Coconut Oil and Other Alternative Treatments for Alzheimer’s
What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a degenerative brain disorder that breaks down and eventually destroys brain cells and the neurons that connect brain cells to one another. This damage causes a decline in memory, behavior, and mental capabilities.
Every person experiences AD differently. For some patients, the disease progresses slowly and leaves mental function largely intact for several years. For others, however, the disease is aggressive and quickly robs people of their memory and mental capabilities. In the end, AD eventually becomes severe enough to disrupt daily life.
Can You Cure Alzheimer’s Disease?
No, there is no cure for AD. Science has not yet identified any treatments that can slow or halt the progression of the degenerative brain disorder. Researchers also do not know how to prevent the onset of AD.
Instead, treatment focuses on creating a better quality of life for people with AD. To do this, your doctors will want to address some of the symptoms and side effects of the disease that can be effectively managed.
An Important Note about Alternative Treatments
Health organizations, non-profits, universities, and medical research facilities continue to research possible treatments for AD. They hope to discover treatments that can slow or delay the onset of AD. They also hope to find treatments that can cure the degenerative disease or prevent it entirely. These include traditional as well as alternative treatments.
It’s important to understand that alternative treatments for AD are not widely supported in the medical community. Some of these treatments have been found to be beneficial, while others have been debunked by studies several times. If you’re interested in alternative treatments, it’s important you talk with your doctor first.
The coconut oil cure is Internet folklore. The “cure” resides with caprylic acid, a fatty acid found in processed coconut oil. The human body breaks down caprylic acid into ketone bodies, a protein derived from caprylic acid. A similar protein is used in a medicine called Ketasyn. Limited research found that individuals who took Ketasyn had better memory performance and less cognitive decline. This research is still undergoing clinical trials. Meanwhile, some individuals are using coconut oil as a less expensive alternative to the medicines that contain Ketasyn. It’s important to note, however, that coconut oil itself has never been tested in patients with AD.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids may be beneficial to AD treatment. In a recent study, Dutch researchers found that regular consumption of omega-3 fatty acids reduced cognitive impairment. However, it’s important to note that this research was performed in animals, not humans.
Still, the National Institutes of Health support omega-3 fatty acids as a potential alternative treatment for AD. Get more omega-3 fatty acids in your diet by eating fish, nuts, and some oils.
Alternative treatment advocates promote several vitamins and minerals as ways to treat AD. Supporters of these alternative treatments claim certain vitamins and minerals can prevent or stop AD. One such antioxidant is coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10. CoQ10 supplements are available in drug stores. This enzyme is important to normal healthy body functions, but it has never been studied as a way to treat AD, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Most people get enough calcium from their diet, but some people advocate coral calcium supplements as a treatment for AD. Coral calcium is typically derived from seashells and sea life, so the calcium supplement may contain trace amounts of other minerals. This supplement has not been shown to be beneficial in treating AD. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission has filed a formal complaint against companies that promote coral calcium as a natural treatment for AD.
Several small-scale studies found a beneficial relationship between ginkgo biloba and AD. Specifically, these studies showed that people who take ginkgo biloba supplements have a decreased risk for AD.
However, the majority of research done with ginkgo biloba is not very convincing. In fact, one large study from The Lancet Neurology found that ginkgo biloba had no positive impact on a person’s risk for AD.
Can You Use Traditional and Alternative Treatments Together?
In many cases, science does not support alternative treatments as a way to cure AD. However, your treatment plan is a personal choice. If you are interested in any of these alternative treatments, talk with your healthcare provider. Do not begin using alternative treatments without first consulting your doctor. If you are taking any medicines or using any traditional treatments, your doctor needs to know. You run the risk of developing serious side effects.
What You Can Do Now
Work closely with your doctor and healthcare providers to find a treatment plan that is best for you. Research and investigate the risks and benefits of each alternative treatment. Do not begin using an alternative treatment without first consulting your doctor. You can hasten your progress or dramatically affect your health if you are not aware of possible interactions.
- Alternative medicine. (2013, January 19). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved November 13, 2013, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/alzheimers-disease/DS00161/DSECTION=alternative-medicine
- Alternative Treatments. (n.d.). Alzheimer’s Association. Retrieved November 14, 2013, from http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_alternative_treatments.asp
- Hooijmans, C.R. et al. (2012). The effects of long-term omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on cognition and Alzheimer's pathology in animal models of Alzheimer's disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 28(1), 191-209. Retrieved November 14, 2013, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22002791
- NINDS Alzheimer's Disease Information Page. (2013, November 5). National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Retrieved November 10, 2013, from http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/alzheimersdisease/alzheimersdisease.htm
- Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease and Cognitive Decline. (2010, April). National Institutes of Health. Retrieved November 13, 2013, from http://consensus.nih.gov/2010/alzstatement.htm
- Vellas, B. et al. (2012, October 11). Long-term use of standardised Ginkgo biloba extract for the prevention of Alzheimer's disease (GuidAge): a randomised placebo-controlled trial. The Lancet Neurology, 11(10), 851-859. Retrieved November 14, 2013, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22959217