October 14, 2013

Coconut Oil for Alzheimer’s? A Sad Update on the Newports

I've repeatedly questioned the claims for coconut oil as an Alzheimer’s remedy. Those unproven assertions have raised -- and dashed -- the hopes for thousands of sufferers and caregivers. Much of the momentum for the "coconut oil miracle” has come from Dr. Mary Newport, a neonatalogist at a hospital in Tampa, Florida.

The Newport Story
Dr. Newport’s husband Steve was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s 12 years ago at age 51. In May 2008, she started giving Steve four teaspoons of coconut oil every day, and she soon became convinced that his symptoms improved dramatically as a result. 

Thus began her five-year campaign touting coconut oil. While she only saw improved symptoms in her husband's condition, she published a book in 2011 titled: Alzheimer’s Disease: What If There Were A Cure? That title suggested something dramatic, and her book has sold over 50,000 copies. 

This year, she was interviewed on the Christian Broadcasting Network. Its founder, televangelist Pat Robertson, has also hyped coconut oil, even suggesting that God may have His hand in the miraculous results.

Update on the Newports
In a June interview for The Tampa Times, Dr. Newport explained that Steve's condition would improve, then deteriorate, after the coconut oil regimen began. But for two years, he stabilized . . . and improved. His health declined in 2010 when his father died. Steve suffered depression and hallucinations.

In early 2012, he started taking low doses of Valium to help him sleep. Three weeks later, he was pacing and chattering to himself. One night, he was so agitated and confused that Dr. Newport called 911. Steve was treated with antipsychotics during a two-week hospital stay.

Believing the drugs had made his symptoms worse, she took him off all medications. A week before the June interview, a seizure thought to be Alzheimer's-related put Steve back in the hospital for three nights.

Last week, I saw a Canadian Television story about coconut oil and Alzheimer’s, which reported that Steve suffered a stroke and is now incapacitated. It's a sad story, familiar to millions who have seen loved ones slip into the AD fog. But Steve and his wife seem to have enjoyed two unusually good years after the coconut oil supplements started.

Update: I subsequently received  word that Steve has not suffered a stroke but that he              instead " suffered seizures and is being treated with anti-convulants. The original news reporter got it wrong."

Coconut Oil and AD: The Case for It
Dr. Newport's research focused on ketones, molecules of organic fuel produced when the body burns fat. She said:
Our brains rely on glucose from carbohydrates. But if that isn’t available, because we haven’t eaten anything or are on a low carbohydrate diet, then our brain cells switch to using the energy from our fat. This energy comes in the form of small molecules called ketones.
Dr. Newport believes that coconut oil is a food the body can easily convert into ketones. Some scientists agree.

The CTV report quotes Canadian researcher Stephen Cunnang of Sherbrooke University, who thinks the connection between coconut oil and ketones is exciting . . . a possible way to to revive aging or diseased brain cells in the elderly, and people with AD. He also urged caution: "We don’t want to give a wrong impression that we have a magic solution.” 

And there's this big concern: coconut oil is is 92% saturated fat, higher than butter (64%) and  lard (40%). Saturated fat is the artery-clogging culprit responsible for so many strokes and heart attacks.
  
Study of Coconut Oil and AD
With Dr. Newport's urging -- and a $250,000 grant from a private foundation --  the University of South Florida’s Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute has begun a study to explore the coconut oil - AD connection. The Institute has enrolled 65 people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s for the study, and hopes to report results within a year.

Bottom Line
With AD and most other major diseases, each individual’s symptoms -- and their responses to medications and other treatments -- vary greatly. Steve Newport’s two good years using coconut oil may well have been as idiosyncratic as my own rather unique and positive response to the serotonin-boosting supplement 5-HTP. As the Alzheimer's Association has pointed out, many thousands have tried the coconut oil remedy, and very few have reported relief similar to Steve's. 

So we here’s what we have:
  • No scientific evidence yet supports the claim that coconut oil relieves Alzheimer’s symptoms.
  • Steve Newport happily experienced two good years using coconut oil. Then his condition deteriorated, mirroring the sad trajectory experienced by many millions of AD sufferers.
  • Steve's positive experience with coconut oil as an AD remedy remains exceptionally rare.
  • Scientists are uncertain about the risk of heart attack and stroke associated with coconut oil consumption.

