Coconut Oil, Dementia and Aging: Part 1

Do you drink coconut water?  Do you cook with coconut oil?  What are the benefits of each? I’ve been getting a lot of questions about coconut and health.  I thought it might be time to bring it up here.

First, let’s have a quick lesson on coconut and it’s components.  Coconut oil is the oil that is withdrawn from the meat of matured coconuts.  Coconut water is the liquid inside the coconut that has a milky looking consistency.  Coconut oil is of interest to many because it holds up well at very high temperatures (especially during frying) which is due to its high saturated fat content  (something that isn’t that great for your heart).  Coconut water has peaked in popularity because it is a natural source of electrolytes, like that found in many popular sports drinks.

Recently, there has been more and more in the press about the benefits of coconut oil for patients with dementia.  I know many of you may have watched this video on YouTube:

This video has also been on Twitter and is under discussion in support groups.

The component of coconut oil that is of interest is MCT.  MCT’s or Medium Chain Triglycerides are commonly used in dietetic practice as a type of replacement fat for clients experiencing fat malabsorption or having lots of GI distress after eating fatty foods.  They are helpful because they do not require bile acids for digestion.

MCTs may also help with managing some forms of dementia.  Why is this?  Well, the brain uses two types of fuel:  1.  glucose and 2.  ketones.  Glucose, which comes from the breakdown of carbohydrates, is the brain’s preferred source of fuel or energy.  As we age and cognitive decline sets in, the brain doesn’t use glucose quite as well.  The aging, cognitively impaired brain seems to continue to use ketones well, if available.  Ketones come from the breakdown of body fat and/or from including MCTs in the diet.

The big questions is:  Does the aging brain, in someone with dementia, work better on ketones?

One of the speediest ways to get ketones to the brain is to increase the number of MCTs in your diet.  Coconut oil is made up of ~50-60% of MCTs.  Other sources of MCTs are Axona (~50% MCT), a medical food, or  straight MCT oil (100% MCT).

Some patients, with some forms of dementia, have seen mild improvements in their memory and in performing simple tasks when increasing the amount of MCT in their diet.

Is coconut oil safe? Want to know how much to add?  For how long? AND What type of coconut oil to use?  Be sure to re-visit the blog next week as our discussion continues…

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