February 06, 2014

Coconut Oil and Alzheimer’s Disease

With the past attempts to produce drugs to treat Alzheimer's Disease (AD) by various pharmaceutical companies and their attempts going in vain, so many are beginning to look at the role of diet in Alzheimer’s and focusing on prevention. People are also beginning to see positive results in using coconut oil to reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s.
There is now good evidence that the low-fat diet theory is partly to blame, as well as the over-prescription of statin drugs, which artificially lower cholesterol. Cholesterol is a key component to our brains, comprising 25% of its mass. A study has revealed that low-fat high-carbohydrate diet can harm the cholesterol uptake in the brain. Other observations have noted an association of AD with mitochondrial dysfunction, which is also common in Parkinson’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). They state that there is mounting evidence which suggests that a defect in cholesterol metabolism in the brain may play an important role in AD. The brain represents only 2% of the body’s total mass, but contains 25% of the total cholesterol. Cholesterol is required everywhere in the brain. The low fat high carbohydrate diet leads to a rise in blood glucose levels and over time to insulin resistance and diabetes. They point out that the prevalence of fructose, mostly in the form of high fructose corn syrup, is ten times more reactive than glucose in inducing glycation. This impairs serum proteins, and they hypothesize that this leads to a depletion of much needed cholesterol and fat in the brain. Apart from dietary modifications, one more factor which decreases cholesterol levels is stanins drugs (cholesterol lowering drugs).
Role of Coconut oil in Alzheimer Disease:
Coconut oil, by contrast, is highly saturated, and in its natural unrefined form has a shelf life of more than 2 years. Unlike unsaturated oils, it is not prone to oxidation. A diet with adequate amounts of saturated fat is essential to keeping HDL high cholesterol levels. Another major advantage the saturated fat of coconut oil provides is its ability to provide the brain with an alternate source of energy in ketones. Ketones are high energy fuels that nourish the brain. Our body can produce ketones from stored fat while fasting or in starvation, but they can also be produced by converting medium chain fatty acids in certain foods. Coconut oil is nature’s richest source of these medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) and hence places a role in AD. A study done in 2004 took MCTs from coconut oil and put them into a drink that was given to Alzheimer’s patients while a control group took a placebo. They observed significant increases in levels of the ketone body beta-hydroxybutyrate (beta-OHB) 90 minutes after treatment when cognitive tests were administered. Higher ketone values were associated with greater improvement in paragraph recall with MCT treatment relative to placebo across all subjects.

Dietary Advice for Alzheimer’s Sufferers:
People suffering from Alzheimer’s should immediately start avoiding polyunsaturated forms of oil such as soy and corn oils, especially if they are hydrogenated and in the form of trans fatty acids. These are prone to oxidation and potentially mitochondrial dysfunction. Other healthy fats would include butter from the milk of cows that are grass-fed, and Omega 3 fatty acids from high quality fish oil, cod liver oil, or krill oil. Refined carbohydrates in the form of refined wheat products and refined sugars should be strictly avoided! High protein foods such as eggs from pastured chickens (preferably fed a soy-free chicken feed), pastured poultry, and grass-fed meats are all desirable proteins for brain health.

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