February 2, 2012

SUPPLEMENTS: Coconut Oil as Alzheimer's Remedy?

Correction: In this post I erroneously attributed the video to CBS. Actually it was done by CBN -- Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network.
For two subsequent reports reviewing the lack of evidence supporting the claims for coconut oil as a remedy for Alzheimer's, see http://bit.ly/IzAR7z and http://bit.ly/L56jML 

This is the first in a series of posts about supplements. So many of us use them, even though studies regularly question their efficacy. What's the truth? First up -- coconut oil.

Several recent reports claimed that the ketones in coconut oil slowed the progress of Alzheimer's in some people, and may actually prevent the disease. Check out this CBS News [note correction above - CBN, not CBS] video:

Since Alzheimer's is my greatest fear, I was eager to get more information. When I Googled "coconut oil Alzheimer's," I discovered that someone else had already done the research for me.

Several weeks ago, Dr. Joseph Mercola -- a leading natural health advocate -- appeared on TV with Dr. Oz to tout the benefits of coconut oil as a treatment for Alzheimer's. The next day "Orac" -- the author of scienceblogs.com/insolence -- took both men to task for the report. Orac is the nom de blog of Dr. David Gorski, who describes himself as a "humble surgeon/scientist." His blog posts regularly assail what he considers medical quackery.

I'm steering clear of an apparently long-standing Oz / Orac feud. I'll simply share what Orac found:
Mercola then goes on to hawk coconut oil as a treatment for Alzheimer's disease. Personally, I was curious; so I did a PubMed search. Actually, I did quite a few PubMed searches, and I had a hell of a time finding anything linking the use of coconut oil to the treatment of any form of dementia rather than just Alzheimer's. Maybe I didn't get the right search terms; so I tried Google Scholar as well. I found a few animal studies, but that's about it. Oddly enough, although there are quite a few articles about coconut oil on Mercola's website, but almost nothing that even mentions using coconut oil for treating Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia and only three references looking at medium chain triglycerides as a treatment for Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Now, there's some seriously thin evidence. So I went to the almighty Google, and what I found are a lot of CAM websites touting coconut oil as a treatment for Alzheimer's disease, such as here. The concept seems to come from a physician named Dr. Mary Newport, who claims that her husband suffering from Alzheimer's improved after the addition of coconut oil to his diet. Looking at this claim in more detail might make a good topic for a future post, but I must say that I wasn't too impressed with what I could find. It's hard to believe that Dr. Oz or his staff never bothered to look for the studies supporting the use of coconut oil for the treatment of Alzheimer's. If that had been done, it would have been rapidly apparent how thin that evidence was. I also note that I've written about one of the other supplements Mercola hawked, namely L-arginine. Again, the evidence isn't too persuasive supporting the claims for that one, either, even if a Nobel Laureate is out there hawking it as a supplement for Herbalife.
So . . . some positive anecdotal reports, but precious little scientific evidence. Still, those testimonials can seem powerful. My first reaction is probably typical for people with chronic illnesses: "OK, there's no compelling evidence now, and science typically suggests restraint until proper clinical trials are completed. But by then, I'll be dead or in a dementia / Alzheimer's fog. So what's the harm in giving it a try?"

Maybe I will. Maybe I won't. Any suggestions?


Acj said...

Do let us know the results sir

GEDUNK4 said...

Not sure about Dr. Mercola...he also suggest tanning beds as the best sorce of vit. D.

Joe1938 said...

As with any other natural remedy, watch for the pharmaceutical companies’ FDA to do everything the bureaucrats can to make sure that “Coconut Oil Touted as Alzheimer's Remedy” does not become a remedy for the general population.

Dotty said...

 My internist recommended using coconut oil as a facial moisturizer (and I do at night)--is that going to help ward off Alzheimer's? Talk about a great twofer!

Kathy said...

Coconut oil is highly recommended to minimize pregnancy-related stretch marks. But new mothers seem to lose their minds anyway, so maybe external application does not slow Alzheimer's.

Ltbeauti said...

I have A slower progressing form of ALS and I am going to try coconut oil. It may not have any benefit, but it couldn't hurt if taking it as directed. I plan to use t he virgin organic kind.

Mm112008 said...

My husband has AD and has been on coconut oil for nine months.
He was reteted after 8 months and his AD has not gotten any worse in fact he has gotten a little better.

Diane said...

