April 19, 2013

Coconut Oil, Alzheimer's & Dr. Newport vs. 5-HTP, Parkinson's & Me -- Part Two

Yesterday we considered how I reported my experience with 5-HTP to deal with Parkinson's Disease. Dr. Newport had a similar favorable experience with coconut oil to treat her husband's Alzheimer's. Her reporting of the experience was dramatically different.

The Anecdote that Ignited the Coconut Oil Explosion
Dr. Mary Newport, the medical director of a neonatal intensive care unit in Florida, reported in 2008 on the dramatic changes in her husband's Alzheimer's after she gave him several teaspoons of coconut oil.

Her husband had shown signs of early-onset Alzheimer's in 2001. He was diagnosed with AD a few years later. In May 2008, he was being tested as a candidate for a clinical trial on a new treatment for AD. But Dr. Newport had seen some research concerning AD-treated rats, ketones and medium-change triglycerides (MCTs), which are present in coconut oil.

Her husband had gotten a low score (14) in a preliminary AD test, which was so low that it would have disqualified him for the trial. The next morning she mixed a couple of teaspoons of coconut oil with his breakfast oatmeal. He retook the test later that day and surprised everyone by scoring 18.

A standard test used with Alzheimer's patients asks them to draw the face of a clock. In her many videos touting coconut oil for AD, Dr. Newport shows the striking difference between an unrecognizable clock drawing her husband did pre-coconut oil, and the pretty good drawing he did a few weeks later.

She also reported major positive changes in his mood, memory, conversation, etc.

The Hype
Dr. Newport published several articles in Tampa Bay and St. Petersburg newpapers later in 2008 about her husband's experience with coconut oil. Interest in coconut oil as a cure for Alzheimer's grew when an online article appeared on the Alliance for Natural Health's website in October, 2010. Then the rocket took off with the January 2012 video by Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network touting the efficacy of coconut oil for Alzheimer's.

This video had more than 5 million viewers and was the network's most-viewed video last year. So Pat Robertson got this year off to a good start with a January 1 video on Newport and coconut oil on his 700 Club. After telling Dr. Newport's story, the CBN reporter tells Robertson, " I think the Lord is behind it."

Other TV health supplement hucksters have climbed on board the coconut oil bandwagon. Here's the first of a six-part video, featuring Ken Lightburn  interviewing with Dr. Newport. Lightburn is president of Nature's Approval, which sells lots of coconut oil products. Although Lightburn is a little late to the parade, this video has been viewed over 180,000 times.

A Google search of "coconut oil, Alzheimer's" produces many testimonials from others who tout this cure.  Having checked the backgrounds of the most popular promoters, I've consistently found conflicts of interests, since they all have a financial stake in the product.

The Bottom Line
I hope coconut oil continues to help Mr. Newport. He looked and sounded good when he spoke up on the third of the Lightburn interview videos. That's great!

But all indications are that his experience with coconut oil is very unique, more so even than mine with 5-HTP.

The first CBN video had over 5 million viewers. The other coconut-oil-Alzheimer's videos had viewers ranging from a few thousand to over 200,000. Dr. Newport published a book -- Alzheimer's Disease: What If There Was A Cure? -- which has sold well. She also has a blog, Coconut Oil, Ketones and Alzheimer's. Google "Dr. Newport, coconut oil" and you'll find several pages of links to her videos, interviews, and articles. Her most frequent comment is, "Why not try it? What have you got to lose?" She never mentions the possibility that her husband's experience might be unique.

With hype like this, you assume that coconut oil has been tried by thousands of people with Alzheimer's and their caregivers. With what result?

Dr. Newport says she's received some 250 letters and messages, many reporting some favorable experience with coconut oil. That's a tiny response in light of all the hype and the many people who must have tried it. The powerful placebo effect probably explains most of those positive responses, since the yearning for improvement is so very strong in patients and caregivers. I'll simply quote the succinct comment by the Alzheimer's Association:
The coconut oil promise has been around for more than three years. If the administration of coconut oil was, indeed, beneficial, it would be shouted from every mountaintop.
As you no doubt have guessed by now, I get very angry that Dr. Newport, Pat Roberston, Ken Lightburn, and a host of other coconut oil hucksters are making money by unconscionably raising the hopes of people with Alzheimer's and their desperate caregivers for promised relief that never arrives.

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