Tag Archives: coconut oil

Man with alzheimers[This article discusses health improvements based, at least in part, on a ketogenic diet. Dr. Loren Cordain and many others, including The Paleo Diet editorial review board, don’t recommend or endorse long-term ketogenic dieting for the general public. They do acknowledge that it can be effective if used short-term and as a therapeutic measure for Alzheimer’s and other diseases.]

Peter Dredge’s book Beating Alzheimer’s, the enemy at the gate: turning despair into hope and action [1], recounts his wife Ann’s early-onset Alzheimer’s diagnosis and their intense struggle with both the disease and “conventional” medical treatment. They refused to accept what most of us believe; that Alzheimer’s is unstoppable, incurable, and irreversible (at one-point Ann was offered euthanasia.) Instead, they researched every nontraditional alternative.

They discovered the work of Dr. Mary Newport [2] and Dr. Dale Bredesen [3] and using that work as a guide, they achieved both short term relief from the worst symptoms, and measurable reversal of the condition. Ann, initially given only three months to live, is sometimes referred to as “probably the first New Zealander to come back from end-stage Alzheimer’s” [4].

Diet and supplementation contributed heavily to Ann’s progress. Drs. Newport and Bredesen, among many others, have exhaustively researched how the conventional Western diet, heavy in carbs, sugar, inflammatory oils and additives, can create a “perfect storm” in the brain. While food choices are not the only Alzheimer’s culprits, dietary changes can be pivotal in slowing—and even reversing—cognitive decline.

 

Dr. Newport and coconut oil

Dr. Newport’s husband Steve also suffered early-onset Alzheimer’s. Frustrated by conventional medicine’s lack of options, she began her own internet research. As passionately and painstakingly described in her book Alzheimer’s Disease – What If There Was A Cure? The Story of Ketones, [3] she discovered research on a prototype “medical food” (Ketasyn, a forerunner of Axona [5]) for dementia patients. The food was based on medium-chain triglycerides derived from coconut and palm kernel oil. Since the food itself was not yet available, Dr. Newport calculated the available MCT’s in coconut oil and added this to Steve’s diet.

Steve responded dramatically and immediately to coconut oil, and later MCT oil, consuming both regularly. His caregivers, including Dr. Newport, all noticed that he “was back,” with improved life and coping skills (dexterity, gait, personality,) better short-term memory, and measurably improved cognitive exam scores. Two years later, “stable” MRI results showed that there had been little, if any, additional brain atrophy during this oil-supplementation phase.

Steve did not experience a miracle cure, but rather measurable, intermittent relief from the worst symptoms of Alzheimer’s over fifteen years. Average life expectancy after diagnosis is 3-11 years [6]. During this time, the family diet was gradually modified along more classic ketogenic, or at least lower-carb lines. Steve also later used prototype “ketone esters,” then being developed by Dr. Richard Veech et al. [7]

Like Steve, Ann Dredge also responded quickly to a 60/40 MCT to coconut oil mixture. Four ounces each day, caused her daily, hour-long full-body twitching episodes to disappear. The same mixture could alleviate any rare recurrence. Dressing herself became much easier, and the oil mixture would also help calm Ann during what Peter calls “more-delusional episodes” of anxiety and confusion.

Ann also follows a ketogenic diet, exercises when possible, minimizes stress, and continues to use the oil mixture to this day. Symptoms often resume or intensify if she misses a dose. [1]

 

Ketones and the brain

Dr. Newport’s original 2008 case study [8], available on her website, succinctly introduces ketones, and ketosis, in the context of Alzheimer’s and other chronic diseases. Ketosis, the body’s use of fat-derived “ketone bodies” for energy (instead of glucose) has been widely popularized in the last few years due to the ketogenic diet craze.

As most keto dieters know, our bodies (and brains) come “factory equipped” to function in the absence of exogenous glucose. While we manufacture some glucose internally, due to our ability to survive on ketones, we don’t need to consume additional glucose in order to maintain bodily function. Keto texts, including Dr. Newport’s, often refer to starvation or fasting as a normal context for ketosis, but low-enough carbohydrate dieting produces the same result.

