By Jerome Burne One morning last month, Vrajlal Parmar got up, washed and dressed himself, and at 10am boarded the council minibus to a nearby leisure centre. In the evening, the 67-year-old former production line worker from London took the bus home. Nothing remarkable there – except that nearly a year earlier Mr Parmar had [...]

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Can coconuts ease Alzheimer’s?

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By Jerome Burne

One morning last month, Vrajlal Parmar got up, washed and dressed himself, and at 10am boarded the council minibus to a nearby leisure centre.

In the evening, the 67-year-old former production line worker from London took the bus home.
Nothing remarkable there – except that nearly a year earlier Mr Parmar had been diagnosed as being in the late stages of Alzheimer’s.

He’d been given the standard pencil and paper test – called the Mini Mental State Examination – that doctors use to diagnose Alzheimer’s and measure how it’s progressing.

A healthy person would score 30. The letter Mr Parmar’s family got back from the Cognitive Disorders Clinic at University College London stated that he was ‘too severely affected to score anything at all’. Any drug treatment would be ineffective.

‘Dad was so far gone he couldn’t do anything for himself,’ says his son Kal Parmar, a filmmaker who together with Vrajlal’s wife, Taramati, looks after him at their home in London.

‘He couldn’t wash himself, dress or go to the toilet without help. He had to be watched all the time – the idea of him catching a bus, even a special bus to a dementia centre, was out of the question.

‘Often at night he would become hyperactive. We were regularly woken up because Dad was pulling pots and pans off shelves in the kitchen or emptying the cupboards.’

What has made the difference, according to Kal, is a teaspoon of coconut oil twice a day mixed with his food, which Mr Parmar has been taking since July.

The idea that a common vegetable oil – made from coconut meat and which you can buy in supermarkets – could make a difference seems ludicrous, yet in the U.S. there have been hundreds of similar anecdotes of dramatic improvements.

Kal Parmar first heard about coconut oil via a video on YouTube – it was about a doctor in Florida whose husband’s Alzheimer’s had improved amazingly with coconut oil.

Kal says he would probably have dismissed this as one more bit of internet hype if there hadn’t been a favourable comment about the oil from Kieran Clarke, professor of physiological biochemistry at Oxford University and head of the Cardiac Metabolism Research Group.

‘That made me think there must be something in it,’ he says. ‘So I called her up.’Professor Clarke, an expert on the way the body makes and uses energy, believes coconut oil and similar compounds might help by boosting the brain’s energy supply.

Most of the time our brains rely on glucose from carbohydrates, but if that isn’t available – because we haven’t eaten anything for a while or because we’re eating almost no carbohydrates – then our brain cells can switch to using the energy from our fat stores.

This energy comes in the form of small molecules called ketones. As Professor Clarke explains: ‘Coconut oil contains a lot of a particular sort of fat that our bodies can use to make more of the ketone “brain food”.
‘It’s known as MCT (medium chain triglycerides) and it’s not found in the fats most of us eat.’

There is now a food supplement – available only in the U.S. – which largely consists of MCT oil, and which might be a healthier source than coconut oil, as we shall explain later.

But why should ketones help people with Alzheimer’s? One of the new ideas about the disease is that it is diabetes of the brain.

Just as diabetics have problems with glucose and insulin, so Alzheimer’s sufferers can’t get enough glucose into brain cells to give them the energy they need to lay down new memories and think clearly.
If you have diabetes, you are three times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s.

As the New Scientist magazine revealed last September, there is evidence that the brains of Alzheimer’s sufferers become resistant to insulin. This is disastrous because insulin regulates the brain chemicals that are crucial for memory.

When onse U.S. researcher blocked insulin supplies in the brains of laboratory animals, they developed all the plaques and tangles that are a classic mark of Alzheimer’s.

Dr Mary Newport began using coconut oil to treat her husband, Harry, four years ago. He had been suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s for eight years. She claims the results after he started taking the oil were remarkable.

‘He began to get his short-term memory back,’ says Dr Newport.‘His depression lifted, he became more like his old self. The problem he’d had with walking improved. An MRI scan showed his brain had stopped shrinking.’

Daily Mail, London




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