This posting is in response to an excellent presentation by Dr. Mary Newport at a recent ICIM Conference I attended. Although this posting does not deal directly with being No-Grain, I am posting it for 2 reasons: 1) Alzheimer Disease is a terrible disorder and any chance of treatment is very important. 2) people on a No-Grain or Paleo way of eating usually eat a great deal of Coconut Oil.
“But Dr Z, isn’t coconut oil filled with bad saturated fats?” This is a question I get a quite often so I decided to start by getting it out of the way. I do not believe that saturated fats are harmful to human health, and there is reason to believe that coconut oil in particular has many health properties.
I will attempt to summarize Dr Newport’s presentation. First an intro on Alzheimer Disease (AD) – it is a progressive decline in mental functioning due to brain damage caused by an excessive buildup of amyloid plaques inside brain cells. For reasons just recently uncovered (and not yet fully accepted by main stream medicine), patients with AD have brain cells that stop making and responding to insulin. Recently a new term was coined for this called “Type 3 diabetes” (a Time article helps explain this a little).
Glucose is the brain’s main and preferred source of energy. In a pinch, brain cells can convert to using ketones as a backup energy source – but the switching process takes a bit of time. The diagram I included (which I borrow from Dr Newport’s PowerPoint presentation) shows energy metabolism in the brain. Glucose enters using an insulin-dependent transporter called GLUT3. Ketones (BHB and AcAc in the diagram) enter through channels that do not require insulin and go right into the Kreb’s Cycle to make energy for the brain cell.
So what does this go to do with Coconut Oil? About 60% of coconut oil is made up of Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs). The liver converts MCTs into ketones which then the brain can use as a constant supply of energy instead of glucose.
What really fascinated me was the case presentation of her husband – a man in his 50′s who had developed advanced AD and was barely functional. After treatment with MCTs (mostly from coconut oil), there was a dramatic improvement. No medication currently on the market can actually improve AD.
For more detail and to get a copy of Dr Newport’s book, “Alzheimer’s Disease: What If There Was a Cure?” and much more information, please visit her website:
Dr Newport is also collecting case reports from family and friends.