I'm late to the party, but my take on the lack of scientific evidence is that there is not much money to be made on coconut oil by pharmaceutical companies, hence the dearth of studies on the subject.  I am halfway through Dr. Newport's book, and based on her husband's dramatic turnaround, I wouldn't hesitate to put a loved one on their regimen.  The only apparent side effect is stomach upset if too much coconut oil is added too quickly.  If there are no positive results, at least it is an inexpensive and harmless complement to conventional treatment.

Jin Lu Taylor said...

Maybe I will. Maybe I won't. Any suggestions? --
I would suggest, why not give it a try - what have you got to loose. The oil tastes great (yes, I like the taste) and I cook everything with it. I have a family history - my mother has Alzheimer's and my father had Parkinson's disease - in the worst case, it won't have an effect at all, but there might e a good chance that it does and it is a natural food product. I am not interested in waiting for clinical trials if it comes to natural food that have a health or healing effect on the human body. And I don't want to wait until I get diagnosed with Parkinson and Alzheimers. I am sure it can prevent theses diseases.
The pharmaceutical industry is not interested that the general population knows about natural remedies because there is no money in it. It could take a very long time (if it ever gets done) to get the results and proof from clinical, scientific trials.

Steve Harper said...

Galvin JE.
of Neurology and Psychiatry, Director of the Pearl S. Barlow Center for
Memory Evaluation and Treatment; and Director of Clinical Operations at
the Center of Excellence on Brain Aging, New York University Langone
Medical Center, New York.
disease (AD) is characterized by progressive declines in cognitive
function and ability to carry out activities of daily living; and the
emergence and worsening of behavioral/neuropsychiatric symptoms. While
there is no cure for AD, non-pharmacologic interventions and medications
that modulate neurotransmission can slow symptomatic progression.
Medical foods may also be useful as adjuncts to pharmacologic agents in
AD. Medium chain triglycerides aimed at improving cerebral metabolism
significantly improve Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale-Cognitive
scores when added to ongoing pharmacotherapy in patients with
mild-to-moderate AD. Combination of interventions, such as
non-pharmacologic treatments, pharmacotherapy, and medical foods, with
complementary mechanisms of action may provide a rational approach that
may result in maximum preservation of cognitive function in patients
with AD.NB: COCONUT OIL is a medium chain triglyceride - this article is from PUBMED.

gleeson1929 said...

I just looked at the text of the study and did a search for references to coconut oil. Here's what i found reported in the study:
Dietary Supplements
Coconut OilCoconut oil is proposed as another source of ketone bodies that has been touted as an effective treatment for AD in popular print and electronic media. However, to date, there have been no controlled studies of coconut oil in patients with AD.See my most recent report on this at: http://bit.ly/R2n63i, which concludes with a quote from the Alzheimer's Assn. shooting down all the unsubstantiated hype about coconut oil.

DrWells said...

No money for such studies, its a food.

Ambar de Mejia said...

Here are some articles worth consulting: http://www.orthomolecular.org/library/jom/search_results.shtml?cx=012934609838436511334%3Aeuo7oo38sqc&cof=FORID%3A11&q=alzheimer%27s&sa=Search&siteurl=orthomolecular.org%2Flibrary%2Fjom%2Findex.shtml&ref=www.google.com%2Fig&ss=

John said...

I think the Alzheimer's Assn has come up with the most pertinent comment on all the claims for coconut oil and AD. To paraphrase, they said these claims have been bandied about for several years now and thousands have probablyh tried this. If there were any merit to these claims, we'd all be dancing in the streets on our way to the store to buy coconut oil. End of story IMHO

Anonymous said...

Ok. But just for the heck of it...how much coconut oil & is it daily?

cavenewt said...

Here's a suggestion: try googling "ketones" instead of "coconut oil". You'll turn up lots.

gleeson1929 said...

I've looked at the studies of ketones and I've found nothing that validates the claims for coconut oil. Instead, I've found comments from others more qualified than me who have said the same thing.

jeff said...

The bottom line is, organic, extra virgin coconut oil is extremely beneficial for the body to consume. It strengthens the immune system and can even provide more energy. As well, it is the safest oil to use in cooking as even olive oil can produce carcinogens when heated during cooking, while coconut oil does not. ... You've got nothing to lose and much to gain by using coconut oil.

John` said...

Actually I take a teaspoon of it in my breakfast coffee and use coconut oil as a skin conditioner and shaving lotion. I just don't like raising the hopes of despairing people with AD and their caregivers that this is a remedy for AD.