is to check out alternative, natural remedies, which actually CURE disease. Or, if you just want to go broke and then die, stick with the medical establishment. They will accomodate you most assuredly.

  35. As it's been over 2 yrs since the Alzheimer's Association recognized the great demand for and lack of information on coconut oil & Alzheimer's, I'm just wondering what kind of research they've done w/ their hundreds of millions of taxpayer and donor dollars since then to try and answer some of the questions being asked?

  36. the only question to ask this organization is why have they not funded a study yet as there are so many positive case histories out there. Alzheimer's may vary in severity from day to day but spontaneous remissions are unknown. If a small handful of patients with Alzheimer's report benefits this is a significant signal that every one should wake up too!!!

  37. I believe that it is Ms. Edgerly obligation to look at any and all options for therapies to decrease symptoms of Alzheimer's and dementia. The current drug therapies aren't really that effective and have side effects! I say study the effects of coconut oil, MCT's and their ability to create an alternative energy source in the brain.

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