As I mentioned a few months ago in this newsletter, researchers are now looking at Alzheimer’s disease as a new form of diabetes and the expressions “Type 3 Diabetes” and “Diabetes of the Brain” have been coined. More specifically, in Alzheimer’s disease the brain loses its ability to burn glucose or blood sugar for energy.
As we are all taught in school, the brain – unlike other tissues – cannot burn fat for energy, so as it loses the ability to burn sugar it rapidly becomes starved for energy and begins to die. One thing that is always omitted in physiology classes is that while there is no doubt that brain cells cannot burn fat, they do have an alternative energy source, aside from sugar: ketones.
Not only can the brain use ketones for energy, it will use them preferentially over glucose when they are available, and it appears to function optimally when using ketones as its main source of energy.
Ketones are produced naturally in the body when people follow a low-carb diet, such as the Atkins diet. In spite of all the bad press that the Atkins diet has received and continues to receive, people who have followed it will readily admit that they experienced great clarity of mind and ability to focus while on it. The reason appears to be that the brain was able to use ketones in place of glucose for energy.
More evidence of this comes from the study of seizure disorders. Seizures are a dysfunction of the brain, which is likely someday to also be recognized as a disorder in the brain’s ability to burn glucose. While people who suffer from seizures are commonly medicated, the drugs are not always effective and can have severe side effects. However, it has been clearly established in medicine that one thing that will stop even drug-resistant seizures is a ketogenic diet, or an Atkins-like diet that induces the body to produce ketones, providing the brain with its preferred source of energy.
The fact remains that the Atkins diet is difficult enough for an adult to follow for very long, and it is virtually impossible to implement for children. However, there is another way in which ketones are produced in the body and made available for the brain: by consuming coconut oil!
I have been recommending coconut oil for my patients for years, but people mainly use it for cooking and rarely ingest enough to notice a difference. For an effect to become evident it should be consumed by the tablespoon, which by the way does not raise cholesterol and is not fattening.
Coconut oil is rich in so-called medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) that are rapidly converted to ketones in the body. An alternative to coconut oil is MCT oil, which is derived from coconut oil, but it has the double advantage of being tasteless and of concentrating MCTs so that smaller amounts are needed to achieve equal results.
It is precisely MCT oil that researchers are now studying in Alzheimer’s disease and the results are impressive. According to a report which you can find here: http://www.anh-usa.org/coconut-oil-and-alzheimer’s-disease/, when a 53 year-old man started showing signs of progressive dementia none of the approved Alzheimer’s drugs helped him, but when he started consuming coconut oil by the tablespoon signs of the illness slowly vanished and he returned to being his former self. This is a result that had never been reported previously with any drug or vitamin.
Based on this research I now recommend MCT oil and stock it in my office and online store, and results so far are very encouraging. Although I have not yet had the opportunity to recommend it for a patient with Alzheimer’s disease, with it I have seen improvements in the ability to focus and overall mental clarity for both children and adults, sometimes from the first time it is taken. MCT oil is not a cure for autism or ADD, but it is another little piece that is proving to play a helpful role.