Millions of people around the world, including thousands of scientists, are desperately seeking a good treatment for Alzheimer’s disease—or, almost beyond hope, a cure.
So it’s no wonder that many readers have been asking us about a new book enticingly called Alzheimer’s Disease: What If There Was a Cure? by pediatrician Mary Newport, M.D., which has received lots of media coverage. The proposed cure is not one of those expensive Alzheimer’s drugs (which have marginal benefits), but rather a simple food that’s supposed to have dramatic effects on people with the disease. The food is coconut oil.
The appeal of a personal story
Dr. Newport’s book is highly personal. Her husband, Steve, has Alzheimer’s, and this is her search for something to halt or reverse his decline. Her quest led her to research suggesting that ketones may help treat various neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s.
Ketones are byproducts of the breakdown of fats in the body—small amounts are normally produced. Ketone levels rise when you fast or go on a very-low-carbohydrate diet (which can lead to a state called ketosis).
Another way to boost ketones in your body is to consume fats called medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), of which coconut and palm kernel oils are good sources. MCTs are converted in the liver into ketones, which can be used by the brain and other organs as fuel. They are a more immediate source of energy than other fats and are not as readily stored as body fat.
Ketones can provide energy to cells without the need for insulin, the hormone the body relies on to get glucose from the blood into cells. The theory is that ketones might provide an alternative energy source for brain cells that have lost their ability to use glucose as a result of Alzheimer’s.
So Dr. Newport began feeding her husband coconut oil, later combining it with a more-concentrated MCT oil. She reports that this improved his short-term memory, alleviated his depression, revived his personality, and reduced his walking and vision problems—and that an MRI showed that his brain had stopped shrinking.
That’s a powerful story, but just anecdotal evidence. The course of Alzheimer’s can vary from person to person, and there may be stable periods and temporary improvements within the long-term decline.