Q. Both of my parents have dementia. I just read that coconut oil has helped some people reverse dementia. What are your thoughts on this?

I’m considering an experiment with it on my mom. I’d measure any changes in her cognitive condition by doing regular Mini-Mental State Exams (MMSE). Is there any harm in it?

A. There is a video circulating on the web that appears to demonstrate a benefit of coconut oil against Alzheimer’s disease. Not surprisingly, there is tremendous interest in anything that might help slow the progression of this devastating disease.

We consulted Alzheimer’s disease expert Murali Doraiswamy, MD, about this possibility. He pointed out that the brain has difficulty utilizing glucose for energy starting early in Alzheimer’s disease. Coconut oil is metabolized into ketones by the liver and may be used as an alternate fuel by the brain. You can listen to his interview by streaming it online.

One pilot trial of a coconut oil product suggested some benefit, but long-term improvement has not been established. Dr. Doraiswamy noted that coconut oil is widely used as a food in many parts of the world, but there is concern that high doses might adversely affect blood lipids.

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  1. JL

    There’s now a clinical study at USF to test the effects of coconut oil with Alzheimer patients. They’re using a coconut oil beverage, which can be purchased online. Though my mom doesn’t live in Florida to participate in the study, I’m going to buy the beverage & try it on our own. I can’t vouch for the company or product. But since the researchers at USF found it worthy to use in their test, that’s good enough for me to make the investment to see if it helps my mom.
    Here’s info on the study: http://health.usf.edu/NR/rdonlyres/869C1700-2471-4BFE-A488-1639B26792CF/45683/CoconutOilStudyFlyer62013.pdf
    Here’s info on the coconut oil beverage: http://www.fuelforthought.co/
    People’s Pharmacy response: We will watch for the results. The study size may be too small for definitive conclusions.

  2. SH

    Trader Joe’s sells coconut oil – reasonably priced and organic.

    • Michael

      We all know, the “results” of studies depend on who funded the study. There’s so much bias out there it’s very difficult for any of us to put much faith in new studies-as opposed to years ago before there was so much influence (and money involved) from the drug companies.
      From the wealth of information out there, sometimes, things just “make sense”. The best studies are often the ones we do with ourselves.

  3. smk

    Where do you buy this coconut oil. Do dr. Not tell you about this because it don’t work so they can give you a more expensive medication? Is the oil in stores?

  4. maccare

    There is a lot of information on coconut oil on the internet. My wife with stage 6 Alzheimer’s has been on it for six months now. Start slowly with a teaspoon dosage with food several times a day. Work up to a tablespoon with food several times a day – up to 5 tablespoons a day. I have found it takes about an hour to have an effect and then only lasts about 4 hours. It is not just a take a pill and forget it solution. There are no guarantee it will help since there so many varieties of dementia. However coconut oil has many good effects on the body and no side effects except cramps if you overdue it.
    If you see things about high cholesterol and saturated fat problems – ignore them – it’s a long story.
    If you want some reading material Dr Mary Newport wrote a book about a year ago.

  5. Niloofar

    My Mom’s dementia started very mildly few years ago and last month, after few heart pauses and a pacemaker surgery, she lost her short term memory. So she is diagnosed now to have vascular dementia. Can coconut oil help her memory ? and how much should she consume per day. At this point we are ready to try anything.

  6. maccare

    In 1960 the Japanese developed a form of vitamin B1 called Benfotiamine specifically for treatment of alcohol induced dementia. It was effective because it could go through the blood/brain barrier. Never was accepted over here because not developed here. Also very effective against the neuralgic pain caused by shingles and diabetes. I can testify to that. There is a book on Amazon.

  7. Dana W.

    My dad has alcohol dementia now can coconut oil help repair some of the damage that was caused?
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: There is not enough evidence to tell. We hope someone is doing research on this question.

  8. micky

    You got it Kath! These people crack me up. It’s almost like telling someone with a bad heart not to have a heart transplant because they might die on the operating table!

  9. RES

    I am fascinated about the coconut oil issue. My daughter, who is a Homeopathic Practitioner uses it all the time, but I have not been able to get over the idea that flaked coconut is high in saturated fat.
    I do know that coconut macaroons are very effective at stopping diarrhea—-so how do they figure in this issue of coconut oil? I will possibly TRY using coconut oil in food preparation, but am a little worried, because I am a type II diabetic, and don’t want to use anything that could possibly add fat, sugar, or high cholesterol to my blood.
    I guess I need to do some research on the addition of coconut oil.

  10. gmt

    I think the info in the video w/ Dr. Newport, stated that coconut oil will raise your “HDL”….. I’m always concerned with HDL and LDL vs. my “Total Cholesterol”.
    Did it raise your HDL? This will be good info for you to share. Thanks.

  11. Leslie

    The MMSE is not a meaningful way to assess whether this supplement helps or not. It is only a screening test. It does not directly test cognitive function at all.
    Moreover, individual patients often perform very differently on the test from one day to the next, for no discernible or understood reason.

  12. abigail

    I am interested to know more about the different parts of coconuts and how they affect us. I tried a coconut milk cream for chocolate drinks. It was delicious. A naturopathic physician told me that it might be responsible for the weeks of persistent diarrhea I had. I discontinued it and the problem stopped. Yet coconut meat in macaroon cookies is supposed to be good for just such a problem.

  13. Lin

    Can it be beneficial at a fairly advanced stage of the disease and how much would be required to consume to make a differenc?

  14. Peg W.

    I’d like to know the incidence of dementia in countries using a lot of coconut oil.

  15. fbl

    csp, I agree 100%. I have been using coconut oil in my daily hot chocolate treat for years and unfortunately it hasn’t raised my cholesterol at all. I’m still at 110!
    I’ve been taking manganese for several months to raise it. I’d read that it helps modulate cholesterol, either up or down. Haven’t been rechecked yet, but it will be interesting.
    As for the brain, yeah it probably does help. I had a stroke about 1 1/2 years ago and I am recovering. Not 100% yet but working on it.

  16. Kath

    Question: If dementia is already an issue, of what importance is blood lipids? A beating heart without a working brain is useless.

  17. fbl

    How would coconut oil affect blood lipids? I’ve been using about 2 TB daily in my afternoon hot chocolate treat for many years. This has helped my weight tremendously as well as my skin but I wonder if this is why my cholesterol level is so low.
    Is there any documentation available? I’d hate to stop my daily treat as it has so many good effects but I know my low cholesterol isn’t good for my body either.

  18. csp

    If coconut oil can be as beneficial over a large population of dementia patients – as seen in the video about Dr. Mary Newports’ husband – concern over what it “may” do to blood lipids is laughable.

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