Scientists from the Catholic University of Valencia in Spain found that a Mediterranean diet rich in coconut oil could improvement of main cognitive functions in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most prevalent neurodegenerative disorder (mainly in women), and new therapies are needed.
The Mediterranean diet is a diet inspired by the eating habits of people who live near the Mediterranean Sea. When initially formulated in the 1960s, it drew on the cuisines of Greece, Turkey, Italy, and Spain.
The Mediterranean diet mainly includes high levels of olive oil, legumes, unrefined cereals, fruits, and vegetables, moderate to high levels of fish, moderate levels of dairy products (mostly as cheese and yogurt), moderate wine, and low levels of non-fish meat.
This diet pattern has been shown to prevent heart disease and strokes, reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and increase longevity.
Coconut oil is an edible oil derived from the wick, meat, and milk of coconut palm fruit.
Coconut oil is 100% fat, 80-90% of which is saturated fat. It contains no cholesterol, no fiber, and only traces of vitamins, minerals, and plant sterols.
Previous research has found that coconut oil may boost fat burning, reduce hunger feeling, improve skin and hair health, and reduce seizures.
In the study, the team predicted that ketone bodies are a direct source of cellular energy and can be obtained from coconut oil.
This means that coconut oil could be a new alternative treatment for AD.
The team tested changes in the main cognitive functions of patients with AD after following a coconut oil-enriched Mediterranean diet.
They also examined whether there are differences in the function of stage or sex.
The researchers tested 44 patients with AD, who were divided into two groups of 22 patients each: an experimental group of patients who followed a coconut oil-enriched Mediterranean diet for 21 days and a control group.
In order to determine the cognitive changes after the intervention, the team tested the participants’ several cognitive functions, such as memory, coordination of fine motor skills with spatial abilities, knowledge about time and space, and so on.
The team found that after the intervention with coconut oil, participants could recall their personal experiences better, recall concepts and knowledge better, and tell the time better.
The researchers also showed that it seems that the positive effect is more evident in women with mild-moderate severity of AD, although other improvements in men and severe states of AD were also found.
They concluded that the coconut oil-enriched Mediterranean diet may improve cognitive functions in patients with AD.
One limitation of the study is that the effects of coconut oil may be different between men and women and in people with different severities of AD.
Because the study only tested 44 participants, the sample would be too small to examine these sub-group effects.
New research with a larger participant group is needed to clarify the protective effect of coconut oil according to patient sex and degree of severity of the disease.
The research is published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and was conducted by José Enrique de la Rubia Ortí et al.
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