Alzheimers: Could Coconut Oil and MCTs be the answer?
- There are over 800,000 people suffering from Dementia in the UK, this will rise to over a million by 2021, according to research by Alzheimer's UK.
- In 2009, The US FDA licensed a product called Axona (containing MCTs) for use as a "medical food" in the treatment of Alzheimers.
- In January 2013, The Daily Mail published an article about Coconut Oil and the amazing improvement in symptoms of an Alzheimers sufferer.
I have a personal reason for writing about Alzheimers and possible treatments :- my Mother-in-Law has just been diagnosed with the disease. She is in the early stages and has been accepted as a suitable candidate for drug treatment which she has just started.
Dementia and Alzheimers are very cruel diseases, I have watched my Mother-in-Law become increasingly withdrawn as her memory loss has affected her confidence to talk, even to people she knows well. Within the family we have known for several years that something wasn't right, but tests by her GP and the local memory clinic were inconclusive and she was merely told she had "general, age related memory loss".
As Alzheimers is a progressive disease we have obviously now reached a point where the tests have proven positive and a definitive diagnosis given. My In-Laws were relieved in some ways that they now knew what they were dealing with and treatment could be started. However, for my Mother-in-Law, the worst aspect was having her driving licence withdrawn; this really brought home to her the loss of independence which is only going to get worse.
Having a scientific background (I have a Combined Honours degree in Biochemistry and Pharmacology) and a lifelong interest in nutrition (most recently developed through my blog Lifestyle by Caroline), I embarked on a journey of research into Dementia to determine whether there was anything which could help alleviate symptoms. As a result of this I came across a whole raft of information focused on Coconut Oil and MCTs.
The scientific premise behind the use of Coconut oil is that Alzheimers is a "diabetes" of the brain. The brain becomes less efficient at metabolising and using glucose for energy and the result is the formation of plaques and abnormal proteins which damage brain tissue. An alternative fuel for the brain is ketone bodies, which are easily used by brain neurons for energy. MCTs (or Medium Chain Triglycerides) are a good source of ketone bodies, they are easily metabolised by the body and can cross the blood brain barrier.
Research as early as 2004 was investigating the use of MCTs and Alzheimers but it was later (in 2008) that research led to an actual product being produced. In March 2009, the FDA gave approval to Accera for the use of Axona as a "Medical Food" in the treatment of Alzheimers.
More recently, we have heard the story of Dr Mary Newport who believes that Coconut Oil and Pure MCT Oil could help dementia symptoms, as evidenced by the amazing results with her husband, Harry. Dr Newport, a paediatrician spent years trying to help her husband before trying Coconut Oil, she published her case study on July 22 2008 (Google for the report).
Have you tried Coconut Oil/MCTs?
Did you see any improvement in symptoms?
Research Studies into Alzheimers and MCTs
Alternative Treatments for Alzheimers
Besides Coconut Oil and MCTs, there have been research studies into other supplements.
The most promising of these seem to be :
- Vitamin E In 2003, a study concluded that adding Vitamin E to Donepezil (a conventional drug treatment prescribed to Alzheimers sufferers) could slow down the progression of the disease.
- B Vitamins In January 2013, a paper in the National Academy of Science found that brain atrophy was significantly reduced when taking B vitamins.
The Alzheimer’s Society says 'It would be great if we knew that eating more of this tropical fruit could help stave off symptoms of dementia. However, the truth is we don't yet have any scientific evidence to back up claims that coconut oil could have benefits for people with the condition.'
However, David Smith, professor of pharmacology at the Physiology Institute at Oxford University and director of Optima (Oxford Project to Investigate Memory and Ageing), insists this is a mistake.
Speaking to the Daily Mail he said:
‘We have no way of knowing if coconut oil is truly effective, but given the scale of the Alzheimer’s crisis facing us, and that there’s a rational mechanism for why it could work, it’s obviously crying out for a proper trial.’
Dementia and Alzheimers are a huge problem for the NHS and families caring for loved ones. The problem is only going to get bigger as our population ages so any sort of research into treatments is a good thing. However, the drug companies are more focused on manufacturing drugs than looking into natural remedies and so it is left to organisations like The Alzheimer's Society and charities to fill in the gaps. Unfortunately, they do not have the funds to do so.