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Coconut Oil and the Brain

Dr. Mary Newport Explores the Role of Ketones in Alzheimer's Disease

by Richard Wolfson, Ph.D.

palm tree, coconut tree
As long as it's not heated, coconut oil is now considered a healthy choice.

Can coconut oil reverse Alzheimer’s disease? It did for Steve Newport of Tampa, Florida. Steve’s recovery is documented in the book Alzheimer's Disease: What If There Was a Cure?, written by Steve’s wife, Mary T. Newport, MD.

In 2008, at age 57, Steve’s dementia and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease had been worsening for about five years. Formerly an accountant, he could no longer do simple addition, or even remember how to take water out of the fridge.

At that time, as his condition verged on severe, MRI showed areas of his brain had shrunk. Steve failed miserably at a standard test for Alzheimer’s disease, unable to draw anything that resembled the face of a clock.

Ketones:Fuel for the Brain

While researching Alzheimer’s disease, Dr. Mary Newport learned the condition was similar to diabetes, but in the brain. In this disease, insulin problems prevent brain cells from accepting glucose, their primary fuel. Without glucose, brain cells eventually die.

She also learned there was an alternative fuel for the brain, a class of compounds called ketone bodies. Ketone bodies are produced in the liver from medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are found in certain foods.

Dr. Newport found a medical food containing MCTs that had produced improvements in Alzheimer patients. She also discovered that coconut oil and palm kernel oil are the highest natural sources of MCTs.

The Coconut Trials

As an experiment, Dr. Newport added 100 percent virgin coconut oil to Steve’s meals. Just two weeks later, Steve retook the Alzheimer’s mental skills clock test and showed stunning improvement. Three weeks later he scored even better. Week by week, he continued to improve mentally, emotionally, and physically.

After several more weeks, Steve could run again. After a few months, he could read again. His sluggishness disappeared. He could joke. He could maintain conversations. Later, MCT oil was also added to his diet.

Steve’s condition has not completely disappeared, but it has dramatically improved and the rate of progression greatly decreased. Because of coconut oil’s benefits for the brain, Dr. Newport and other researchers postulate it may also benefit other conditions.

Since 2008, Dr. Newport has received thousands of emails and letters from individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or other disorders who heard about Steve’s case, began taking coconut oil, and subsequently improved.

On her website, Dr. Newport also cites several dozen published scientific studies substantiating the potential health benefits of coconut oil and the MCTs and ketones that come from coconut oil.

However, not everyone improves from taking coconut oil. Some doctors caution coconut oil or other sources of ketone bodies may not get to the root of the problem for everyone. What is causing Alzheimer’s disease? Some health professionals as well as Dr. Newport believe dietary factors related to the Western diet may need to be also addressed.

Ayurvedic Perspective

Vaidya Ramakant Mishra, renowned Ayurvedic practitioner and former Director of Maharishi Ayurveda’s Product Research and Development, says Ayur-veda has long recognized coconut as rich in nutrients, with the potential to nourish the brain and aid in Alzheimer’s disease. 

However, Dr. Mishra cautions that Ayurvedic texts also describe coconut as cold and heavy, requiring a strong digestive fire. Because of these qualities, coconut, if not properly metabolized, can clog the body’s channels, blocking the movement of nutrition, heat, and energy, leading to various long-term problems.

Therefore, coconut is best prepared with appropriate spices such as black pepper, turmeric, cumin, and coriander. Also, as Ayurveda recognizes individualized body types, Dr. Mishra explains coconut oil is not as suited for everyone. Further, because of its cooling quality, coconut is better for warmer climates and not recommended in extreme cold.

Like other oils, excess coconut oil can cause diarrhea. Dr. Newport suggests starting slowly, with no more than one teaspoon taken one to three times a day at meals. 

Good Fats, Bad Fats

Years ago, health experts criticized coconut oil as clogging to arteries. Initial research studied oil that had been heated and contained harmful trans-fats, also called hydrogenated fats. These days, unheated coconut oil is recognized as quite healthful.

Organic, expeller-pressed, unrefined, virgin coconut oil is recommended. Since coconut oil does not contain omega-three fatty acids, Dr. Newport recommends also consuming foods rich in these compounds.           

For more information, see Dr. Newport’s book, her website www.coconut ketones.com, or http://tinyurl.com/Coconut AlzRefs.

Dr. Newport’s book and this article are not meant as medical advice. Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or other health conditions should consult with their physician before consuming coconut oil or making any changes in diet, medication, or treatment.

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