 Until I see the USF study results, I’ll continue using coconut oil . . . as a skin conditioner.

28 comments:

Jacqui Bishop, m.s., author, speaker said...

It is relatively rare that only one factor causes dementia. In my case, it's a combination of low T3 and heavy metals poisoning, at least mercury and lead. The difference made by raising my T3 was dramatic.

I wonder what other factors may be at play with Steve. Check out www.sharpagain.org for more information.

Coconut oil has produced dramatic results for a whole host of neurological conditions, including ALS.

Anonymous said...

Anyone with something on "Pick's Disease", please? With male patients 48/50 years old with three teenagers looking!

JustMEinT said...

Biochemical Properties of Coconut Oil
Like other oils, coconut oil is 100% fat. But the type of fat it contains makes it unique. Dieticians are aware of coconut oil’s high saturated fat content; it represents more than 85% of its fatty acids. One of the oil’s most interesting characteristics is that 65% of its fats are present in the form of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), as opposed to long-chain fatty acids (LCFAs) commonly found in other food sources of fats. MCFAs have only eight to 14 carbons in length. Unlike other fats, MCFAs don’t need to break down into single fatty acids for the body to absorb them. Rather, MCTs make their way directly to the liver through the portal vein and can bypass the carnitine transport system for mitochondrial entry.4
About 49% of the MCFAs in coconut oil is Lauric acid (12:0) while the rest of the fats include 8% caprylic acid (8:0), 7% capric acid (10:0), 2% stearic acid (18:0), 6% oleic acid (18:1), and 2% linoleic acid (18:2).2 Coconut oil’s fatty acid profile makes it highly stable, protecting it from oxidative and heat damage. “Being mostly saturated, it’s an optimal fat for cooking, since the fats aren’t easily damaged by heat,” Nichols says. “I recommend it frequently to my clients, and the flavor is incredible.”
Lauric acid is recognized for its antimicrobial properties. When Lauric acid infiltrates the membranes of lipid-coated bacteria or other microbes such as fungi, protozoa, and even viruses—which it can do because of high MCT blood levels—it destabilizes their membranes, causing them to disintegrate, and kills the microbes as a result. However, this process can occur only in the presence of sufficient blood concentrations of Lauric acid.6
http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/100713p56.shtml

"....... Saturated fat is the artery-clogging culprit responsible for so many strokes and heart attacks.........."
Now, fats could "clog" our arteries by other mechanisms, by somehow triggering the formation of plaque, which can gradually reduce the internal diameter of our blood vessels. But the relation between dietary fat and atherosclerosis (the name we give to arteries that are clogged with plaque) is controversial, some people saying it's excess dietary fat that is the problem and others saying it's excess dietary carbohydrate, especially rapidly digested processed carbohydrate.
Or perhaps inflammation is the main culprit. Or damage to the arteries by other factors, like long-term high blood pressure. - See more at: http://www.healthcentral.com/diabetes/c/5068/117943/artery-clogging/#sthash.JEGrJPSG.dpuf

Anonymous said...

There is no common sense in declaring that saturated fat clogs arteries - I remain surprised that most people believe this fallacy.

Anonymous said...

Not that it will make any difference; seems when a pronouncement is made -even by misinformed doctors and reporters John Q Public eats up that which confirms held beliefs.Research is confined to YouTube or the loudest voice in the neighborhood. Readers please take the time to explore Keto Clarity and Cholesterol Clarity; Maria Emmerich -Keto Advantage -mariamindbodyhealth.com.; Grain Brain; Wheat Belly Total Health - all of the above have numerous references pushing back the veil of ignorance, superstition and questionable published articles.

Ian Lucas said...

Re artery clogging, read NIna Teicholz's book The Big Fat Surprise. It skewers the notion that saturated fat causes heart disease.

It also provides ample reason for being sceptical about the pronouncements of public health bodies.

IMO PD sufferers have little to lose by giving coconut oil a try.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your skepticism, but I find it astonishing that you would want to wait for more "hard scientific evidence" before adding an otherwise-beneficial food such as coconut oil to your diet.