Interestingly, full ketosis is not the only way to increase available ketones—especially for use by the brain.

High fat foods and supplements like coconut or MCT oil can provide medium-chain triglycerides, which are readily converted to ketones. These become available immediately in the bloodstream. MCT oil supplementation, in particular, has been shown to increase bioavailable ketones even without reducing dietary carbohydrates [13]. The brain will preferentially use available ketones even if glucose is also present. That is, full ketosis is not required for the brain to take advantage of ketones [9]. One reason, or perhaps the main reason, for this is that ketones freely cross the blood-brain barrier.

Glucose, on the other hand, requires a more complex chemical process (involving insulin) to be made available to the brain.

Alzheimer’s is often characterized by insulin insensitivity in the brain and has been called “Type 3 Diabetes” by some researchers [10]. They theorize that the brain atrophies over time as glucose provides less and less available energy—even if ingested in prodigious amounts. They also note that the brain can develop this insensitivity even if the patient is not clinically “diabetic” [11].

 

Strong anecdotal evidence

Steve and Ann’s quick reactions to ingesting medium- and long-change triglycerides, metabolized into ketone bodies, appears to show that energy deprivation in the brain could be a major contributor to Alzheimer’s.

Dr. Newport carefully gathered numerous testimonials in her books, which she received during heroic efforts to raise awareness of Steve’s progress, both within and outside of the medical community. Not everyone responds as quickly or easily as Steve, or Ann Dredge, but even the slightest improvement can be welcome to the afflicted, as well as desperate family members or caregivers.

It should be noted that this “oil therapy” is not a cure but appears to slow, arrest and mitigate—sometime even reverse—multiple gross Alzheimer’s symptoms.

According to Dr. Dale Bredesen (a neurologist specializing in Alzheimer’s research,) insulin resistance is only one of several possible contributing co-factors to Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Nevertheless, his own protocol is also based on a ketogenic diet, including supplemental MCT or coconut oil. [3] His book also contains many corroborative case studies and testimonials.

Dr. Bredesen’s protocol will be examined in a subsequent article.

 

Lack of mainstream acceptance

The Dredges, Newports, and Dr. Bredesen have all experienced resistance on many levels as they explored or tried to promote awareness of these ideas.

Peter Dredge recounts repeated instances of vigorous opposition to the idea that Alzheimer’s could be treated. He has often been treated very negatively and was even threatened with legal proceedings to remove Ann from his care. His courageous refusal to accept conventional medicine’s death sentence on his beloved wife is a strong theme throughout his book. Ann is still with us.

Dr. Newport similarly describes being repeatedly stymied as she tried to follow conventional pathways to raise awareness of Steve’s modest recovery. Attempts to exhibit or speak at Alzheimer’s Association-sponsored events were denied or shut down, once with a public announcement that the Association “did not support” coconut oil research. She was also privately told that “extensive clinical trials” would be needed before her ideas could be publicly discussed.

As Dr. Bredesen’s book [3] shows, money for “extensive clinical trials” is controlled by various institutional review boards and hard to come by. His own protocol was denied funding as “too complicated,” despite many successful case studies [12].

Conventional medicine’s intransigence, especially when faced with effective but non-traditional methodologies, is well known to Paleo readers—many of whom have resolved serious health conditions by abandoning conventional dietary advice.

The stories of Peter and Ann Dredge, and the work of Drs. Newport and Bredesen, deserve much wider awareness.

