Coconut oil, Alzheimer’s disease, Seizures, Autism and more

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:’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 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.

9 Responses to “Coconut oil, Alzheimer’s disease, Seizures, Autism and more”

  1. Hello, I have a non-verbal 5 year old autistic son. His IgG tests at great plains labs was high (5.15) for coconut. Can I still give him the MCT oil supplement?

  2. I think so, but I recommend that you check with your child’s doctor first. In my way of seeing it, IgG reactions are not severe or life-threatening, plus these tests are plagued by false-positive and false-negative results. Because of this I recommend looking at these results mostly as an indication of a possible intolerance, which needs to be verified by removing the food, then reintroducing it and watching to see if the child actually reacts to it. In addition to this, MCT oil might be fine even if your child did react to coconut.

  3. Dr Volpe

    You may not remember me, but you helped my wife and I with our two boys. The younger has autism (now 10 yrs od) and the older (now 13 yrs old) still have some dietary (I think). I had a few questions to pose to you.

  4. Dr Volpe (Sorry for my previous unfinished note)

    You may not remember me, but you helped my wife and I with our two boys. The younger has autism (now 10 yrs od) and the older (now 13 yrs old) still have some dietary (I think) issues, but both are doing pretty well overall. I had a few questions to pose to you.

    1. My 10 yr old seems to crave sugars, so we try not to keep any in the house. Have you seen this issue before What would be your concerns and any suggestions to address
    2. My wife likes to cook with coconut oil. Are there some other good sources of ketones?
    3. Is there evidence you can site that ketones can help with epileptic seizures?


  5. I definitely remember you and I am glad to read that your children are doing well. Here are brief answers to your questions:
    1. Sugar cravings are extremely common for a simple reason: sugar is addictive! However, some children crave it a lot more than others and each case needs to be evaluated individually. Possible causes can include low levels of neurotransmitters (especially serotonin) but also other issues like hypoglycemia.
    2. There may be other tropical oils that also contain MCTs but coconut oil is the most accessible one.
    3. There is no question that ketones help seizures. This has been proven in a number of studies and it is fully recognized by mainstream neurologists. This was also in a New York Times articles that incidentally came out just a few days after I sent out that newsletter. There is a book entitled The Ketogenic Diet A Treatment for Epilepsy by John Freeman, MD that covers much of the research on this topic. The reason why neurologists may not offer this diet as an option is that they feel it is too difficult and most people are not interested in hearing about it. Basically it is like the Atkins diet.

  6. Hi Dr. Volpe!

    With regard to your article on MCT oil….you stated that you have yet to have a patient to refer MCT oil for. Well, I have a dear family friend who is in the early stages of Alzheimers. I have been asking her to use coconut oil, but it was upsetting her stomach a little. So, I have sent her a link to your online store so she can order some MCT oil. I will keep you posted on her progress once she starts! I actually believe the coconut oil has already helped, but….time will tell!!!

    Thanks for all you do and all the great info you put out!!

    Brandee Simmang

  7. Thank you for your kind comments. I hope this helps your friend and please let me know if it does.
    Arturo Volpe

  8. My husband 42 years old has epilepsy, he recently started having more we’ve learned his cholesterol levels are high.I am concerned for his health. I wonder for a man of 42 and 220 pounds how much coconut oil would be beneficial?

  9. Organic cold-pressed coconut oil does not raise cholesterol but monitoring is always the right thing to do. If you find it to help 1 Tbsp 3-4 times a day might really make a difference.