Scientific studies, when conducted properly and understood in context, can certainly be valuable. But studies showing the long terms effects on dementia of consuming coconut oil could take decades to complete. How long do you, or any of us, have to wait?

Hydrogenated oils are damaging. So are the "heart healthy" unsaturated fats recommended by some "health" authorities. But organic, NON-hydrogenated coconut oil has been shown in numerous studies to be beneficial to the heart and to general health. The tired old claim, repeated by generations of mis-trained dietitians, that saturated fat is damaging to the human body has also been disproven in numerous laboratory and population studies.

Whether or not coconut oil prevents or reverses Alzheimer's, most people who've actually studied the issue have concluded that there's no harm in adding it to the diet, and potential for great benefit.

Anonymous said...

I hope some biochemists and molecular biologists would chime in and enlighten us, by rationalizing from metabolic pathways' perspective, how coconut oil could be beneficial.

Anonymous said...

See also the meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2013 finding no correlation between saturated fat and heart disease. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2010/01/13/ajcn.2009.27725.abstract

Unknown said...

I have taken care of my father who died of Alzheimer's Disease and now I may be in the early stages and I am using the coconut oil therapy for myself.

It isn't so much how great I feel when I am on the coconut oil, it is how much worse I feel without it. I have to watch constipation and have found eating some shredding coconut is the answer. I need some bulk forming foods. If the brain gets foggy from the reabsorbed poisons, then you haven't really gained a thing. To me how I think is more important than what I way.

So carbs which are starch are gone except for moderation and the rest of good carbs cannot be.

I think not only are we poisoned by our environment, we have nutritional problems due to our acquired tastes in food. I have come to view food as my medicine and it does not have to taste like what I was accustomed to.

Where therapy is at, the future for Alzheimer's is preventing it becoming as severe as it having to be mediated with Valium or Haldol. Steve Newport's set backs were made worse by drugs. There are non-toxic remedies which are better: a glass of red wine, melatonin for sleep taken about 1/2 hour before bed.

Alzheimer's disease is a modern illness so it is due to our modern diets and the effects of pollution and additives in our foods including genetically modified foods and residual pesticides.

The answers are not as easy as just take a pill. One has to change their cooking, what they eat, when they eat, change how they shop, when they eat out, what they can eat and also if they are able to grow their own foods, it is a good idea.

I grow cilantro which I enjoy but it also cleanses from heavy metals. In Mexico where they eat a lot of it, their soil has lead which can be a source for retardation. But where they eat a lot of cilantro, it means they aren't effected.

As we cannot tell how much heavy metal problem we have, learning to eat cilantro daily is a good idea.

Anonymous said...

It has been proven that coconut oil affects good cholesterol, not bad cholesterol....so what is the problem that everybody is having with good cholesterol?

Anonymous said...

AFTER HEARING MARY NEWPORT , I WAS USING COCONUT OIL FOR EVERYTHING --INSTEAD OF BUTTER , OR OLIVE OIL .
WHEN I TOLD MY CARDIOLOGIST, SHE SAID ," NEVER CONSUME IT -- ONLY FOR SKIN AND HAIR " .

NOW , I AM CONFUSED ---SO MANY PROS AND CONS ----????

John Schappi said...

Mary Newport herself has backed off her claims that coconut oil could cure Alzheimer's. See my subsequent report at http://bit.ly/1Ksy4hu

Katherine said...

Coconut Oil and Doctor Newport
8/28/2014:
An UPDATED Note from Dr. Mary & How Steve is doing now!
It has been more than 6 years since Steve improved with coconut oil. He improved very significantly the first year and remained stable for 2 years. . He began having seizures in summer 2013 starting with a head injury from a fall and has not fully recovered. Although he has had some serious setbacks since then, I feel it was well worth the extra quality time that we have had together as a family. Although these setbacks have been discouraging, he remains in good spirits in our home, and has regained some strength and has been talking, smiling and being generally silly in recent weeks (much more like himself). I cannot help but think that ketones are playing an important role in all of this. Although he will most likely not win his battle against Alzheimer's, there is now at least Hope for others who are at risk or in earlier stages of this horrible disease, and their families, might actually Win their fight. Alzheimer's Awareness is coming and we will keep you updated so you may help us bring more awareness and research to this and future projects to find a cure.
I want to thank everyone who has sent me testimonials for your loved ones who have tried coconut oil and or MCT oil. I have received over 400, and while some people have no response, the vast majority has reported improvements in cognitive functions and overall quality of life. I am overjoyed that so many people have benefited from this food-based intervention as my husband Steve has!

