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Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Keto-Dementia Diet

“What? Ridden on a horse?'
'You're using coconuts!'
'You've got two empty halves of coconuts and you're banging them together!'

                    ~Monty Python

The Dementia Weekly web site has several articles on this diet. I tried working some Coconut Oil into my regular diet last Spring, and will do so again after my next shopping trip. It has no taste, and is not thick or greasy, so it can be added to almost any hot food. It melts at a very low temperature. I gotta repeat this - it has no taste. It floats on top of hot beverages, and that is pretty disgusting no matter what claims are made about it dissolving in coffee. Coffee is water, and oil is oil. Go figure! It would be fine in soup, though.

The Keto-dementia Diet, usually known as the ketogenic diet for people with dementias such as Alzheimer’s, is based on the science of ketosis. Ketogenic diets have been in clinical use for over 80 years.

Glucose is our brains' primary energy source. Like an athlete too weak to run due to hunger, a brain with too little glucose can experience cognitive decline. That means a person will have problems thinking and remembering.

As our brains age, they "burn" glucose less efficiently. Furthermore, research has shown that a drop in glucose metabolism usually occurs in people with dementias such as Alzheimer's. This glucose-drop often occurs years before people begin to exhibit symptoms.

To address this problem, scientists began studying ketones as an alternative energy source to glucose.

In 2008, the medical journal "Neurotherapeutics" published the study, Ketone Bodies as a Therapeutic for Alzheimer's Disease. The groundbreaking research demonstrated the brain's apparent ability to use ketones as an alternative energy source.

With this new evidence regarding ketones' benefits for the ailing brain, scientists began taking a closer look at the "Ketogenic Diet." The ketogenic diet activates the "ketosis" process in our bodies, generating these energy-giving ketones.

Indeed, researchers found the ketogenic diet to have neuroprotective effects, breathing new life into brain cells. In uncontrolled clinical trials and animal studies, the ketogenic diet provided "symptomatic and disease-modifying activity in a broad range of neurodegenerative disorders."(1) This includes:

* Alzheimer’s disease
* Parkinson’s disease
* Traumatic brain injury
* Stroke (Vascular dementia) (1)
* Huntington's Disease(2)
* Lewy Body Dementia(3)

The ketogenic diet is complex, usually involving a professional nutritionist, such as when it is administered for its proven benefits for epileptics. When not strictly supervised or adhered to, it can have undesirable side effects.

To make its benefits more accessible to the millions of people with dementias such as Alzheimer's, the biotechnology company Accera introduced Axona®.

Axona® is a brand-name high-quality FDA-recognized prescription-only medical food. It comes in clean, easy-to-use one-a-day packets. For those who can afford it, clinical trials have shown it to be a promising supplement. At about a hundred dollars a month, though, it is not for everyone.

The most important ingredient in both the ketogenic diet and Axona® seems to be MCTs (Medium Chain Triglycerides). MCTs are one of the quickest and easiest molecules for our liver to convert into ketones. Fortunately, they are available in a variety of foods.

Coconut Oil
Virgin coconut oil is available at health food stores, food co-ops, many grocery stores and even on Amazon.com . It is inexpensive and contains about 60 percent MCTs.

The most famous advocate of coconut oil for dementia is Dr. Mary Newport. Dr. Newport almost gave up hope on treating her husband's Alzheimer's. After doing her own research, she began giving him a daily dose of coconut oil. He showed immediate improvement. After two years of regular use, she has carefully documented that he:

* improved dramatically
* jogs once more
* reads again and remembers what he read
* gets distracted less
* has had a stable MRI for the entire two-year period.

Dr. Newport says, "I do believe that, overall, the use of coconut oil has taken us back in time at least two years. I don't know if we will beat it, but we have at least gotten a reprieve from this disease."

Coconut oil dissolves easily in anything from coffee to hot breakfast cereal. Although it is an ordinary food that does not need a prescription, taking a lot of anything can have side-effects or interactions, so be sure to ask your doctor.


  1. Hi there - how much of a dose do you add to your diet, 1 coffeespoon or more?
    Greetings from Switzerland

  2. Thanks for the question, Birdie.

    Hello in Switzerland. I try to get 2 Tablespoons a day. I usually add both to breakfast, or lunch. I do not add it every day. When I do, I think I can feel a difference about 2-3 hours afterwards.