Of ketones, coconuts and Alzheimer’s

I saw this interesting video about a treatment for Alzheimer’s.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Dorcas says:

    I’ve started using coconut oil to cook with. If you get extra-virgin type it will have a coconut taste, but the non-virgin oil has a neutral taste. It has a high smoking temp, and is great for baking too. Coconut oil and coconut meat can help with weight loss too. I sometimes use the extra-virgin stuff on bread, it’s great!

  2. Mariana says:

    If you want ketones, a low-carb diet (diet in the sense of life style, not something you go on and then go off) will produce them. Also check Dr. McCleary’s book The Brain Trust Program.

  3. Burke says:

    Father, sincere thanks for sharing this. My father has Alzheimer’s & at times it seems as if we have already lost him. Anything that gives even a little hope that we might get even a tiny part of him back is a blessing.

  4. LisaP. says:

    Be very careful taking this story and running with it without doing further research. Won’t do any harm to add coconut oil to meals if you like it, we use it ourselves and think it is a healthy food, but this story puts up red flags all over the place for me — all over the place.

    First, ketones are naturally produced in the body. Any time folks insist they need millions of dollars to deliver a product that you can make naturally, and they leave out that bit. . . . . there is a ketogenic diet that has, in my understanding, helped many with epilepsy and maybe autism. There is some good work being done on using ketones to fuel the brain instead of glucose, the brain will use glucose if it’s available but use ketones if glucose is not available, and folks are finding there are some benefits for some with certain conditions to pushing the brain to use ketones. But it’s a difficult diet and needs oversight, not just a matter of adding in a little coconut oil. I’m not discouraging people from trying it, but I’ve seen enough “miracle cures” for my kid’s issues that I now can sniff out someone making money trying to play on my wishes for a cure for an disease that currently has none. People should never give up trying, but thinking adding a tablespoon of anything to your cereal is going to be a cure is setting yourself up for heartbreak.

    Second, ketones can be extremely hazardous for those with diabetes, particularly Type 1 diabetes. If you have high ketones and are diabetic you can go into diabetic ketoacidosis — that’s not going to happen from eating coconut oil, but folks who strive to live on a ketogenic diet need to be very certain they are not diabetic first, it’ll kill you if you do it the wrong way.

    Third, the facts in the story are hinky. When she says Alzheimers is “like” Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes — well, Type 1 and Type 2 are nowhere like each other, so I don’t know how she can add Alzheimers in like it’s part of a group. Second, the brain DOESN’T USE INSULIN to utilize glucose. That’s why diabetics get damage from high blood sugars, normal cells need insulin to bring glucose in, but the “emergency” systems of the body — the brain, the nerves, the eyes, etc. — don’t need insulin (speeds up the process of energizing when you’re being chased by the leopard). So when your blood glucose is high, your brain and eye and nerve glucose is high, and that causes damage to those systems (the stereotypical diabetic going blind over the course of years scenario).

    And her evidence — the three clock drawings? Alzheimer’s is not a straight line, many have periods of less and more lucidity during different parts of the day, etc. This set off alarms, because when kids are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes they go through a honeymoon stage where they have a touch of insulin production coming and going. Because of this, someone can sell them a product and it looks like it is curing them, when it’s just the natural fluctuations of the disease. You think you’ve found the cure nobody else has, then find it’s not so. . . .It’s possible the oil is helping her husband, or possible she is just hopeful herself and not trying to fool anyone, but I find her assertions troublesome because when you have a diagnosis of a chronic, debilitating, lifelong disease you grasp at straws and anything that looks like improvement you jump on with two feet, it’s human nature, and it can be taken advantage of.

    Sorry to be so harsh, I’m very into looking at all alternatives, I spent all day yesterday trying to find a source of camel milk for my kid! Never stop looking, listen to everything, look into everything! I’m pretty convinced that the cure for many of these diseases won’t come from the big pharma lab — few cures ever have! It’ll be some guy in his garage. But anyone who follows the advice in this story needs to use a lot of discernment. The uptick in chronic, lifelong medical conditions has created many parasites, I’m afraid. . . .

  5. pseudomodo says:

    In my estimation, you can always tell a product may be a scam if it claims it can cure one or all of the big three: Cancer, Alzheimers, HIV.

    My guess is that we will see the price of coconut oil skyrocket in the next few months.

