Dr. Mary Newport writes about ketone bodies, an alternative fuel for your brain which your body makes when digesting coconut oil, and how coconut oil may offer profound benefits in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.
If her theory is accurate, this could be one of the greatest natural health discoveries in a long time. Backing up her claims is the remarkable recovery of her own husband.
Bear in mind however that contrary to Dr. Newport, I personally do NOT support using drugs to treat Alzheimer’s, and based on his condition believe enrolling him in a vaccine study is completely contraindicated and ill-advised.
That said, I believe Dr. Newport may have stumbled upon a powerful natural strategy to help prevent and treat Alzheimer’s, and that’s what I want to address here.
‘Brain Starvation’ Is a Hallmark of Alzheimer’s Disease
One of the primary fuels your brain needs is glucose, which is converted into energy.
The mechanism for glucose uptake in your brain has only recently begun to be studied, and what has been learned is that your brain actually manufactures its own insulin to convert glucose in your blood stream into the food it needs to survive.
As you may already know, diabetes is the condition where your body’s response to insulin is weakened until your body eventually stops producing the insulin necessary to regulate blood sugar, and your body’s ability to regulate (or process) blood sugar into energy becomes essentially broken.
Now, when your brain’s production of insulin decreases, your brain literally begins to starve, as it’s deprived of the glucose-converted energy it needs to function normally.This is what happens to Alzheimer’s patients — portions of their brain start to atrophy, or starve, leading to impaired functioning and eventual loss of memory, speech, movement, and personality.
In effect, your brain can begin to atrophy from starvation if it becomes insulin-resistant and loses its ability to convert glucose into energy.
It is now also known that diabetics have a 65 percent increased risk of also being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and there appears to be a potent link between the two diseases, even though the exact mechanisms have yet to be determined.
It seems quite clear however that both are related to insulin resistance – in your body and in your brain.
Alternate Brain Food Can Stop Brain Atrophy in Its Tracks
Fortunately, your brain is able to run on more than one type of energy supply, and this is where coconut oil enters the picture.
There’s another substance that can feed your brain and prevent brain atrophy. It may even restore and renew neuron and nerve function in your brain after damage has set in.
The substance in question is called ketone bodies or ketoacids.
Ketones are what your body produces when it converts fat (as opposed to glucose) into energy. And a primary source of ketone bodies are the medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) found in coconut oil!
Coconut oil contains about 66 percent MCTs.
The benefits of ketone bodies may also extend to a number of other health conditions, according to Dr. Newport:
“Further, this is a potential treatment for Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, multiple sclerosis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), drug resistant epilepsy, brittle type I diabetes, and diabetes type II, where there is insulin resistance.
Ketone bodies may help the brain recover after a loss of oxygen in newborns through adults, may help the heart recover after an acute attack, and may shrink cancerous tumors.”
Medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) are fats that are not processed by your body in the same manner as long-chain triglycerides. Normally, a fat taken into your body must be mixed with bile released from your gallbladder before it can be broken down in your digestive system.
But medium-chain triglycerides go directly to your liver, which naturally converts the oil into ketones, bypassing the bile entirely. Your liver then immediately releases the ketones into your bloodstream where they are transported to your brain to be used as fuel.
In fact, ketones appear to be the preferred source of brain food in patients affected by diabetes or Alzheimer’s.
“In Alzheimer’s disease, the neurons in certain areas of the brain are unable to take in glucose due to insulin resistance and slowly die off, a process that appears to happen one or more decades before the symptoms become apparent,” Dr. Newport states in her article.
“If these cells had access to ketone bodies, they could potentially stay alive and continue to function.”
The Ketonic Diet – Why Avoiding Grains Also Protects Against Neurodegeneration
Another way to increase ketone production in your body is by restricting carbohydrates.
This is what happens when you go on a high-fat, medium-protein, low-carbohydrate diet: Your body begins to run on fats instead of carbohydrates, and the name for this is ketosis.
This is also why you don’t starve to death when you restrict food for weeks at a time, because your body is able to convert stored fat into ketones that are used as fuel instead of glucose.
Consuming medium-chain triglycerides, such as coconut oil, is a better option. However, because the ketones produced by ketosis are not concentrated in your bloodstream, but are instead mostly excreted in your urine.
MCTs and Alzheimer’s Research
The mechanism of this MCT-ketone metabolism appears to be that your body treats MCTs as a carbohydrate and not a fat. This allows the ketone energy to hit your bloodstream without the normal insulin spike associated with carbohydrates entering your bloodstream.
So in effect coconut oil is a fat that acts like a carbohydrate when it comes to brain fuel.
Therapeutic levels of MCTs have been studied at 20 grams per day. According to Dr. Newport’s calculations, just over two tablespoons of coconut oil (about 35 ml or seven level teaspoons) would supply you with the equivalent of 20 grams of MCT, which is indicated as either a preventative measure against degenerative neurological diseases, or as a treatment for an already established case.
Remember though that people tolerate coconut oil differently, and you may have to start slowly and build up to these therapeutic levels. My recommendation is to start with one teaspoon, taken with food in the mornings. Gradually add more coconut oil every few days until you are able to tolerate four tablespoons.
Coconut oil is best taken with food, to avoid upsetting your stomach.
You Also Need Dietary B12 for Optimal Brain Health
According to a small Finnish study recently published in the journal Neurology, people who consume foods rich in B12 may also reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s in their later years. For each unit increase in the marker of vitamin B12 (holotranscobalamin), the risk of developing Alzheimer’s was reduced by two percent.
However, I strongly disagree with the dietary advice published by CNN Health on this topic, which included fish and fortified cereals.
Fortified cereals are most definitely NOT a good source of dietary B vitamins. They also have inorganic iron added. This is the worst type of iron to use as a supplement and it will raise already elevated iron in those that don’t need it, like most adult men and postmenopausal women.
Elevated iron levels will actually increase your risk of Alzheimer’s.
Additionally, most fish are today so contaminated, I cannot recommend increasing consumption of fish either. One exception would be sardines, which are high in B12 and small enough to typically be less contaminated, compared to larger fish.
Instead, your ideal dietary sources of B12 vitamins would include:
- Liver from organic calf
- Wild-caught salmon
- Organic grass-fed beef
- Lamb (which are typically grass-fed even if not specified as organic)
- Organic free-range eggs
Vitamin B12 is present in natural form only in animal sources of food, which is one of the reasons I advise against a strict vegetarian or vegan diet. The few plant foods that are sources of B12 are actually B12 analogs. An analog is a substance that blocks the uptake of true B12, so your body’s need for the nutrient actually increases.
There are many well-documented cases of brain abnormalities in strict vegetarians, resulting from vitamin B12 deficiency.