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Coconut Oil?
Posted: Monday, January 23, 2012 12:04 PM
Joined: 12/6/2011
Posts: 3326

Sorry for all these posts, but I spend lots of time each day looking for the latest research and treatments and thought some of you might be interested in what I find. There has been discussion on this Board about the benefits of coconut oil. I don't know much, but here's something to add to the discussion: 


or, if that doesn't work, try cutting and pasting: 

Posted: Tuesday, January 24, 2012 1:33 PM
Joined: 11/30/2011
Posts: 740

Hi, Myriam.  I know a lot about coconut oil, and MCT oil, and Axona, and ketone body therapy.  I've spent literally hundreds of hours researching the scientific literature on the subject.  And that includes hundreds of hours reading up on saturated fats.  And I read the original research papers, not somebody's interpretation (or misinterpretation) of what was done and what was concluded.


There is a tiny grain of truth in the hoo-hah about coconut oil.  It contains a little bit of caprylic triglyceride, which is the active ingredient in Axona.  (Axona is a prescription-only "medical food" that has been shown in small clinical trials to be beneficial to Alzheimer's patients.  The company that developed it is now launching a full-scale Phase III clinical trial to obtain FDA approval to sell a very similar product with the same active ingredient as a drug.  See my thread on this subject on this forum.)  Basically, caprylic triglyceride is strongly ketogenic, i.e., the liver metabolizes it into ketone bodies, which are thought to be very beneficial to the brain, and underlie ketone body therapies such as the ketogenic diet used to help epilepsy patients.

The doctor who is running around the country claiming miraculous benefits from coconut oil loudly proclaims her AD husband has practically been cured.  She started a website maybe three years ago or so, encouraging others to follow his "diet".  So far, he's the only one who's responded this way.  One wonders if he was improperly diagnosed.

Plus, if one holds her feet to the fire, she has to admit that she also gives her husband huge amounts of MCT oil, which is two-thirds caprylic triglyceride and one-third capric triglyceride, another strongly ketogenic compound.

Plus ... her husband was in a clinical trial for the first two years he was on the coconut oil/MCT oil regimen AND she has him on a slew of nutritional supplements that are thought, at least by some, to have some potential benefits, as well.  So it's just a wee bit hard to claim that it's the coconut oil that's helping him so much.

Most importantly, coconut oil contains massive amounts of unhealthy saturated fats that can cause all sorts of health problems when consumed in high levels for long periods of time.  This is per the FDA and the AMA, among other medical organizations.  It is purely ridiculous to claim that coconut oil is "misunderstood".  The vast majority of the many dozens of studies that concluded saturated fats pose numerous health risks were done with coconut oil.  (And no, the researchers were not stupid enough to use hydrogenated oil.)

And ... if one had followed comments by fans and devotees on her website and on Alz Assoc discussion forums, many AD patients on her regimen were beginning to develop serious behavioral problems, chronic gastrointestinal problems that did not clear up when the coconut oil was stopped, and so on and so forth.

Axona, I believe, can be very beneficial.  I'm very excited that it's going into clinical trials.  The Axona thread is at:

MCT oil can be beneficial, although there are some drawbacks to its use.

Coconut oil is just begging for trouble. 


Never -- never never never -- believe what you read or hear in the news.  Never. 


Stick with reputable sources whose articles are written by scientists who actually understand the issues, e.g., the Alzheimer Research Forum. 



Posted: Tuesday, January 24, 2012 1:55 PM
Joined: 11/30/2011
Posts: 740

You'll notice that, on the Axona thread, judysguy asked me if I had any references to support a statement I'd made that there are reasons to be concerned that long-term uptake of high doses of saturated fats may exacerbate the symptoms of AD and speed the progression.  I posted a link to the old boards, which were still available at the time.  Of course, they're not available any more, in any useful form, sigh. 


But, I did keep a copy of the post that I was referencing for him, which follows: 



Hi, ST.  You asked if I had any articles on the negative cognitive effects with "coconut oil/MCT oil", but I can't find your post, so I thought I'd start a new thread so you'd see it.