    About 40 years ago I watched a segment on the Mike Douglas talk show where four researchers where discussing various ‘breakthroughs” they were involved in. One fellow claimed that adding nut oils to the diet cured ‘blood sludge’. Another fellow contradicted him to claim that it CREATED blood sludge rather than cured it. None of these scientists and researchers could agree on one single thing? And they were all praised for being ‘experts’!

  6. Banjo pickin girl says:

    Take it from one who knows, this is a scam. Completely false “science.”

  7. AvantiBev says:

    May I ask your readers/commenters to unite in prayer with a Mass I am having offered next Wednesday, June 27th here in Chicago’s St. John Cantius parish chapel for the gifts of the Holy Spirit upon Alzheimer’s researchers. This is akin to the POLIO fight for OUR generation. We need to pray for not only the sick and their family members/caregivers, but also for the researchers; their enlightenment, encouragement and that God inspires (breathes into) them in their daily battle for the causes and cure.

  8. AnnAsher says:

    I want to add my concurrence with Dorcas and Lisa P. The benefits of coconut oil are valid. The benefits of a low or no grain and sugar free diet are valid. You don’t need or want big pharma to help you out. I added coconut oil to our diet for my son with autism. It’s medium chain fatty acids are excellent brain food. It is also a natural anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-biotic. The MCA’s are utilized by your body first for energy; this is how it can help in weight management. MCA’s are also present in Raw Milk and pastured eggs. But like all things – moderation. 1 tbl sp a day. We Americans hear something’s good for us and gorge on it (ie:soy). Good to bring the point to people’s attention though Fr Z! The ADA recommendations for the last 40-50 years have been starving people’s brains and expanding our bellies.

  9. LisaP. says:

    I agree, AnnAsher, that we tend to go whole hog. We just ran up against a soy problem and are trying to eat soy free, I’m shocked by what they put soy into! It’s everywhere.

    I wonder sometimes if each new thing that seems so useful is useful particularly because it is not widely used, it still comes from sources closer to the ground. Seems to me that when a food becomes mass produced through a large corporation the benefits slack off and the down side increases, like the beneficial aspects are not conducive to centralized agriculture and long distance transport and long term storage.

  10. TedHutchinson says:

    I just wanted to point out there is a “medical” food provided for Alzheimer’s patients that works on the same ketone system. It’s called AXONA. They have a website with some video’s that explain the science.
    For those wanting to go the cheaper coconut oil route there is an excellent article about ketone burning if you search for
    “Keto-adaptation: what it is and how to get through it”
    Peter Attia has also written a blog on the topic “Is ketosis dangerous?”
    I think we have to try to understand that the reason the body give priority to buring glucose ISN’T because glucose is the best or preferred fuel but because it is the more dangerous fuel and needs to be dealt with as a priority. The fuel that stops us feeling hungry for longer and keeps our brains functioning while under stress is fat.
    There is a new paper at pubmed “Serum fatty-acid composition and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease” pubmed 22713770 that shows those eating the most SATURATED FAT has the least incidence of Alzheimer’s.
    There is also a recent paper “Saturated fat and cardiovascular disease: The discrepancy between the scientific literature and dietary advice” showing the countries in Europe consuming the MOST saturated fat have the least heart disease while those with the lowest saturated fat intake have to highest rates of heart disease.

  11. LisaP. says:

    Mr. Hutchinson,
    I found that Attia blog entry really interesting — very rarely do general physicians have a clue about Type 1 diabetes, but he’s got that stuff right, so I find the rest pretty credible. I also see what you say about glucose being “the more dangerous fuel” as very insightful and accurate. We’ve got both diabetes, heart disease, and memory and cognition issues in my family, I’ve been considering looking into ketogenic diets for awhile, thanks to you and Father for the info.

  12. LisaP. says:

    I do find Dr. Taub’s commentary to sync up less with what I’ve learned about insulin. I don’t find him inaccurate, but he seems to make some leaps, if he sees insulin changes in the brain it must be causative for Alzheimer’s? The brain can use glucose without insulin, so it seems to me he may be using “insulin”, “glucose” and “diabetes” as kind of catch-words that spark an emotional reaction in the listener. Like pseudomodo, I’m wary of anything that throws “diabetes” out, it’s the current boogeyman and there is so much disinformation out there it makes my head spin. But that could be entirely unfair. It does seem very possible that the extraordinary increase in refined carbohydrate consumption has triggered a number of conditions in bodies trying to deal with the effects of what is a largely toxic substance. Many foods, though, have some toxicity to some part of the body, it’s a balancing act.

  13. AnnAsher says:

    Amen Lisa P! We are definitely on the same page in the same book.

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