 

REFERENCES:

  1. Beating Alzheimer’s, The Enemy at the Gate: Turning Despair into Hope and Action EBook: Peter Dredge: Gateway. https://www.amazon.com/Beating-Alzheimers-Enemy-Gate-Turning-ebook/dp/B07HH67GV3/ref=sr_1_4 crid=1OL2PXR69Y6EO&keywords=beating+alzheimers&qid=1560174789&s=gateway&sprefix=beating+al%2Caps%2C187&sr=8-4.
  2. Newport, Mary T. Alzheimer’s Disease: What If There Was a Cure?: The Story of Ketones. Second edition, Basic Health Publications, Inc, 2013.
  3. Bredesen, Dale E. The End of Alzheimer’s: The First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline. Avery, an imprint of Penguin Random House, 2017.
  4. “Beating Alzheimer’s Disease? Anne Dredge’s ‘huge Improvements’ with Dale Bredesen Treatment.” RNZ, 21 Sept. 2018, https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/afternoons/audio/2018663546/beating-alzheimer-s-disease-anne-dredge-s-huge-improvements-with-dale-bredesen-treatment.
  5. Henderson, Samuel T., et al. “Study of the Ketogenic Agent AC-1202 in Mild to Moderate Alzheimer’s Disease: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Multicenter Trial.” Nutrition & Metabolism, vol. 6, 2009, p. 31. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, doi:10.1186/1743-7075-6-31.
  6. “What to Know about the Stages of Alzheimer’s.” Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/in-depth/alzheimers-stages/art-20048448.
  7. Kashiwaya, Yoshihiro, et al. “A Ketone Ester Diet Exhibits Anxiolytic and Cognition-Sparing Properties, and Lessens Amyloid and Tau Pathologies in a Mouse Model of Alzheimer’s Disease.” Neurobiology of Aging, vol. 34, no. 6, June 2013, pp. 1530–39. PubMed, doi:10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2012.11.023.
  8. Newport, Mary. “What If There Was a Cure for Alzheimer’s Disease and No One Knew?  A Case Study by Dr. Mary Newport.” www.CoconutKetones.Com , Mary Newport, MD, 22 July 2008, http://coconutketones.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/whatifcure.pdf.
  9. Reger, Mark A., et al. “Effects of β-Hydroxybutyrate on Cognition in Memory-Impaired Adults.” Neurobiology of Aging, vol. 25, no. 3, Mar. 2004, pp. 311–14. DOI.org (Crossref), doi:10.1016/S0197-4580(03)00087-3.
  10. de la Monte, Suzanne M., and Jack R. Wands. “Alzheimer’s Disease Is Type 3 Diabetes–Evidence Reviewed.” Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology (Online), vol. 2, no. 6, Nov. 2008, pp. 1101–13.
  11. Schilling, Melissa A. “Unraveling Alzheimer’s: Making Sense of the Relationship between Diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease 1.” Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, vol. 51, no. 4, Jan. 2016, pp. 961–77. content.iospress.com, doi:10.3233/JAD-150980.
  12. Bredesen, Dale E. “Reversal of Cognitive Decline: A Novel Therapeutic Program.” Aging, vol. 6, no. 9, Sept. 2014, pp. 707–17. PubMed, doi:10.18632/aging.100690.
  13. Courchesne-Loyer, Alexandre, et al. “Stimulation of Mild, Sustained Ketonemia by Medium-Chain Triacylglycerols in Healthy Humans: Estimated Potential Contribution to Brain Energy Metabolism.” Nutrition, vol. 29, no. 4, Apr. 2013, pp. 635–40. ScienceDirect, doi:10.1016/j.nut.2012.09.009.

 

Eliminating Hypertension with Coconut Oil and Exercise | The Paleo Diet

Would you believe saturated fat rich coconut oil could improve your cardiovascular health? It seems counter intuitive based upon common impressions of saturated fat being detrimental to our vascular system,1 however a new study indicates that the combination of coconut oil supplementation and exercise has been linked to reduced body weight, reduced blood pressure, improved baroreflex sensitivity, decreased lipid peroxidation, and reduced superoxide levels.2 These findings have the ability to help over 67 million people struggling with hypertension, who have blood pressure levels greater than 120/80 mm Hg3, increasing their risk of heart attacks, heart disease, strokes, vision issues and kidney disease.

