As a regular reader of Brain Health Breakthroughs, you’re probably familiar with the idea of a ketogenic diet.
In essence, it means fueling your body with fats instead of carbohydrates. Carbs are metabolized into glucose or blood sugar, which leads to a whole raft of problems from diabetes to cancer to dementia. Fats are an alternate way of providing your body with an energy source, without spiking blood sugar.
A variation on a low-carb diet, the keto diet’s main goal is to attain ketosis. Starved for glucose, your body simply starts burning fat.
In the phrase that launched a thousand marketing campaigns, the ketogenic diet turns your body into a fat-burning machine.
But please know this. . .the ketogenic diet is the real deal, not just a fad of weight-loss enthusiasts and athletes. Researchers into Alzheimer’s disease are focusing like a laser beam on carbs as the cause and ketones as a solution.
Ketones offer another source of fuel to brain cells that have lost their ability – thanks to years of abuse – to process glucose.
But there are distinct downsides to trying to go ketogenic. . .
Not only do you need to completely change the way you eat, but you also need to give your body the time it requires to adjust… which can be uncomfortable.
And for some people, a ketogenic diet is not an option due to health restrictions.1
But what if you could get many of the cognitive benefits of ketones while enjoying your usual diet? There is a way. . .
Coconut Oil, MCT Oil, and Ketones
The benefits of coconut oil are well known, but attention is now being shifted toward MCT oil (medium-chain triglycerides) – one of coconut oil’s key nutrients.
In fact, the success of coconut oil in treating Alzheimer’s spurred the development of MCT oil, a more concentrated source of the nutrient. This particular fatty acid digests easily, absorbs quickly and is uniquely burned as fuel rather than being stored as fat.
The resulting ketones produced from burning fat can provide energy to a glucose-starved brain.
For many patients with Alzheimer’s, insulin resistance has cut off glucose to the brain.
But MCTs do not require insulin or glucose to cross the blood-brain barrier. That’s why they’re able to provide an alternate source of energy used to power brain cells.
Are There Any Risks?
Critics of MCT oil say that adding fats to your diet will only increase your risk of heart disease. This is nonsense. Heart disease is overwhelmingly a product of the high-carb diet, not a diet rich in saturated fats.
A study conducted by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2010 found there was no link between saturated fats (such as the fat found in coconut oil) and heart disease.2
Critics also say that unless your diet is fully ketogenic, you will never achieve ketosis and your body will always resort to burning carbohydrates anyway. This is another concern that’s unfounded.
In another study published by the journal Neurobiology of Aging, patients with Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment were given either a drink made with MCT oil or a placebo.
In as little as 90 minutes, the MCT-treated group showed significant increases in their levels of ketones. They didn’t have to starve themselves of carbs to reap the benefits of MCT oil.3
This suggests that the ketones produced from consuming MCT oil are significant enough to afford fuel to the brain even though the diet is not ketogenic.
Dr. Mary Newport pioneered the use of coconut oil and MCT oil for treatment of dementia. Her case studies and investigations make it clear a dementia patient doesn’t have to go on a full ketogenic diet to see dramatic improvements in cognition.
She still recommends cutting back on carbs – it’s just not necessary to go into full starvation mode. She also recommends combining MCT oil and coconut oil rather than take just one or the other.
For more on Dr. Newport’s views, see our book Awakening from Alzheimer’s. She also recommends the best sources of MCT oils (and a variety of other coconut oil products).
- A ketogenic diet for beginners
- Can MCT Oil Prevent or Reverse Alzheimer’s Disease?
- Effects of beta-hydroxybutyrate on cognition in memory-impaired adults.