Rebecca said...

Valium makes me a little crazy,too! It is not a good drug for seniors! However, I have taken the lowest dose of Librium (chlordiazepoxide) -- PRN and NOT OFTEN -- for over 40 years with absolutely no problems. Xanax also has the same effect as Valium so I stay away from that and tell my docs if I am in the hospital. I feel so sad for Steve Newport and for his wonderful wife, Mary. Her book, ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE; WHAT IF THERE WAS A CURE? was a turning point for me! I have taken coconut oil daily for four years and it has made all the difference in my ability to think and reason. I was beginning to slip when I read this book and I am so grateful for this knowledge. Also, there is a "medical food" called Axona which is medium-chain triglycerides in a capsule that is for Alzheimers'. So a drug company recognizes the efficacy of MCT! And now that someone can make money off it, I am sure we will see more of the same.

John Schappi said...

I'm glad some get a benefit from using coconut oil but the former surge of interest in this as a treatment for Alzheimer's has ended now that Dr. Newport herself has backed off on claims for coconut oil. See http://bit.ly/1v8lxsY

Stefan Braun said...

Dear John,

I founded an elderly service company late 2013 with a partner. We are both very passionate in what we do and the help we offer to our elders and their families. We have a website, in German though and extended the site with a blog about how people meeting the challenge of getting older. We are posting texts about our experiences during our daily work with the older people as well as articles written by other authors worldwide about age related topics. For example Adele Horin, a former journalist from Sydney or Nina Mishkin, an retired Lawyer from Boston.
I came across a story from you blog: "Coconut Oil for Alzheimer’s? A Sad Update on the Newports." I would love to translate that story into German and post it on our website. My wife (South African) and I have been working as freelance-translators for 16 years and would be happy to put your work out there to a broader audience as I find that, as many older citizens should read it as possible.
I of course would mention your blog and name and include a link to your blog.
I would be delighted to receive your thoughts about my idea. I am looking forward to hearing from you soon.
With kind regards
Stefan
Morgenschön Seniorenservice
Delia Aris & Stefan Braun GbR
Humannstrasse 5
22609 Hamburg
Germany

e-mail: braun@morgenschoen-seniorenservice.de
website: www.morgenschoen-seniorenservice.de

Marilyn said...

I have a concern about the medications that Steve Newport was put on by his doctors especially when hospitalized. First he was put on Valium (a benzodiazepine) these medications are one of the worst medicines the Big Phama has devised! Only recently is it being realized how hard it is to get off of these types of medications. You cannot get off of them quickly, many people that have been put on benzodiazepines take years and years of slow tapering because of the bad effects from withdrawals. It does not take long for a person to become addicted to the benzodiazepines Anti-Psychotics are next and then antidepressants!! It was after Steve Newport was placed on these medicines that he started to have problems. I know Mary Newport is an MD, but the drug reps push the drugs and sell the physicians how great the drugs are and what they can do!! That is the drug reps job!!

Big Pharma is looking for a high priced product with which they can make millions and more no matter if it has horrendous side effects or not for the individuals that take it.

Unless proven otherwise, Coconut Oil (MCT) is cheap and was noted to help Steve Newport and others with Alzheimers Disease and other neuro-degenerative diseases.

Coconut Oil (MCTs) may not be a cure for Alzheimer's Disease, but at least it shows it can help some of us and gives us all hope from a horrible debilitating disease. Until "Big Pharma" can come up with something that they can prove works with few side effects, what do we have to lose when trying Coconut Oil for ourselves or our loved ones?? Something to think about!!

Marilyn said...

Add to Coconut Oil being cheap, it also does not have the devastating side effects that Big Pharma's drugs have.

I wish I could talk with Mary T. Newport, MD.

I too have a husband with Alzheimer's Disease and the waiting for a cure as she knows is horrendous. I want her to know that I appreciate the information and the hope she has given me by my discovering her book; "Alzheimer's Disease: What if there was a Cure?"