The researchers used baroreflex sensitivity, a tool for the assessment of autonomic control of the cardiovascular system, to assess the impact coconut oil and exercise had on their subjects’ health, independently and together. Baroreceptors, located in the carotid sinus and in the aortic arch, adjust the pressure changes in the arterial wall to maintain homeostasis with parasympathetic responses.4 Cardiovascular diseases are often accompanied by an impairment of baroreflex mechanisms, and a reduction in the baroreflex control of heart rate has been reported in hypertension, coronary artery disease, myocardial infarction, and heart failure.5

Further, elevated blood pressure corresponds to both the release of free fatty acids into the blood and muscle fibers6 as well as to oxidative stress, an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the ability of the body to counteract or detoxify their harmful effects through neutralization by antioxidants.7 These factors promote inflammatory processes such as atherosclerosis8 and lead to heart and blood vessel disorders, atherosclerosis, heart failure, heart attack and inflammatory diseases. Coconut oil and exercise showed the combination of the two led to a decrease in oxidative stress, which correlates with better endothelial-dependent relaxation of the aorta and significantly lower (20 mm Hg) blood pressure.9

How can this new research help you?

Hunter-gatherers avoided the many modern diseases that plague us today. The Paleo lifestyle, including the dietary and exercise prescriptions, can assist you in lowering blood pressures to healthy levels, especially with the regular addition of coconut oil into your dietary regime.

Dietary changes are usually prescribed prior to medication as a method to lower blood pressure levels into a safe range. The Paleo Diet eliminates processed foods, salt, and is high in anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids.10

Numerous studies provide clear evidence of the positive effects of exercise on lowering blood pressure values to a healthy range.11 People who are inactive typically have higher blood pressure than those who exercise regularly, and inactivity is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.12

It is possible to reduce your risk for hypertension with lifestyle choices alone. Blood pressure tends to rise with age, so it’s important to monitor it annually with your doctor. The long-term health benefits by making long-lasting lifestyle changes by adopting a Paleo Diet will follow.

 

REFERENCES

[1] Beegom, Raheena, and Ram B. Singh. “Association of higher saturated fat intake with higher risk of hypertension in an urban population of Trivandrum in South India.” International journal of cardiology 58.1 (1997): 63-70.

[2] Alves, Naiane FB, et al. “Coconut oil supplementation and physical exercise improves baroreflex sensitivity and oxidative stress in hypertensive rats.”Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism 40.999 (2015): 1-8.

[3] Available at: //hyper.ahajournals.org/site/misc/StmtGuidelines.xhtml. Accessed on February 25, 2014.

[4] La Rovere, Maria Teresa, Gian Domenico Pinna, and Grzegorz Raczak. “Baroreflex sensitivity: measurement and clinical implications.” Annals of Noninvasive Electrocardiology 13.2 (2008): 191-207.

[5] Eckberg DL, Sleight P. Human Baroreflexes in Health and Disease. In: EckbergDL, SleightP, (eds): Oxford , Clarendon Press, 1992

[6] Wang, Hui, et al. “Role of oxidative stress in elevated blood pressure induced by high free fatty acids.” Hypertension Research 32.2 (2009): 152-158.

[7] Halliwell, Barry. “Biochemistry of oxidative stress.” Biochemical Society Transactions 35.5 (2007): 1147-1150.

[8]  Wu, Lingyun, et al. “Dietary approach to attenuate oxidative stress, hypertension, and inflammation in the cardiovascular system.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 101.18 (2004): 7094-7099.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Weaver, Kelly L., et al. “Effect of dietary fatty acids on inflammatory gene expression in healthy humans.” Journal of Biological Chemistry 284.23 (2009): 15400-15407.

[11] Available at: //www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/hypertension.html. Accessed on February 26, 2015.

[12] Whelton, Seamus P., et al. “Effect of aerobic exercise on blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized, controlled trials.” Annals of internal medicine136.7 (2002): 493-503.

