Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Alzheimer's Disease & Coconut Oil

My weight loss group is always surprised when I lecture on the importance of fatty acids in the diet. Ingesting fat for a society focused on skinny seems counter-intuitive. The discussion becomes even more interesting when I begin to outline the beneficial properties in coconut oil!
The saturated fat in coconut oil has been long associated with elevated cholesterol levels. This association is not entirely incorrect since coconut oil does in fact increase HDL (good) cholesterol. This rise in HDL cholesterol, however, is good for the body. Since coconut oil increases HDL (good) cholesterol without affecting LDL (bad) cholesterol, it creates a more favourable ratio of LDL:HDL.
More recent research on coconut oil has suggested that the medium chain triglycerides in coconut oil may have some beneficial effect on the Alzheimer's brain. Alzheimer's disease involves a decreased uptake of glucose by brain cells. Because glucose is the main sugar feeding the cells of the brain and promoting their normal function, a decreased uptake of glucose translates into decreased and impaired cellular function and, consequently, brain activity.
Medicine has long known that ketones are an alternate fuel for brain cells. What has been found in the Alzheimer's brain is, despite the fact that glucose uptake is impaired, ketone uptake is not. Providing the brain with this alternate fuel may preserve and improve brain function.
Where does coconut oil fit into this picture then? Ketones are typically produced by the liver when your systemically circulating glucose is low (low blood sugar), during a period of fasting (sleep, etc). The issue in Alzheimer's is that so long as we are eating, our blood sugar will not be low enough to result in ketone production. This results in the brain not having access to this alternate fuel. However, if ketones are available to the brain on a continued basis, brain function will improve. Fortunately, the metabolism of medium chain triglycerides produces ketones regardless of blood sugar status .. AND coconut oil is one of the best sources of medium chain triglycerides!
Could altering the prognosis of cognitive outcome in the Alzheimer's patient be that easy? Apparently, YES! This video was brought to my attention as a phenomenal example of the wonderful therapeutic potential of coconut oil. It is inspiring to see that some MDs are willing to acknowledge the promise of naturopathic therapies! Please watch: CBN News - Mary Newport MD (click on the link .. also please look beyond the 20-second advert for the religious book)!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Confessions of a Failed Commuter

I've had to gather my courage and suspend my pride to write this particular blog post .. hence the delay. In September, I committed to the grand idea of parking my car, taking the insurance off and commuting everywhere via bicycle and public transit. My intention was to embark on this endeavor for a year.
Let's talk about what has come of this ambitious undertaking: in a nutshell, I failed miserably! However, it may not be for the reasons you would think!
The unravelling began when I almost got hit by an SUV on a Markham residential street which sent me scraping the curb and scrambling for balance (so I wouldn't end up UNDER the vehicle). As an experienced cyclist, this wasn't really that big a deal. However, it did get me thinking, "if this is happening on clean roads in broad daylight, what is going to happen in snow and complete darkness?".
Arriving at work and having to sit through patient visits with wet pants after being unexpected caught in a downpour didn't do anything for my level of enthusiasm! In addition, specifically taking a road with a designated bike lane only to find that the lane was full of parked cars, was a little infuriating!
The clincher came though when I was scheduled to be at a conference for the weekend in Mississauga. After checking into public transit and realizing that it would take approximately 3 hours to get to my destination from Markham (due to the absolute inefficiency of public transit in the GTA), I explored renting a car as an option. Renting a car at a cost of $450 for the weekend seemed absolutely ridiculous considering putting my own car back on the road for 6 months about $900!
Some of you may be asking why I didn't get a zip car. Well, there are no zip car - like options for the Markham resident. The GO train/bus schedule is so limited that getting to a zip car location from Markham before 10am on a weekend is impossible!
I think a lot about my roots: my relatives in the Netherlands - my 16 year old cousin who will hop on his bicycle and ride 25 very safe kilometres to go a visit a friend in a neighbouring town. There is a lot of me that is frustrated with the lack of infrastructure to support such healthy, active lifestyles. I am beginning to realize that this lack has less to do with finances and more to do with our willingness to passively accept what we have verses taking a stand for what we want.
Take a look at this video: it is a excellent depiction of what the Netherlands went through to create the progressive, world-renowned cycling infrastructure that they have today. Let's hope that we can follow suit! How the Dutch Got Their Cycle Paths (Click on the title)

**FYI: The Toyota Echo and my beautiful red commuter have come to accept that they must share me and have developed an amicable and functional relationship as a result.**