DEAR DR. GOTT: I would like to know what you know about pure coconut oil being a good supplement for improving several kinds of dementia. My husband and I are both in our early 80s and don’t have many health problems but recently we have been concerned about memory problems. We saw a webmail and video about a doctor’s husband having Alzheimer’s. She gave him pure coconut oil and he improved over a period of time. Our primary doctors have given us both memory tests and will be checking us regularly in follow-up.
DEAR READER: Coconut oil is a tropical oil made from the nut of the coconut palm tree. One single tablespoon of the oil contains 117 calories – not a big deal – but 13.6 grams of fat, which is. Over the years the product has been touted as a cure-all for hypothyroidism, heart health, Alzheimer’s disease, as an energy boost, weight loss product, and a great deal more. As I see it, an individual may eat coconut oil in moderation short-term without having it affect health but I cannot endorse it as a cure-all. The problem as it pertains to Alzheimer’s is that there isn’t sufficient documentation from reputable studies to support the evidence that it can reverse memory loss. I am aware of the occasional anecdotal report that indicates it does help; however, we are talking about a small handful of people who are actually helped, not the masses who aren’t. I would need a great deal more concrete evidence from reputable research before I could ever endorse such a product for this purpose.
The benefits of coconut oil result from the presence of three acids, one of which is lauric that has properties as an anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and antimicrobial. The human body converts the lauric acid into monolaurin which is touted to aid in fighting viruses, bacteria, influenza and even HIV; however, coconut oil, even virgin coconut oil, consists of more than 90% saturated fats, with traces of unsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids. So, while the product in shampoos or conditioners may make your hair shine, ingesting it long-term can lead to elevated cholesterol levels and the many problems that accompany hypercholesterolemia such as poor brain circulation which can lead to cognitive problems.
Alzheimer’s is the leading cause of dementia in the Western World and age is the greatest risk for development of the disorder. More than half of the population of the United States aged 85 and older are affected. Memory loss, specifically Alzheimer’s, can cause a decline in thinking, logical reasoning and memory. Some of the most common signs are forgetting recently learned information, mixing up important dates such as doctor’s visits or planned activities, forgetting names of people you know well and where you put important things such as your keys or even the sugar bowl. All these situations disrupt daily living. You may be having difficulties concentrating, paying bills on time, completing chores around the house, finding the right words, and may use poor judgment more frequently than you would like.
If this is the case, I recommend you make an appointment with your physician to discuss your failing memory and that of your husband so he or she can either rule out Alzheimer’s or confirm the diagnosis. Early diagnosis is important, since it will provide you necessary time to make important choices, such as whether you will need extra help at home or would fare better in an assisted living arrangement, need help in paying your bills, or getting to appointments. Keep in mind that all memory loss is not associated with Alzheimer’s. You may both have a vitamin deficiency, thyroid issues, or could be on medication with negative side effects. A simple “fix” may be all that is necessary to get back on track. Medical advances are being made every day and support is out there if necessary, so take the burden off your shoulders. Make that call to your primary care physician today.
Readers who would like related information can order my Health Report “Alzheimer’s Disease” by sending a self-addressed, stamped number 10 envelope and a $2 US check or money order to my attention at PO Box 433, Lakeville, CT 06039. Be sure to mention the title when writing or print out an order form from my website www.AskDrGottMD.com.