Eating Paleo But Still Constipated | The Paleo Diet

I recognize that I feel much better on small amounts of grass produced or free ranging meats with lots of veggies and some fruit, but I become very constipated. How can I correct this and stay on the Paleo Diet?

Dr. Cordain’s Response:

It is unusual to suffer from constipation when eating a lot of veggies, as they are the biggest fiber source. However, you can help your gut health with some supplements until the constipation improves:

  • Probiotics: between 6-9 billion bacteria/day during one month, then cut down to 4-5 billion.
  • Prebiotics: 4-6 grams a day during one month (if you do not improve with 4 grams increase up to 6 grams). Then cut down to 2 grams a day.
  • Coconut oil (a good source of Medium Chain Fatty Acids): a tablespoon per day.

Also, we suggest drinking 1.5 liters of water per day.

Cordially,

Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus

The Low Down on Coconut | The Paleo Diet

I recently began my new life as a paleo eater – but I don’t seem to find information on coconut. Is it okay to eat the fresh and ground nut meat – and what about coconut oil?

Dr. Cordain’s Response:

Yes, I understand your confusion. The state of nutrition is very confusing, primarily because there is not an overriding paradigm that helps people put nutritional questions into context. We believe of course that the evolutionary paradigm can guide you to the correct answers, though ultimately the science speaks for itself.

Check out the fatty acid profile of various nuts here.

The most important factor to consider when eating fat is the composition. Our ancestors evolved eating a range of macronutrients that certainly varied by region and diet, but the fatty acid profile of the foods they ate were much different than that which the average Westerner eats today. Here is a good guideline for the composition of the fat you eat:

  • Monounsaturated fats –50% of total fat energy
  • Polyunsaturated fats – 25% of total fat energy
  • Omega 3 fatty acids – 7% of total fat energy (preferably long-chain omega-3s such as EPA and DHA)
  • Omega 6 fatty acids – 18% of total fat energy
  • Saturated fat – 25% of total fat energy
  • Stearic acid – 12.5% of total fat energy
  • Lauric, myristic, and palmitic acid – 12.5% of total fat energy

If you are eating healthful fats according to the above ratios, then you can eat a diet that is relatively high in total fat without running into problems.

So for instance, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that one not exceed 10% of total energy (not total fat energy). Thus, in 2,000 calorie diet, 200 calories are permitted by the AHA from saturated fat. In the Paleo Diet, only 12.5 % of all fats are pro-atherogenic, so even if 50% of total energy (1000 kcal) comes from fat, only 12.5% (125 kcal) is atherogenic — well below AHA recommendations.

Certain saturated fatty acids downregulate the LDL receptor, leading to higher circulating levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. These are primarily lauric acid (12:0), myristic acid (14:0), and palmitic acid (16:0), which should generally be limited to no more than 10% of total calories. Stearic acid, though it is a saturated fat, does not raise plasma cholesterol levels.

Grass-fed meat or wild game tends to have a healthful fatty acid profile, whereas most factory-farmed meat is raised on corn, and has a very different fatty acid profile which can lead to elevated cholesterol concentrations.

Coconut oil is about 90% saturated fat. Of that, 44.6% is lauric acid, 16.8% is myristic, and 8.2% is palmitic. So excess amounts will likely promote atherosclerosis, though this does not necessarily mean a heart attack will result. There has been research Jamaica and other areas where coconuts are a large part of the diet, where there is severe atheroma caused presumably by the coconut oil, yet the atheroma does not seem to cause coronary thrombosis.

Coconut oil also has medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), which can help promote gut integrity, and in general we would recommend anyone with digestive issues or autoimmune disease consider adding MCTs to their diet. Coconut oil would also be more stable for use in cooking, and would last longer before going rancid.

So, I hope that helps. The fat intake of our hunter-gatherer ancesters would have included marrow from long bones, and also long-chain omega-3 fats from brains. While we may not be able to (or want to) eat that way today, the closer we can emulate the dietary composition of our Paleolithic ancestors, the more we will be eating according to how our genome has evolved.

Cordially,

Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus

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