In 2008, Dr. Mary Newport’s husband was turned down for a clinical trial because his Alzheimer’s had advanced too far for the study. Desperate, she searched for anything that may help her husband. Through her research she found a promising lead, a drug whose main ingredient was medium chain triglycerides (MCT) which are also found in coconut oil. The drug wasn’t on the market, but coconut oil was. Dr. Newport began mixing it into her husband’s food and soon his condition improved significantly.
Since then, Dr. Newport has advocated for the use of coconut oil in the treatment of patients with Alzheimer’s. She has written a book, Alzheimer’s Disease: What If There Was a Cure?, based on her experience with her husband and his improvement since starting him on the coconut oil. She stresses to only use unrefined or virgin coconut oil, because that is when the MCTs are in their purest form. The MCTs supposedly help because of the ketones they help the body produce. Some doctors now think that Alzheimer’s is caused by the brain not being able to use glucose as fuel any longer. The ketones that are created as a result of consuming coconut oil act as a different fuel for the brain which theoretically causes improvement in condition.
Dr. Newport’s idea about coconut oil treating Alzheimer’s has come back into the spotlight through the release of a video by CBN discussing her research and book. Though Dr. Newport, and many others, firmly believes coconut oil is a simple solution to a challenging disease, there is no official research validating that claim.
Alzheimer’s Association’s main complaint against the use of coconut oil as a treatment is the lack of clinical testing or proven effects. In an article for Snopes.com, Dr. Dominic Carone listed criteria he used when doing a case study on how to evaluate suspicious medical claims. If a claim passes the criteria, it can be seen as legitimate. The coconut oil claim failed the first two, searching and evaluating the quality of peer-reviewed medical literature, because none exists at this time. Coconut oil did better with the other three criteria, but it was determined that there is simply not enough scientific evidence that coconut oil helps those with Alzheimer’s.
Coconut oil may very well help those with Alzheimer’s. None of the looking into the claim has completely ruled it out as a treatment option. The main issue with the claim is the lack of research done on the topic. That will soon be resolved. The Gainesville Sun reported that this month, the Byrd Institute at the University of Southern Florida is conducting a trial investigating coconut oil and its effects on patients with Alzheimer’s. Until the results of that study are known, many, such as Dr. Newport, may find coconut oil helps relieve symptoms of the disease but should remember there is little to no scientific proof behind the claim.
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