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)!