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Coconut Oil For Alzheimer’s 2024 (Does It Really Work?)

Yes, coconut oil does work, but at a price.

If you’ve been in the loop about Alzheimer’s, there’s a good chance that you’ve seen Dr. Mary Newport’s story about coconut oil. Her husband was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s at age 51. She gave him 4 tablespoons of coconut oil everyday for 60 days straight. Lo and behold, signs of cognitive improvement began to show.

Since then, Dr. Newport has been advocating for the use of coconut oil and MCT oil in combating Alzheimer’s.

However, these claims are solely based on her anecdotal success. In this article, we will address common concerns regarding the use of coconut oil for Alzheimer’s Disease.

Table of Contents

    Composition of Coconut Oil

    We know that coconut oil is made up of 90% saturated fats. However, the saturated fats in coconut oil differ from saturated fats in animal fats. Over 50% of the fats in coconut oil are medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs). Animal fats are typically made up of long chain fatty acids (LCFAs), with more than 12 carbon atoms in their chain.

    On average, coconut oil is composed of:

    • 90% Saturated Fats
      • 58% Medium Chain Fatty Acids (MCFAs)
        • 8% Caprylic Acid (C8)
        • 8% Capric Acid (C10)
        • 42% Lauric Acid (C12)
      • 32% Long Chain Fatty Acids (LCFAs)
    • 9% Unsaturated Fats
    • 1% other compounds (phytosterols, vitamin E, and polyphenols)

    *Note that in terms of length, Lauric Acid has 12 carbon atoms and is longer than MCFAs like Caprylic Acid (8 carbon atoms) and Capric Acid (10 carbon atoms). Therefore it is a *longer* MCT but is *shorter* than the LCFAs.

    Medium Chain and Long Chain Fatty Acids are Metabolized Differently

    According to a 2016 paper that explored the dietary use of coconut oil, we understand that MCFAs are converted to ketones, while LCFAs tend to be stored as fat.
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    LCFAs are stored as fat; MCFAs are converted into ketones.

    • If cells do not immediately need the energy, LCFAs are used to synthesise fatty acids, which are then stored as triglycerides in adipose tissue.
    • MCFAs are transported to the liver where they can be converted into ketones.
    • Ketones serve as an alternative fuel source for the body, particularly for the brain and muscles,
    • More ketones are produced  during periods of fasting or low carbohydrate intake (such as in ketogenic diets).

    TLDR: The MCFAs in coconut oil are good stuff!  They are converted to ketones and used as an alternative fuel for the brain in particular.

    Is Lauric Acid Good For The Brain?

    Lauric acid was found to increase the mRNA expression of Gdnf, Il6, and Ccl2 in cultured cortical astrocytes. The ability of molecules like GDNF, IL6, and CCL2 to promote axon branching and neurite outgrowth in Alzheimer’s disease holds potential for neurogenesis, repairing neural damage and enhancing neural plasticity.

    “In conclusion, the present study demonstrated that LA has a potential to enhance the mRNA expression of growth factors and cytokines such as Gdnf, Il6, and Ccl2. These increases were mediated by the ERK signaling. LA-induced neuronal maturation required the presence of astrocytes. Astrocyte-conditioned medium also increase the presynaptic protein levels. These results suggest that LA could be one of the lipid activator for the neuron-glial cell communication for neuronal development.”

    Compared to the benefits brought about by lauric acid in astrocytes, the other MCFA components in coconut oil – capric acid and caprylic acid – had lesser effects on the mRNA expression of neurotrophic factors.

    Now that we know about the benefits lauric acid

    Will Coconut Oil Cause inflammation?

    The general argument is that saturated fatty acids cause inflammation.

    When saturated fatty acids bind to TLR4, it can lead to the activation of downstream signalling pathways that result in the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, such as tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), interleukin-6 (IL-6), and interleukin-1 beta (IL-1β).

    This activation of the immune response can contribute to inflammation and may play a role in the development of neuroinflammation.

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    In this above study, lauric acid, which is a saturated fatty acid, actually down-regulated oxidative stress response genes (GCLC, HO-1, and Nqo1) and inflammatory genes (IL6, TNFα, and iNOS) .

