Saturday, March 3, 2012

Ketones and Coconuts

Because Parkinson's Disease (PD) robbed more and more of the last 25 years of my mother's life, and has been doing the same to my older brother for more than a decade, my radar is always on for things related to this disease. For that reason, I have just read Alzheimer's Disease: What If There Was a Cure? The Story of Ketones by Dr. Mary Newport, M.D. (2011). (Go here for Dr. Newport's website. Her original 2008 article which summarized her husband's illness, her research, and initial success with ketone therapy, and created a popular interest in the subject, is here.)

The reason an Alzheimer's book is important for the PD community is because they are both neurodegenerative diseases—breakdowns in the brain. Dr. Newport's pioneering work is causing quite a stir among folks who are related to Alz's, PD, and other brain-related diseases. You can find video interviews with Dr. Newport on YouTube by searching for her name. You'll also see other related videos by those who are implementing some of her findings for themselves or their loved ones.

I won't make this a long post—just enough info for background and to encourage you to read her book if this subject applies to you.

Her story: Dr. Newport's husband began showing signs of early Alzheimer's Disease a few years ago. Though her specialty is neonatology, she put on her research geek hat and began searching for answers and help. She discovered that medium-chain-triglyceride (MCT) fats, such as found in coconut oil and palm kernel oil (both saturated fats), provide a new-found level of energy to damaged brain cells. When her husband began consuming coconut oil and MCT oil with every meal, he came out of the darkness he was in back into the light. (When he took a memory test he had previously failed, a few hours after his first dose of coconut oil, he passed the test.)

He wasn't cured—that won't happen. But he became functional at a level that shocked them both. His memory, alertness, ability to recognize, converse, and do normal things came back in a significant way and remains. Again, not cured—just brought out of the mental darkness he was in back into a functional level of mental activity. Since then, she has been on a relentless quest to connect with whoever has done research in this area, make the results known, and increase awareness of a simple protocol that may help many people struggling with neurodegenerative diseases.

The science (overly simplified for this post): As more is discovered, Alz's Disease is being referred to as Type-3 Diabetes because the problem is the same as in Types 1 and 2 diabetes: insulin. Insulin, produced by the pancreas, is an escort chemical that delivers glucose to the body's cells, including brain cells. Without insulin, cells get no glucose and die.

•In Type-1 Diabetes, the pancreas doesn't produce insulin, a permanent condition requiring insulin injections for life.

•In Type-2 Diabetes, usually due to poor diet, the body doesn't produce enough insulin to handle the overdoses of glucose (sugar) in the blood (usually from too many simple and processed carbs/sugars). Type-2 can usually be halted and/or reversed with changes in diet and lifestyle.

•In Type-3 Diabetes, brain cells become resistant to insulin (for a variety of reasons) and cannot absorb glucose from the blood. The glucose (energy)-starved brain cells begin to die. The result is neurodegenerative conditions like Alz's, PD, and others. (This is vastly over-simplified, but a source of energy to the brain, to keep brain cells from dying and allowing them to continue their work of neuro-transmission, is the big idea.)

What Dr. Newport (and others) have discovered is that MCT's provide a source of energy that can cross the blood-brain barrier (be absorbed by the brain) in two ways:

1. MCT's themselves can be absorbed by brain cells and provide energy.
2. MCT's are partially converted by the liver into ketones which are readily absorbed by brain cells without the aid of insulin. (Brain cells will absorb ketones even if they are still able to absorb glucose.)

When Dr. Newport began feeding her husband coconut oil and MCT oil, it was like putting gas in an empty gas tank and turning the ignition. His brain came to life. While his brain cells had become resistant to glucose, they readily absorbed the ketones (produced by the liver) from the coconut oil. In a matter of hours both she and her husband could tell a marked difference in his mental activity. He now consumes coconut and MCT oil with each meal and at bedtime in amounts they have balanced out through their trial and error studies.

Yes, coconut oil is a saturated fat with all the (supposed) attendant liabilities. Dr. Newport goes into all the pros and cons, cites all the relevant research, and navigates through an area that is developing as she writes. Her book is her fist attempt to get this information to a public increasingly afflicted with Alz's and neurodegenerative diseases. (One of the most depressing parts of her story, though not surprising, is the resistance she got from national Alzheimer's organizations when she was knocking on doors trying to get someone to listen to her story. She has since become recognized as a medical authority on the subject. But why is the AMA crowd so often the last on board with new or alternative protocols?)

If these diseases have touched someone you know, I encourage you to get the book and read her story. And if you are untouched by these diseases, consider this: Research now shows that brain degeneracy (insulin resistance) begins some 10-15 years before symptoms appear of Alz's, PD, and other diseases. Meaning? Consuming ketones via MCT's (found in coconut oil) could—repeat, could—stave off the onset of brain-cell failure by providing a new source of energy for cells that are growing resistant to glucose absorption.

(Note: I'm not a doctor and haven't played one on TV (old joke). The goal of this post is to simply draw attention to Dr. Newport's research and success with this protocol as an encouragement for others in the same situation.)

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