First, please note that coconut oil and MCT oil should not be lumped together when looking at the impact on cognitive function.  MCT oil contains only caprylic and capric triglycerides.  Coconut oil contains low amounts of these, but the bulk of the fats in coconut oil are the longer-chain saturated fats (lauric, myristic, stearic, and palmitic) that are considered to be health risks.  The triglycerides in MCT oil are metabolized by a different pathway than the longer-chain saturated fats that constitute the bulk of coconut oil.  MCT oil triglycerides are metabolized into ketone bodies in the liver.  The longer-chain saturated fats are processed via the lymph system.  The FDA and the American Heart Association consider lauric, myristic, stearic, and palmitic fats to constitute health risks, based on numerous studies done on human consumption that have linked these fats to a wide range of diseases.

MCT oil and its constituents have not been linked to any diseases, to my knowledge.  They are "generally recognized as safe."

There is another big difference between these two types of fats.  Dietary saturated fats are almost exclusively the longer-chain "health risk" fats.  Very few foods contain caprylic and capric fats in any meaningful amounts.  And, in foods that contain the "health risk" saturated fats, where you find one of those fats, you're going to find the others.  Coconut oil is so high in "dietary" saturated fats compared to other foods, that it is often used as the source of those fats when studying their health effects.

, the overall diet needs to be taken into consideration when studying the impact of any one type of dietary component.  Saturated fat metabolism is a very complicated thing, and health risks can be mitigated or exacerbated by other nutrients.  For example, soluble fiber (e.g., found in breads and cereals), polyunsaturated fats (especially the omega-3's), and phytosterols can help minimize the negative effects of saturated fats and dietary cholesterol, whereas sugar, and high total caloric intake, can significantly exacerbate the negative health effects of saturated fats.

, saturated fat metabolism, and the health effects of those fats, can be affected by other factors, such as age, gender, and ethnic background (genes.)  Because of this, I have not included studies done on younger subjects.  Their responses to dietary constituents can be sharply different from those of adults, since the nutritional requirements of bodies and brains in the differentiation/growth/maturation stages can be sharply different from those of adults in the "maintenance" stage.

Because researchers are still very much on a steep learning curve when it comes to understanding fat metabolism, I focused my search on the recent papers, although I did look at some of the papers that were most frequently cited by recent studies and review articles.  Animal models may be very poor at predicting what will happen in humans, so for the most part, I looked only at studies involving human consumption.  However, it can be very difficult to elucidate the mechanisms underlying the impact of dietary constituents in humans, so I am also providing a handful of papers on animal model studies which are consistent with what we know about human fat metabolism and its impact on cognitive function.

I'm only listing a few of the better and/or groundbreaking papers, primarily those for which the full text is available online -- there are many more references, if you want them.

Papers that discuss the negative impact of dietary saturated fats on cognition, in adults:

Papers that discuss overall diets that affect cognitive function in adults: 

(Please note: a Mediterranean diet is characterized by very low intake of saturated fat; high intake of vegetables, legumes, fruits, and cereals; high intake of unsaturated fatty acids (mostly in the form of olive oil); a moderately high intake of fish; a low-to-moderate intake of dairy products (mostly cheese or yogurt); a low intake of meat and poultry; and a regular but moderate amount of ethanol, primarily in the form of wine and generally during meals.

Select papers on animal model studies which may help elucidate the underlying mechanisms:

With regard to the impact of saturated fats on behavior/mood ... generally speaking, the studies have looked at the negative impact of saturated fats on cognitive function, with worse cognitive dysfunction assumed to mean that there are more behavioral problems (depression, agitation, anxiety, aggression, etc.)  I did, however, find that there were quite a few papers that discussed the positive impact of omega-fatty acids on mood (and the negative impact of too little dietary omega-fatty acids on depressive disorders).  The positive effects of the polyunsaturated fats go hand-in-hand with the negative effects of the dietary saturated fats, as can be seen in the above papers on the underlying mechanisms and mitigating factors.  A few example papers:


This post has been edited by the ALZConnected Moderator on February 14th, 2012. 


