May 102012
 
Coconut Oil and Alzheimer's

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.

This post originally appeared on www.alzheimersblog.org.

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  58 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?

  2. We saw this news broadcast and decided to give it a try. There has been a marked improvement in just weeks.
    http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/healthscience/2012/Jan

    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??

  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?

  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

  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 (www.theadplan.com/blog), along with specific types of fish with the Omega-3 "DHA".

  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.

  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!

  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.

  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.

  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?
    Alz.org – 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: http://parkinsonsand5htp.blogspot.com/2012/05/yet

  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 thecureforad.com 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.

  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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