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Can Coconut Oil Prevent Alzheimer's?

Coconuts are a strange and polarizing fruit. You either love them or hate them, but there aren’t many people whose opinion falls in between the two extremes. What’s more, it isn’t likely that coconut haters can be converted into lovers of these hard-shelled oddities. 

That is, until now. Because even if you find coconuts unpalatable, their oils contain a special brain fuel that’s hard to find anywhere else. “Medium-chain fatty acids,” a saturated fat also found in breastmilk, is now being shown to have incredible health benefits, especially on the brain. 

This Is Your Brain On Coconut Oil

These medium-chain fatty acids, also known as medium-chain triglycerides or MCTs, are broken down differently than other fats. Instead of simply being stashed away, MCTs are converted into ketones. Your brain usually uses glucose for energy, but if this preferred fuel runs out, ketone is what brain cells will turn to next. 

This ketone might not be very important for most people, but for those with Alzheimer’s it can be brain-saving. This is because Alzheimer’s patients’ brain cells are insulin resistant and can no longer use glucose as fuel. (Insulin resistance in the brain cells of Alzheimer’s sufferers has led some scientists to call Alzheimer’s “type III diabetes.”)1 Brains of Alzheimer’s patients cease to function like normal brains because they can no longer fuel themselves.

That’s where ketones come in. Brain scans of people with Alzheimer’s have shown that although their cells no longer absorb glucose, they can use ketones.2 One pioneer of using coconut oil to treat Alzheimer’s disease is Mary T. Newport, M.D., who believes the MCTs in the oil drastically improves cognitive function among dementia sufferers.3 Her book, “Alzheimer’s Disease: What If There Was A Cure?” has now been translated into multiple languages and has received significant critical acclaim.

Evidence for the power of coconut oil is building, and it’s already far more than anecdotal. A recent study, conducted in Spain and published in the journal Nutrición Hospitalaria, “demonstrated the positive influence of coconut oil at the cognitive level of patients with Alzheimer’s.”4 Still more studies are underway as awareness of this phenomenon increases in the scientific community.5

How To Choose The Best Coconut Oil

Unfortunately, not all coconut oils are created equal. If you’re ready to try out the power of MCTs, there are a few things you should be aware of. Most importantly, make sure that your coconut oil is “virgin,” meaning that it hasn’t been refined or bleached. As with other natural foods, ensuring you get the unadulterated version is critical. In the process of refining foods, nutrients are often destroyed.

Another thing to check closely is the appearance of the oil itself. You want to make sure that it is clear or white – not yellow – and smells and tastes like coconut. If the oil is odorless, this means it’s probably been overly refined. So you’re looking for the oil that looks, smells, and tastes like it came straight from the coconut itself. A 14-ounce jar of the stuff typically goes for around $10.

Do This Every Morning With Coconut Oil

If you’re the household chef, or just not crazy about downing coconut oil by the spoonful, there are a number of recipes worth trying. For breakfast, try fluffy vegan coconut oil banana muffins.6 Coconut oil roasted sweet potatoes, recently the features dish in the New York Times cooking section, make for an easy to prepare and delicious side.7  And, next time you decide to treat yourself with some ice cream, you can replace the Hershey’s syrup with a coconut-oil based homemade version.8

But to get the best results you should really make a routine to add 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil to your food, coffee or tea EVERY morning. This will start your day off with fuel for your brain, and who know’s it could even prevent brain issues down the road.

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References:

1. de la Monte, Suzanne M. and Jack R. Wands. "Alzheimer's Disease Is Type 3 Diabetes—Evidence Reviewed". National Center for Biotechnology Information.

2. Castellano, Christian-Alexandre et al. "BRAIN FUEL CONSUMPTION IN MILD ALZHEIMER's DISEASE (AD): COMPARISON OF GLUCOSE AND KETONES USING PET IMAGING". Alzheimers and Dementia.

3. "Dr. Mary Newport, Alzheimer's Disease: What If There Was A Cure?". Coconut Ketones.

4. Hu Yang I, et al. "[COCONUT OIL: NON-ALTERNATIVE DRUG TREATMENT AGAINST ALZHEIMER´S DISEASE]. - Pubmed - NCBI". Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.

5. "Coconut Oil For Alzheimer's Disease". National Institute on Aging.

6. Thomson, Julie R. "So You Bought A Jar Of Coconut Oil. Now What?". The Huffington Post.

7. Clark, Melissa. "Coconut Oil Roasted Sweet Potatoes". Cooking.

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