    The results clearly indicate that the LA inhibited the neuroinflammation and provided an efficient cellular antioxidant activity, which protects the cells.

    Will Coconut Oil Make Me Fat?

    Coconut oil is calorie-dense, providing about 9 calories per gram, similar to other fats. Dr. Newport recommends eating 3 – 6 tablespoons a day for Alzheimer’s prevention, and that equates to about 350 to 700 calories. However, this does not mean that eating coconut oil will definitely make you obese. Other factors like a diet high in carbohydrates, lack of exercise, in addition to high intake of saturated fat (from the coconut oil) contribute to weight gain. Dr. Newport herself acknowledges this is true. Take a look at her comment under this post by Alzheimer’s Weekly.

    mary newport coconut oil for alzheimers 1

    Will Coconut Oil Help Me Lose Weight?

    No. While some health geeks claim that consuming coconut oil is a healthy and effective way to shed excess body fat, there is little evidence supporting this theory. The few studies that have investigated the potential of this oil to enhance weight loss have not shown promising results.

    Why did some people show positive results of weight loss then? That could be because they consumed a full ketogenic diet, free of carbohydrates. This kept their satiety levels at an all-time high. Coupled with vigorous exercise, they were able to shed many kilos.

    A study on the effect of coconut oil on obese men showed no significant difference in anthropometric variables (weight, body mass index, etc.) between the coconut oil and soybean oil groups after 45 days.

    So, unless you’re on a full keto plus high-exercise caloric restriction, you will not lose weight if you start eating coconut oil.

    Will Coconut Oil Cause Cardiovascular Disease?

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    This person argues that coconut oil is easily converted to ketones, therefore it will not be deposited as fatty acid plaques within arteries. He is partially correct. The MCFAs in coconut oil are converted to ketones and used as an alternative fuel for the brain in particular. However, remember the other 32% LCFAs? The LCFAs are the culprits behind atherosclerosis, and they are the “bad” saturated fatty acids typically found in animal fat. They are stickier and tend to attach on the inner walls of the arteries. Although 32% does not sound like a lot, it is still a cause for concern. Now the question is, how can I reduce my risk of cardiovascular disease despite eating a bunch of LCFAs from coconut oil? If we follow Dr Newport, we would be consuming around 6 tablespoons of coconut oil daily, which is approximately 73 g of saturated fat. If our calculations are correct, that would be around 25 g worth of LCFAs. This exceeds the recommended daily amount of saturated fat intake (11 to 13 g a day) by around 9%.

    Coconut Oil Raises LDL?

    According to Harvard University, in a meta-analysis of 16 clinical trials, coconut oil was found to increase both low-density lipoprotein (“bad” cholesterol) and high-density lipoprotein (“good” cholesterol) levels in participants, compared with nontropical vegetable oils (e.g., sunflower, canola, olive). Coconut oil increased total cholesterol by about 15 points, LDL by 10 points, and HDL by 4 points. The analysis then concluded coconut oil consumption results in significantly higher LDL-cholesterol than nontropical vegetable oils. This suggests that the HDL increase by coconut oil may be insufficient to effectively “cancel out” the LDL.

    TLDR: If you want your brain to be healthier, be prepared to pay the price of consuming the LCFAs that coconut oil is made up of. Although not recommended, the following are the bare mininum needed to counter to ill effects of excess LCFAs: regular physical activity, avoiding smoking, managing stress and reducing carbohydrate intake.

    What is the Best Type Of Coconut Oil?

    It has been reported that coconut oil supplementation can reduce neuroinflammation. However, coconut oils are available as virgin coconut oil (VCO), crude coconut oil (ECO), and refined coconut oil (RCO).

    This trial studied the antioxidant levels and cellular effect of coconut oil extracted by various processes in human neuroblastoma cells (SH-SY5Y) cultured in vitro. Results indicate VCO and ECO treated cells displayed better mitochondrial health when compared to RCO.

    TLDR: Virgin coconut oil (Dr Newport’s recommendation) and crude coconut oil are the ones you should look for.

    MCT Oil vs Coconut Oil?

