Coconut boom to be boosted by Alzheimer’s findings

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 21st June 2012

Coconut-infused beverages have become a popular market segment in Australia in the past 12 months, which is good news for suppliers of coconut-based ingredients from the Pacific Islands and other parts of the developing world where there are coconut processors.

The coconut growth trend is now set to continue with new evidence of the efficacy of coconut oil in treating Alzheimer’s Disease, a form of dementia.

Oxford University researchers have announced that coconut oil may help people with Alzheimer’s regain their memory. While the results show a temporary effect, the researchers believe the short-term effects for the treatment of dementia patients have nevertheless been successful.

Australian Food News contacted one of Australia’s leading nutrition medicos Professor Peter Clifton of Australia’s Baker IDI Institute in Adelaide for his comments about the Oxford study.

Professor Clifton noted that coconut fat contains short-chain fatty acids which can increase ketones. “The ketones improve lucidity in some Alzheimer’s sufferers temporarily,” he said.

Professor Clifton believes that coconut fat has also improved the performance of Alzheimer’s Disease-affected animals tested in mazes. “The effect is real,” he said.

The Oxford research noted that 30g of coconut oil a day could be beneficial to Alzheimer’s sufferers.

Distinguishing coconut oil from palm oil

While coconuts grow on a palm called cocos nucifera, it is important for our readers to realize that coconut oil is significantly different nutritionally from the cooking oil known as ‘palm oil’, which is derived from a different palm called elaeis guineensis. The composition of palm oil does not increase ketones, so it does not have the beneficial effect on Alzheimer’s Disease that has been found in coconut oil.

While coconut oil contains a high level of saturated fat, the saturated fat in coconut oil is primarily lauric acid, which some studies associate with HDL (the ‘good cholesterol’). By contrast, the saturated fat content of palm oil is primarily palmitic acid, and the consumption of the latter is associated with elevated LDL (i.e. the ‘bad cholesterol’).

Problems for health claims

Meanwhile, the high level of saturated fat in coconut oil might nonetheless disqualify any coconut product from Nutrient Density Scoring Criteria eligibility for health claims.

Dark chocolate faces a similar problem, as Australian Food News recently reported, although in the case of chocolate, the relevant saturated fat is stearic acid.

More information on the Oxford study about the use of coconut oil against Alzheimers Disease is available here.