In the previous blogs in this series, I examined the idea that Alzheimer’s disease may be due to a build-up of a variety of fungi in the brain. In this final post on the subject, I will look at the use of coconut oil and MCT oil, suggesting an alternative theory as to why it is helpful for preventing and treating Alzheimer’s.
COCONUT OIL FOR ALZHEIMER’S
A few years ago, Dr. Mary Newport made a splash in the alternative healing field when she went public with her story about treating her husband’s Alzheimer’s disease with coconut and MCT (medium chain triglyceride) oils. Her husband was in the advanced stages of the disease, and none of the medications were helping him, but she began to see dramatic improvement in his condition, after feeding him 4 tablespoons of coconut oil per day.
“Before the coconut oil, he could not tie his shoes. His weird slow gait… That improved. He walked normally and he was able to start running again. He was able to start reading again, his conversation improved dramatically and then over several months we saw improvements in his memory.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dfux-5Z4COo
Her theory, and the current accepted belief, as to why coconut oil worked, has to do with “ketones.” Ketones are produced when the body converts fat into energy. Usually, the main source of energy for the brain is glucose, but with Alzheimer’s disease the brain has difficulty metabolizing glucose.
The body converts carbs and sugars into glucose, and fat into ketones: the only two forms of energy that are produced from foods. The theory here is that the ketones offer an alternative fuel source to the brain of the Alzheimer’s patient, which it is able to use instead of glucose. And, even though glucose is the primary fuel of the brain, research suggests that ketones may do far more than glucose, since they appear to actually repair neurons, and nerve function, in the brain, clearly something of value for those with Alzheimer’s. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2671041/
One main cause of brain problems is insulin resistance, which accompanies metabolic syndrome, and diabetes. In fact, it is currently believed that all of those with diabetes are at high risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diabetes-and-alzheimers/art-20046987?pg=
When the brain becomes insulin resistant, due to aging, or the aforementioned diseases, it no longer can use glucose efficiently to feed its energy requirements. But, the body is already prepared with pathways for an alternative fuel: that fuel being ketones.
Coconut oil, specifically the MCT component (about 65% of coconut oil is comprised of MCT’s), produces ketones fast and easily, and this may be the reason that anecdotal information suggests so much benefit to cognitive function and memory, for those using coconut oil therapeutically.
There is at least one scientific study that has confirmed this property of MCT oil. And, in this case, the benefit to cognitive performance was measurable after just one large dose of MCT oil (40ml; just slightly less than 3 tablespoons).This 2004 study gave 20 participants with cognitive impairment, or mild Alzheimer’s, either that amount of MCT oil, or a placebo, and cognitive testing was done 90 minutes later. The conclusion was that: “Higher ketone values were associated with greater improvement in paragraph recall with MCT treatment relative to placebo across all subjects.”
(Mark A Reger, et al. “Effects of beta-hydroxybutyrate on cognition in memory-impaired adults.” Neurobiol Aging. 2004 Mar;25(3):311-4) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15123336
IS IT MORE THAN KETONES?
So, we see that coconut oil, and MCT oil, help prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease by offering the brain an alternative fuel to glucose, namely ketones. And definitely, as the study above indicates, since cognitive performance improved within an hour and a half, the ketone fuel theory has a lot of validity.
But, there may be another factor at work here, and, given the subject matter of this series of blogs, that should be apparent by now to anyone that understands the properties of coconut oil: coconut oil is loaded with antifungal agents, and some of those are also found in the MCT oil, that is fractionated out of the coconut oil. These antifungal/antibacterial agents are in the form of fatty acids, and coconut oil contains abundant amounts of these types of fatty acids, including lauric acid, caproic acid, caprylic acid, and capric acid.