    The answer is both! MCT oil is 100% medium chain fatty acids. It’s man-made via a process called fractionation – extracting and isolating the MCTs from coconut or palm kernel oil. Here’s the issue though, it is made up of 50 to 80% caprylic acid and 20 to 50% capric acid. Most MCT oil products contain little to zero lauric acid! Astrocytes can produce ketone bodies through a process called ketogenesis, which involves the conversion of fatty acids into ketone bodies. Caprylic acid and capric acid, being the shorter MCFAs, can be converted into ketone bodies way faster through ketogenesis by the astrocytes. On the other hand, lauric acid in coconut oil has lesser ability to produce astrocytic ketone bodies compared to caprylic acid.

    TLDR: The final verdict is:

    • Coconut oil for neuronal repair
    • MCT oil produces energy for the brain.

    How Much MCT Oil vs Coconut Oil?

    Dr Newport recommends a 4:3 ratio of MCT oil to coconut oil. An example would be 120 ml of MCT added to 90 ml of coconut oil (both are liquid at room temperature). Watch this video interview with Dr Newport about the combined effects of MCT and coconut oil.

    Side Effects Of MCT vs Coconut Oil?

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    Take note that MCT oil may cause gastrointestinal problems when first starting out. Unlike LCFAs, which require bile and pancreatic enzymes for digestion and absorption, MCTs can be absorbed directly into the bloodstream from the small intestine without the need for these processes.

    This may cause an increased osmotic effect, where more water is drawn into the intestine, leading to diarrhea.

    The presence of LCFAs in coconut oil can slow down the absorption of MCTs in the intestine, reducing the osmotic effect and the likelihood of diarrhea.

    The combination of MCTs and LCFAs in coconut oil allows for a more gradual absorption of fats, which may be better tolerated by the digestive system compared to pure MCT oil.

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

    Who gave her husband coconut oil for dementia?

    Dr. Mary Newport, an American physician, gave her husband, Steve Newport, coconut oil as a treatment for his Alzheimer's disease. She started giving him medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, which is a concentrated form of coconut oil, after researching its potential benefits for brain health and Alzheimer's disease. Her husband's condition improved significantly, and Dr. Newport documented her experiences and the results in a blog and later in a book titled "Alzheimer's Disease: What If There Was a Cure?".

    What is the best drink to prevent alzheimer's?

    Green tea is considered beneficial for brain health and may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease due to its high antioxidant content, particularly epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). EGCG has been shown to have neuroprotective effects, which may help prevent or slow the progression of Alzheimer's by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain. Additionally, green tea contains other bioactive compounds like catechins, which may also contribute to its potential neuroprotective effects.

    What oil supplement can be taken to help reduce the onset of alzheimer's?

    Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), are essential fatty acids that play a crucial role in brain function and development. Research suggests that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA, may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease by:

    1. Reducing inflammation: Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce inflammation in the brain, a known risk factor for Alzheimer's.
    2. Improving cognitive function: Omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA, are important for brain structure and function. They may help improve cognitive function, memory, and attention.
    3. Supporting brain health: Omega-3 fatty acids may help support the health of brain cells, including neurons and glial cells, which are affected in Alzheimer's disease.

    While dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish, are recommended, supplements can also be beneficial. However, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any supplement regimen.

    What is the number one food that fights dementia?

    The number one food that fights dementia is not explicitly stated in the search results. However, various foods are mentioned as potentially beneficial for brain health and reducing dementia risk, including:

    1. Berries: Berries are highlighted as a great source of antioxidants and flavonoids, which are known to prevent cell damage and stop the progression of brain damage from free radicals.
    2. Fish: Fatty fish like tuna and salmon are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA, which are associated with good brain health and a reduced risk of cognitive decline.
    3. Green Leafy Vegetables: These vegetables are rich in carotenoids, which are associated with better brain health and a lower risk of dementia13.
    4. Whole Grains: Whole grains are rich in fiber, B vitamins, and other nutrients that can reduce inflammation in the brain, supporting memory and warding off dementia.

    While these foods are not specifically ranked as the number one food, they are all mentioned as important components of a diet that can help prevent or slow dementia.

    Conclusion: Should I Use Coconut Oil for Alzheimer's?

    This is a very difficult question to answer.

    We only hope that we have laid out sufficiently the benefits and costs of using coconut oil.

    If you have not understood by now, the best summary is this: Coconut oil is good for your brain, but may not be good for your heart!