Coconut Oil for Alzheimer's: Identifying the Truth from the Myths
What is your stand about Alzheimer's cure with coconut oil? Many people claim that it is the cure for Alzheimer's disease, but is it true?
Alzheimer’s Cure with Coconut Oil: Story at a Glance
- The National Institute on Aging defines Alzheimer’s disease as an “irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory . . . and the ability to carry out the simplest tasks.” Research into Alzheimer’s disease treatment is a growing field. There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s. The focus is on Alzheimer’s treatment and prevention.
- Is there a link between coconut oil and Alzheimer’s? Many complementary health-care experts are studying coconut oil for its potential. Some believe coconut oil can prevent, or even reverse many types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s.
- Coconut oil is a good source of medium-chain triglyceride, or MCT. In an interview for Aging Care, Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D., medical director for the Nutritional Magnesium Association, reports that MCTs may be beneficial for treating several incurable diseases. She includes ALS, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
- It is necessary to understand how dementia affects the brain, and how MCTs can uniquely protect the brain. The relationship between the brain and MCTs explains why many medical experts are taking a more serious look at Alzheimer’s cure with coconut oil.
- More large-scale scientific studies are needed to confirm a link between coconut oil and an Alzheimer’s cure. Anecdotal evidence for the value of coconut oil in dementia treatment continues to mount. Perhaps more definitive studies will be undertaken as that evidence grows.
- Coconut oil vs. MCT oil. There is a difference between pure coconut oil and MCT oil. But is one more effective?
The Impact of Alzheimer’s Disease
Since 2000, deaths from Alzheimer’s disease have increased by nearly 90% according to the Alzheimer’s Association. That’s a staggering statistic. It is one that helps explain the vast amounts of research, concern, and information available on this debilitating disease. Unfortunately, not all the available information is reliable.
Alzheimer’s not only impacts the lives of those stricken with the disease, but also those who love and care for them. Patients with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia required over 18 billion hours of professional care in 2016. That amounted to a cost of over $230 billion. Much of that expense came directly from the pockets of patients and their families.
Alzheimer’s disease can progress quickly. Quick progression of dementia means many patients may need 24-hour care for several years before they pass away. This intense level of care causes severe financial stress for some patients and families.
The physical and emotional strain associated with caring for an Alzheimer’s patient is far more important than the financial price. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that one-third of caregivers are experiencing a decline in their own health due to the heavy responsibilities and stress that specifically relates to providing care for people with dementia.
The Unpredictable Progression of Alzheimer’s Disease
There are five recognized stages of Alzheimer’s disease. It progresses from “preclinical Alzheimer’s” which refers to the existence of biomarkers for the disease to “severe dementia.” Severe dementia refers to the inability to perform even simple self-care tasks. Once a patient’s condition advances to severe stage, they totally loss the ability to communicate or interact with their world in any way. Thus, patients with severe dementia requires total 24-hour care.
The rate of progression of Alzheimer’s disease varies widely. The average rate of survival is 8 to 10 years after diagnosis. Some people live 20 years or more with only mild symptoms for most of those years. Some become incapable in a matter of months. The unpredictable course of the disease makes it even more difficult to manage or plan for.
The inability to swallow or engage in physical activity is what causes death for many patients. Difficulty with swallowing may lead to many different types of complications. It is common for food or beverages to enter a lung. This is called pulmonary aspiration and may eventually lead to a life-threatening infection. Malnutrition, dehydration and other types of infections may also hasten the end of life. Another common cause of death for those with Alzheimer’s disease is pneumonia. A variety of complications compromise a patient’s overall health. Ultimately, Alzheimer’s patients die because the disease causes the brain to forget how to tell the body to function.
Alzheimer’s Warning Signs and Early Detection
The warning signs of Alzheimer’s are easy to dismiss as simply normal side-effects of “getting older.” There are subtle yet distinct differences in typical age-related changes and the symptoms of dementia. It may be typical for older people to be set in their ways or become irritated by disruptions in their routine. But a change in mood or personality, like becoming grumpy after a lifetime of being cheerful, may be a sign that something more serious is happening.
It’s natural to delay medical assessment for little things like misplacing reading glasses or forgetting about social engagements. However, these seemingly minor inconveniences should be taken seriously.
Know the Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease
If you or a loved one are experiencing one or more of the following Alzheimer’s warning signs, consult your physician.
- Memory loss that affects daily living.
Forgetting recently learned information or forgetting to attend to personal hygiene or basic household maintenance are examples.
- Inability to make plans or solve everyday problems.
For example, having trouble keeping track of bills or regular appointments.
- Familiar tasks become difficult to perform.
This symptom includes things like forgetting directions to the neighborhood grocery store or the rules to a favorite card game.
- Confusion over time and place.
This type of confusion is more serious than simply forgetting what day it is. It may manifest as forgetting the season, month or year, or being unable to differentiate past, present, and future.
- Vision problems related to a brain disorder.