Thank you Mary!

Anonymous said...

Any update on those studies that were testing coconut oil? I assume nothing good came from it.

theinvisiblewun said...

"And there's this big concern: coconut oil is is 92% saturated fat, higher than butter (64%) and lard (40%). Saturated fat is the artery-clogging culprit responsible for so many strokes and heart attacks."

The above is false information: The liver does not permit fats to be placed into the bloodstream which is water based.It places fat solubles into HDL particles to be couriered through the blood not in the blood.
2nd. Coconut oil is a medium chain triglyceride - it contains very few carbon molecules - it doesn't require breaking down by the stomach - it's a healthy oil...my friends in the many Pacific islands live off it - no tooth decay - no weight problems, no skin cancers, excellent health and strong bodies. I take coconut oil daily in may ways - as toothpaste with Bicarb, on my skin so I never never use suntan lotions, on the hair - never have scalp problem, as butter, cook in it, and I eat at least a table spoon a day. It gives me instant energy and I sleep welll plus it improved appetite . . you do not imagine the amazing benefits it brings. Dementia is easy to defend off - its a preventative more than a cure - that is the missing point here.

Becky said...

I had occasion to use and give coconut oil, in conjunction with supplements, when I became one of the caretakers of my bachelor minister who had dementia. I read books on dementia and attended a seminar on dementia. I learned a couple of things: one, that there are over 80 kinds of dementia and, unless you are seen by a gerontologist/dementia specialist, you don't really have a diagnosis of dementia. Some are caused by vitamin deficiencies, some by other diseases that mimic the symptoms of dementia.
When I started giving him coconut oil he was paranoid, having hallucinations, and frequently withdrew inside himself.I gave him two tablespoons of coconut oil,mixed with MCT oil, a day. I also gave him one Piracetam pill a day.(Piracetam was recommended by local neurologists as a supplement to those who'd had a head injury.)
The regimen depended on the patient being on a low carb diet.
My minister became friendlier, less paranoid, recognised people again, and became more vocal.

Kono Din said...

Great post ! Both olive oil and best organic coconut oil will be absorbed by the hair follicles to some degree, so you can wash your hair and some will remain. So long as you give the oil time to be absorbed, washing your hair will not remove all of the oil and will leave your hair more moist, shiny, and healthier. Thanks !

KALAVATHI AMARACHELVAM said...

Coconut oil is definitely good fr a lot of health problems. I Hv cured severe tooth decay with coconut oil gargling fr 20 minutes. Used it to cure my stomach ulcer too.
But please remember to use organic virgin coconut oil. This s absolutely important to get the desired results. Pls do not buy coconut hair oil as it contains little amount of paraffin wax. So get cooking coconut oil as second option if u cannot get virgin coconut oil.
Wishing good health

Anonymous said...

There is a lot of evidence from studies and trials that Rosemary essential oil improves memory. Breathing the vapors from the bottle or four drops on the pad inside a small USB powered electric device with a tiny fan fills a small room with the sent. It works immediately the first time used and is more effective with continued use. Will not cure Alzheimer's however there is strong evidence it will not progress. Or a cotton ball with 3 or 4 drops cupped in your hand and breath the scent. Rosemary is the most prescribed treatment for dimenta world wide.
Google "Rosemary essential oil for memory". Best devise is one that just vaporizes the oil without water or heat. Vitaminshope.com about $10.0 and Rosemary store brand about $9. Lots of choices for oil and diffusers many places. Ancient Greeks used to weave the plant in their hair for memory. I know this is off topic but this beats any prescription medication.

AptArticle.com said...

Please don't be concerned.
Despite "professional" and "politically correct" opinions to the contrary,
saturated fats do not clog your arteries.
It's the hydrogenated fats and trans-fats that are damaging.

daren sammy said...

I love to read and appreciate your work. essential oil for psoriasis

Robert said...

WOw ! Awesome post ! I figured that I'd chime in, what with all the people claiming that coconut oil impedes fat loss. Personally, I find I can successfully lose weight only when I include a good amount of coconut oil. I have no idea why, but I feel much better, more energetic, and the weight comes off faster with fewer side-effects.
Thanks !

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