June 7, 2013

Clinical Trial of "Coconut Oil for Alzheimer's" to Start June 13

The University of South Florida's Byrd Alzheimer's Institute has received a $250,000 grant from a private foundation to study the effects of coconut oil on mild to moderate Alzheimer’s. This study is the first such scientific clinical trial.

This upcoming test is the result of efforts by Dr. Mary Newport, a Tampa area neonatolotist whose positive experience feeding coconut oil to her AD-afflicted husband generated a worldwide sensation over the past five years. The news of this upcoming trial appeared on June 3 in her hometown newspaper, the Tampa Bay Times, the same media outlet that first published Newport’s story in 2008.

I know about this global phenomenon from personal experience; the posts I’ve published on this blog about the coconut-oil-for-Alzheimer’s story have garnered more “hits” than any others. It’s clear the issue holds gigantic interest for millions of sufferers and caregivers.

So Far, No Scientific Evidence
I’ve questioned the scientific validity of Newport’s claims, which have been based principally on anecdotal reports concerning her husband. She says she's heard from about 275 people who have had favorable results from using coconut oil with an Alzheimer's patient. I've remarked before that this seems like a small number given the five years of major publicity for this claim and the placebo effect that can be expected when people are desperate for hope.

 As Jodie Tillman reported in her Tampa Bay newspaper article:
The Alzheimer's Association, the nation's largest advocacy group, won't endorse the use of therapies, including coconut oil, without rigorous scientific studies. "Our people are desperate," said Chuck Albrecht, chief operating officer of the Gulf Coast chapter. "The last thing we want to do is give them false hope."
This new trial is the right course of action. Still, I’d like to know more about the “private foundation” which has ponied up the cash for the study. Experience has made me suspicious. So far, whenever I’ve “followed the money” on these coconut oil claims, I’ve found vested interest. Those who’ve touted the product have also gained from selling it, or from book or video sales recounting the coconut oil miracle. I hope results from the clinical study aren't tainted by financial conflict of interest.

As it is, the test isn’t large; for scientific “punch,” you want a study that involves large numbers of people studied over a long period. This Byrd Institute trial will include only 60 people with mild to moderate AD, and will track their progress for only half a year. Still, it is a start.

How It Will Work
Here’s the plan: those 60 subjects will be randomly assigned to two groups: one that receives coconut oil and another that receives a placebo that looks and tastes like coconut oil. After three months, the groups “switch” for another three months. Results of the trial -- set to start on June 13 -- are apparently about two years away.

David Morgan, the CEO of the Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute conducting the study, said that – at best -- the coconut oil may help control some symptoms of AD. I wondered why he chose to anticipate the as-yet-unknown trial results.

The Money Question 
Then he said something else that made me scratch my head: "She's trying to make people aware. She's not going after it as a profit-making opportunity." But Newport wrote a book about her husband’s experience with coconut oil, and she says the book has sold about 50,000 copies.

Morgan's comments suggest that he's in Dr. Newport's corner as his institute begin this study.

The newspaper's update recounts in greater detail than I've seen reported elsewhere on the ups and downs in the AD progression with Dr. Newport's husband over the past five years. It's a sad but interesting story.

To be continued . . . .

1 comment:

JK said...

The state of Kerala located at the southern tip of India has been using coconut oil for all their cooking needs since time immemorial. If the above is true, then the incidences of Alzheimers in this state should be well below the national/world level.