These could be the cause of difficulty in reading, determining colors, or judging distance. Regular comprehensive eye exams will help determine the cause of changes in vision.
- Struggling for words.
Everyone occasionally has trouble finding the right word. People with Alzheimer’s may struggle so much they can’t join in a conversation. Obsessively repeating bits of conversation, calling objects by the wrong name, and consistently struggling with vocabulary are causes for concern. If someone you know was once the life of the party but has now become a wallflower, an inability to find the right words may be the cause.
- An inability to retrace steps may be a symptom of dementia.
This symptom makes it difficult to find misplaced objects. Sometimes the elderly accuse others of stealing because items are “disappearing” from the home.
- Poor judgment and difficulty in decision-making.
Poor judgment and difficulty in decision-making. puts those with dementia more at risk for all types of scams. In addition, poor judgment also manifests in little ways like repeatedly wearing dirty clothes or eating spoiled food.
- Social withdrawal is a warning sign of dementia.
It affects a person’s physical and mental health. It’s understandable when physical or transportation issues cause an elder to miss club meetings or appointments. But general confusion and the inability to problem solve create even bigger obstacles to maintaining regular social connections. Don’t assume the elder in your life is simply “slowing down” if she begins to isolate from social circles. It may be a sign of something more serious.
- A big change in personality or temperament is not part of normal aging.
Grief, physical pain, loneliness, or loss of independence may cause someone to be more emotional than they once were. A true change of personality may indicate something else. Alzheimer’s can cause formerly happy people to become depressed, angry, suspicious, and anxious.
Don’t ignore the warning signs of dementia. Early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia may lead to more, and more effective, treatment options. Better treatments help people maintain their independence longer and provide more time for making future plans. Getting an early diagnosis will also increase a patient’s chances of being included in clinical drug trials. Participation in clinical trials can help advance Alzheimer’s research. Volunteering for a trial may even help find a cure for Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s Cure with Coconut Oil
Ketones are the reason coconut oil and Alzheimer’s are related at any point. To obtain energy, our bodies feed on glucose, which comes from carbohydrates. However, a brain affected by Alzheimer’s disease has difficulty metabolizing glucose. Without glucose, brain cells are left without a reliable source of food. The lack of glucose creates a fatal circular reaction. Alzheimer’s disease causes the brain to metabolize glucose poorly; thus, lack of glucose affects the function of brain cells. Without a food source the diseased brain can use, there is no path to recovery.
Ketones are a secondary energy source for the brain and body. They are usually produced only when very little food is being eaten. Fasting or following a strict low-calorie diet isn’t practical for long-term health.
The Rise of Ketogenic Diet
The Ketogenic Diet was developed to mimic the metabolic effects of fasting without the unwanted negative physical effects. It’s a diet that emphasizes eating a high amount of beneficial fats, few carbohydrates, and adequate amounts of protein. Clinical studies provide strong evidence that a ketogenic diet may help treat epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease. Also, it may someday offer hope as an Alzheimer’s cure.
The types of fats eaten while following a ketogenic diet are important. Hydrogenated and saturated fats should be avoided. Fats rich in omega-3s and medium-chain triglycerides are recommended. A study on the Effects of beta-hydroxybutyrate on cognition in memory-impaired adults found that the intake of MCTs improved memory performance in Alzheimer’s patients. In fact, memory improvement directly correlated with the oxidation of medium-chain triglycerides.
The Realities of a Ketogenic Diet
Maintaining a low-carbohydrate ketone diet over a long period of time is a challenge. That’s where coconut oil can help. A portion of the MCTs from coconut oil convert into ketones regardless of the number of carbohydrates in the diet. In other words, medium-chain triglycerides from coconut oil are not dependent on blood glucose levels. They are present even when you eat normally.
This ability to help the body make ketones without fasting or following a strict low-carb diet is what gives coconut oil the potential to be an effective Alzheimer’s treatment. Hopefully one day, the MCTs in coconut oil will lead to an Alzheimer’s cure.
MCT Oil vs Coconut Oil
Studies on MCTs show positive results.
In some cases, only a single dose of MCT oil produce signs of improvement in thought function. These encouraging signs of a potential Alzheimer’s treatment prompts the FDA to approve a new drug for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. That drug consists of nothing more than MCTs. Today, MCT oils are available as over-the-counter supplements.
In the debate over MCT oil vs coconut oil, no research suggests MCT oil is better.
In fact, MCT oil has several disadvantages when compared to coconut oil. First, MCT prescription drugs and some over-the-counter MCT oils are costly. Coconut oil is affordable. When used instead of other less healthy fats, the cost of coconut oil adds little or nothing to your overall grocery budget.
Obviously, prescribed MCT oils require a prescription.
If you need a prescription, that means you probably already have a medical problem. Coconut oil is easy to find. It’s sold at almost every grocery store. Coconut oil is easy to use as part of your preventative lifestyle.
Only a few dietary sources for MCTs exist in nature.