Almost half of the fatty acids found in coconut oil are in the form of lauric acid (also found in human breast milk), and upon digestion, coconut oil also produces a monoglyceride called monolaurin. Both these substances are documented to kill bacteria, fungi, and viruses. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC444260/
And, they can kill a wide range of pathogens, from the common Candida Albicans, to the life-threatening Staphylococcus Aureus, which is becoming increasingly virulent and resistant to antibiotics. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17651080
Medium chain triglycerides are a type of fatty acid (derived from coconut or palm oil) that is liquid at room temperature, unlike coconut oil which is solid at room temp. Fatty acids (essential, and otherwise) are made up of short, medium, and long carbon chains, and all three exist in varying degrees in most fats.
MCT oil, while not having the full range of fatty acids found in whole virgin coconut oil, is very easy to digest and absorb, and is especially of value for those with poor digestion, or with malabsorption issues due to IBS, Crohn’s Disease, colitis, or gallbladder removal. And, high quality MCT oil is rich in caprylic acid (though generally low in lauric acid, which is found in whole coconut oil).
We already know that the ketones manufactured in the body from coconut oil will cross the blood- brain barrier, but it is now also known that the caprylic acid from MCT oil also crosses this barrier. Thus carrying the antifungal agent directly to where our new theory of Alzheimer’s disease is rooted: the brain. So, it may be that a good portion of the job that coconut and MCT oil are doing to help reverse this degenerative disease, is due as much to their antifungal properties, as to the ketones that are providing an alternative fuel for the brain.
As a final scientific backup of the idea that coconut oil kills yeast overgrowth, I offer a recent study done on our rodent friends. This study was to determine if adding coconut oil to the diet would reduce levels of candida in the body. Researchers had a control group, receiving their standard diet, and three other groups of mice given 3 different dietary fats: coconut oil; beef tallow; and soybean oil. The group receiving the coconut oil alone, or in combination with beef tallow, reduced the amount of candida in their guts by more than 90%, whereas there was no reduction in the mice given just soybean oil or just beef tallow.
“These findings suggest that adding coconut oil to a patient’s existing diet might control the growth of C. albicans in the gut, and possibly decrease the risk of fungal infections caused by C. albicans,” said Kumamoto, Ph.D., professor of molecular biology and microbiology at Tufts University School of Medicine. http://msphere.asm.org/content/1/1/e00020-15
And, since I believe candida to be the gateway fungus that allows flourishing of the other pathogenic fungi, and since candida begins its overgrowth in the gut, it is probably a good idea for most of us to use coconut, and/or MCT oil, on a regular basis.
USING COCONUT OIL IN THE DIET
It is worth noting that people tolerate coconut oil differently, and some have to start slowly, and build up to the higher therapeutic levels. Some people can easily digest high amounts of oils, and so will have no problem, while others may have a sluggish gallbladder, or congested liver, and eating too much fat at once can cause them nausea, in which case, they must gradually build up their dose.
My recommendation for those sensitive to high fat intake, is to start with one teaspoon, and gradually add more coconut oil every few days, until they are able to tolerate one tablespoon daily, which is fine as a maintenance dose, or work up to 3 tablespoons daily, for therapeutic purposes. It is best to take it with food, to avoid upsetting your stomach: coconut oil goes well in porridge, or hot cereal, or in any warm savory dish (and is also good on popcorn).
MCT oil, which is tasteless, and doesn’t require melting, is easier to use, and can be mixed into coffee (as popularized by www.bulletproofexecutive.com , who also sells a high grade of MCT oil called XTC oil), cereal, smoothies, yogurt, or protein shakes. (As a side note, the famed “Bulletproof Coffee” is a blended mix of coffee, “grass fed” butter, and MCT oil, and, while it has its own benefits, for our purposes, you can just add a tablespoon of MCT oil to any cup of coffee, without affecting the taste.)
This concludes my series of blogs on Alzheimer’s disease and fungus, and I have to say it is a fascinating theory, and, given the prevalence of mold, and fungus, related ailments, it does not come as a real surprise.
Since starting this research I have been taking MCT oil fairly regularly (1 tbsp daily in coffee, or cereal), and I would say that it has definitely improved my memory. And, an elderly friend of mine has been taking quite a bit of MCT oil, and maintains that it is helping his mind to cope with, and process, psychological trauma from his past: so I may have just scratched the surface of the healing potential that coconut, and MCT, oils have.