Posted: Tuesday, January 24, 2012 3:56 PM
Joined: 11/30/2011
Posts: 740

By the way ... one way to tell how good the information in a news story might be, is by looking into the qualifications of the "experts" that they quote.  The woman who talked about the health benefits of coconut oil, Beverly Teter of the University of Maryland ... is not, as you might expect, on the faculty there.  She's a "research associate", a title usually given to someone who conducts research under the supervision of a principal investigator, i.e., someone who is not qualified to run his/her own research projects.  It is also sometimes used to designate a postdoc, i.e., someone fresh out of graduate school and in training at a university or other research organization.

Despite having gotten her degree more than 20 years ago, Teter has only a handful of publications, and is senior author on only two papers.  She should have gotten that many publications from her graduate research alone, let alone a 20-plus year career.

She keeps company with Mary Enig, who is notorious for her unsubstantiated claims about the benefits of saturated fats in general, and coconut oil in particular.  Enig is, by the way, a paid spokesperson for the coconut oil industry.


 Now ... if coconut oil really is so good for you ... why couldn't they find a reputable expert on saturated fats -- someone who is a full professor on the faculty of a major university and who has dozens of publications demonstrating his expertise -- to interview?

Posted: Tuesday, January 24, 2012 5:38 PM
Joined: 12/6/2011
Posts: 3326

Thank you so much, JAB! Some of us, well, all of us are desperate to remain healthy and independent...and anxiously waiting for a cure or something to stop the sucker. The knowledge and investigative skills you have are a great gift to this site. =D> applause
Lane Simonian
Posted: Tuesday, January 24, 2012 8:34 PM
Joined: 12/12/2011
Posts: 4854

I, too, appreciate JAB's research skills and knowledge. I can only add a little to this discussion.   


The general consensus among most researchers seems to be that ketone bodies provide an alternative source of energy for the brain, and therefore is useful for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, where the transport of glucose in the brain becomes a major problem. 


However, these papers identify another very important aspect of ketone bodies--they are antioxidants. 


Ketone bodies scavenge superoxide anions which combine with inducible nitric oxide to form peroxynitrites.  Peroxynitrites are held by some to be the chief cause of short-term memory impairment in Alzheimer's disease. 


By limiting the formation of peroxynitrites, ketone bodies should stop the progression of Alzheimer's disease.  If some ketone bodies also scavenge peroxynitrites, they should also help to partially reverse Alzheimer's disease. 



Posted: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 2:32 PM
Joined: 9/18/2012
Posts: 1

The theory that caprylic acid is the key is the idea behind Axona, but coconut oil contains it and other compounds with similar characteristics along with other characteristics that are possibly good or bad depending on who you believe.


Cons against coconut oil:


High in saturated fat. The medical establishment has been preaching against saturated fat for quite a while now because of perceived higher risk associated with cholesterol. On the other hand MCTs and by extension Axona are also saturated fats.


Not yet clinically tested using modern techniques for effectiveness against Alzheimers or dementia.



Pros for coconut oil:


Anecdotal evidence of efficacy combined with research on Axona and MCTs (which are derivatives) is supportive of coconut oil by association since they are similar.


The case against saturated fats as being dangerous has been dealt a series of setbacks.  Refined carbohydrates are now seen as just as bad or even worse.  Unsaturated fats with which saturated fats didn't compare as well with are now on the healthier end of the spectrum.  So whereas before the emphasis was saturated fats are bad because they are worse than unsaturated fats, one could arguably flip that around to saturated fats aren't as good as unsaturated fats for heart disease.  Eggs and milk which are rich in saturated fats have been exonerated and are considered healthy again.  Coconut oil in the past was convicted mainly by association not impeccable study.


Coconut oil has thousands of years of history of human use both as food and medicine.  The fats in coconut oil are found in human best milk.  Baby formula manufacturers add them to their products. More, they have antimicrobial properties that are most strongly expressed in monolaurin which is not in caprylic acid.


Coconut oil is cheaper than the alternatives.