It’s important to note that the medium-chain triglycerides in Alzheimer’s studies comes from coconut oil. While prescription MCT medications promise purity, over-the-counter MCT oils may consist of other sources of medium-chain triglycerides besides coconut oil. That includes safflower, olive oil, and other ingredients.
In addition, coconut oil is easy to incorporate into your diet. It can be an ingredient in baking and a substitute for butter on toast or vegetables. Some people like the taste so much, they eat it directly from the jar. The smoking point of unrefined coconut oil is 350° F. It’s excellent for sautéing and most baking, but not high-heat cooking.
Alzheimer’s Treatment and Prevention
Researchers are constantly looking for new treatments to improve the quality of life for Alzheimer’s patients. Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s drugs don’t help everyone with the disease. Improvement is limited even when they do help. Prevention may be the best hope for dealing with Alzheimer’s. Diet and lifestyle choices can go a long way to support brain health for a lifetime.
The memory center of the brain continues to create new cells throughout your lifetime. While some forgetfulness or slowing down is to be expected, dementia shouldn’t be accepted as a normal part of aging. There are many lifestyle choices you can make to keep your brain healthy regardless of your age.
- Exercise. Studies show that regular exercise increases the brain’s memory center.
- Reduce overall calories. Intermittent fasting may be helpful.
- Eat fewer carbohydrates.
- Avoid processed foods, especially refined fructose and gluten.
- Eat more healthy fats, including omega-3 fats and medium-chain triglycerides.
- Eat fermented foods or take a high-quality probiotic to support gut flora.
- Manage your stress.
- Manage vascular risk factors such as high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure.
- Maintain an active social life.
- Practice memory and cognitive skills with “brain games.”
- Stop smoking.
- Maintain requisite levels of magnesium and vitamin D.
- Avoid aluminum. Non-stick cookware and antiperspirants are common sources.
- Remove mercury dental fillings, and follow a mercury detox to eliminate any residue.
- Consider taking supplements that aid brain function. Vitamin B12, gingko biloba, and astaxanthin are examples.
Coconut Oil Recommendations
Along with these suggestions, providing the brain with ketones from MCT-rich coconut oil may prevent or even improve symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Only two tablespoons of coconut oil daily can produce enough ketones to significantly affect brain function, according to Dr. Bruce Fife. Dr. Fife suggests using coconut oil as a preventative or a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. He recommends a total of 5 tablespoons per day for treatment and 2-3 tablespoons for prevention.
Don’t wait until it’s time to take prescription medications that may or may not help with Alzheimer’s symptoms. Why not do all you can now to reduce your risk of suffering from Alzheimer’s disease in later years?
Sourcing Coconut Oil
In addition to medium-chain triglycerides, pure coconut oil also contains important antioxidants and anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties. Studies show coconut oil to be effective in balancing HDL/LDL cholesterol levels, improving thyroid function, and assisting with weight loss.
Be aware that not all types of coconut oil provide the same level of MCTs, antioxidants, and other health-promoting properties. Unrefined, cold-pressed coconut oil is reputable for its highest quality by most industry standards. However, there is no evidence that the process of refining effects the MCTs or alters the fatty acids.
Refined coconut is often referred to as RBD—refined, bleached and deodorized. Not all RBD methods are as bad as they sound. For example, some manufacturers filter oils through clay and steam. No chemical process is used even though it’s still called “bleaching.” But other manufacturers rely on lye and other toxic solvents to remove smell and discoloration from low-quality oil.
Another downside to RBD oils is that some antioxidants may be destroyed in the refining process. If you are strictly seeking the truth about Alzheimer’s cure with coconut oil, a loss of antioxidants may not concern you. But why not get all the goodness coconut oil has to offer?
It’s up to the consumer to read labels and make sure they’re getting the high-quality product they desire and deserve. Choosing unrefined, cold-pressed (or virgin) oil will ensure you are getting the most health-promoting benefits from coconut oil.
Facing any life-threatening diagnosis is frightening for both the patient and their loved ones. Getting a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is understandably upsetting. But it’s important to seek medical help as soon as possible if you suspect Alzheimer’s or any type of dementia.
The sooner you and your family know exactly what is happening, the sooner you can make an Alzheimer’s treatment plan. The best treatment plans include not only medical intervention but also address dietary, social, fitness, and spiritual needs as appropriate.
A proper diagnosis also gives the patient time to coordinate a powerful team of advocates. Support groups, home health workers, neurologists, geriatricians, mental-health professionals, and estate planners all play an important role. For Alzheimer’s patients, delays in organizing personal effects can cause a different type of crisis.
We may have to wait for the good news of an Alzheimer’s cure with coconut oil, but we can take action now. Take control of your health by taking the steps to prevent Alzheimer’s. Embracing the lifestyle changes believed to prevent Alzheimer’s disease will ultimately lead to a healthier, happier life overall. While there is no guarantee we can remain free from illness, we can be empowered in our health choices.