Coconut oil has received a lot of press recently, after a Florida doctor claimed that she reversed her husband’s Alzheimer’s disease using four teaspoons of coconut oil daily.
Dr Mary Newport gave her husband Steve four teaspoons of coconut oil each day, and saw dramatic improvements in his Alzheimer’s symptoms in just two weeks. “He began to get his short-term memory back,” says Dr Newport. “His depression lifted, he became more like his old self. The problem he’d had with walking improved. An MRI scan showed his brain had stopped shrinking.”
She has since been gathering testimonials from others who have followed her example. “I do have a collection now of almost 220 reports, mostly from caregivers and some from the person themselves, reporting that they saw improvement after they started taking coconut oil” she reports.
The brain is fuelled by glucose. It appears that in Alzheimer’s patients, the brain has problems processing insulin, leading Alzheimer’s to be labelled ‘Type 3 diabetes’ or diabetes of the brain (1).
Dr Newport believes that coconut oil heals Alzheimer’s by enabling the brain to use an alternative fuel source, ketones, which are created in the body after consuming coconut oil.
Larger studies are needed to determine whether coconut oil offers hope to Alzheimer’s sufferers. In the meantime, Dr Newport provides access to her research to date on her website.
Coconut oil is thought to have a number of other health benefits, as a result of the unique properties of its fats. Coconut oil is a source of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are digested more easily than other types of fat, and have beneficial effects such as boosting metabolism. The fats in coconut oil are also known to have antiviral and antibacterial properties.
Below are five key health benefits attributed to this unique oil.
1. As the gallbladder is not needed to emulsify the fats in coconut oil, this oil is a good choice of fat for those who have had their gallbladder removed, or those who have problems digesting fats.
2. Oils such as vegetable oil and sunflower oil can get damaged during heating, leading to the production of trans fats. Coconut oil on the other hand is ideal for cooking as it is a heat-stable saturated fat.
3. Coconut oil in the diet does not raise cholesterol levels, and has been linked to a decrease in abdominal fat (2).
4. Coconut oil has antifungal properties, and has been found to kill Candida albicans, the most problematic of the candida species (3, 4).
5. Coconut oil has natural emollient and antibacterial effects when applied directly to the skin. Studies have suggested benefits for those with eczema and acne (5,6).
My view is that those who don’t consume coconut often would benefit from adding a little fresh coconut or good quality (unhydrogenated) coconut oil to their diet. For those who would like to try adding coconut oil to their diet, mixing a teaspoon of coconut oil into your morning oatmeal is a simple way to do this. Coconut oil can also be used as a spread in place of butter or margarine. Finally, coconut oil is ideal for cooking as it is stable when heated, making it perfect for baking and stir-fries.
1. Accardi G et al (2012) Can Alzheimer disease be a form of type 3 diabetes? Rejuvenation Res Apr;15(2):217-21
2. Assuncao et al (2009) Effects of dietary coconut oil on the biochemical and anthropometric profiles of women presenting abdominal obesity. Lipids. Jul;44(7):593-601.
3. Ogblu DO et al (2007) In vitro antimicrobial properties of coconut oil on Candida species in Ibadan, Nigeria. Jun;10(2):384-7.
4.Agarwal V et al (2008) Prevention of Candida albicans biofilm by plant oils. Mycopathologia. January, Volume 165, Issue 1, pp 13-19
5. Verallo-Rowell et al (2008) Novel antibacterial and emollient effects of coconut and virgin olive oils in adult atopic dermatitis. Dermatitis. Nov-Dec;19(6):308-15.
6. Nakatsuii T et al (2009) Antimicrobial property of lauric acid against Propionibacterium acnes: its therapeutic potential for inflammatory acne vulgaris. J Invest Dermatol 129(10):2480-8.