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MCT Fats Found In Coconut Oil Boost Brain Function In Only One Dose

MCT Fats Found In Coconut Oil Boost Brain Function In Only One Dose

Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs), the primary type of fat found within coconut oil, have been found to boost cognitive performance in older adults suffering from memory disorders as serious as Alzheimer's -- and not after months or even days of treatment, but after a single 40 ml dose!

A groundbreaking 2004 study published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging found that the administration of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), the primary fat type found in coconut oil, almost immediately improved cognitive function in older adults with memory disorders.   

The study involved 20 subjects with Alzheimer's disease or mild cognitive impairment who, on separate days, were given either emulsified MCTs or a placebo.  The researchers observed a significant increase in blood plasma levels of the ketone body beta-hydroxylutyrate (beta-OHB) after only 90 minutes of treatment, and depending on the apolipoprotein E genotype of the subject tested, beta-OHB levels either continued to rise or held constant between the 90 and 120 minute blood draws in the treatment condition. Remarkably, cognitive testing revealed that this brief MCT treatment facilitated improved performance on the Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale-Cognitive Subscale (ADAS-cog) in 4 subjects within the study group. Moreover, "higher ketone values were associated with greater improvement in paragraph recall with MCT treatment relative to placebo across all subjects (P=0.02)."[i]

The details of the study procedure was described as follows:

The study was conducted with a double-blind placebo controlled design with two study visits. During each visit, subjects received one of two isocaloric conditions (690calories) in a randomized order: emulsified MCTs, or emulsified long chain triglycerides as a placebo. NeoBee 895 (Stepan, Inc.) was used for MCTs. To increase palatability, heavy whipping cream was used as a source of long chain triglycerides and as a source of long chain mono- and di-glycerides for emulsification. MCTs (40ml) were blended with 152ml heavy whipping cream to create the emulsified test sample. Heavy whipping cream alone (232ml) was blended to create the placebo.

Subjects fasted from 8:00 p.m. on the night prior to the study visit. They arrived in the morning and blood was drawn to determine plasma β-OHB levels and APOE genotyping (first visit only). Subjects then consumed the test beverage and rested quietly for 90min, after which blood was drawn and a 30-min cognitive testing session ensued. After testing, a final blood draw was taken.

How Medium Chain Triglycerides Work

How could a single dose of MCTs (40 ml or 2.7 tablespoons) cause an almost immediate improvement in cognitive performance in those suffering from cognitive impairments as serious as Alzheimer's disease? The explanation is found both in the unique metabolic needs of the brain and in the configuration of MCTs themselves. Whereas the primary fuel source for the energy-hungry brain is glucose, when insulin resistance and suboptimal metabolism (hypometabolism) develops in the brain, both the brain's structure and function are compromised. Ketone bodies provide a much needed alternative fuel source to glucose that can recharge metabolic processes within the brain, resulting in an almost immediate improvement in cognitive function.  

MCTs are not like most fats we consume. For instance, due to their smaller size they do not form micelles and are not stored in adipose tissue. Whereas up to 97% of the dietary fats we ingest are made up of long-chain triglycerides (LCTs) which have been 14 and 18 carbons,[ii] MCTs have relatively shorter chain lengths of 5 to 12 carbons, making them easier to absorb and utilize. They are preferentially oxidized by the liver, and when provided in large enough quantities, they give rise to ketone bodies.[iii]

What is the best way to take MCTs? As we are advocates of whole food nutrition, coconut oil is our preferred source of these triglycerides, containing approximately 2/3rds MCTs by volume. Coconut oil also has a broad spectrum of other health benefits, which we highlighted in our previous article "13 Evidence-Based Medicinal Properties of Coconut Oil."

Also, instead of treating coconut oil or MCTs as some new nutraceutical "magic bullet," almost as if we are just loading natural bullets into the same old outdated allopathic gun, try incorporating it into your diet in a way that displaces less healthy fats. For instance, replace that rancid, pro-inflammatory 'vegetable oil' (e.g. soy, grape seed, peanut, canola oil) you are using to fry an egg or bake with, with sublimely saturated, rancidity-resistant coconut oil.

Or, enjoy a delicious curry with coconut milk as a base. Because 25% of coconut milk is fat, and about 66% of that fat is MCT, you are still getting a healthy dose. It is always better to eat smaller amounts of truly therapeutic foods, enjoyed in the context of sharing, preparing and enjoying good food, so that you will ideally never have to use the heroic "food as medicine" approach after a serious disease has had the opportunity to set in. Think: use food so that medicine never becomes necessary.   

For additional information view the testimonial of Dr. Mary Newport who discovered the benefits of using coconut oil to treat her husband's Alzheimer's Disease.


  • [ii] Anonymous: Medium chain triglycerides.  Alt Med Rev 2002, 7:418-420.


Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of GreenMedInfo or its staff.

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Evidence based health vs. a philosophically based . . .

My wife got preeclampsia in her first pregnancy (1992), at 191 pounds (normally 106 pounds), because we did not know about the importance of healthy fats, we think.  I can't keep track of all of the studies, all of the little minutiae of this study vs. that study etc. etc.  Now, don't get me wrong.  I think that Sayer Ji is a very smart and adorable person; I love his contribution to nutrition; I think that he is the cat's meow and the bee's knees.  In fact, his website is probably my favorite.  He proves that the evidence is there and medical doctors simply don't care enough to look at the evidence.  And I get a lot out of Sayer Ji's evidence based approach.  But I can't run my life on the evidence based approach.  And I know in my heart that Sayer Ji's approach is secretly intuitively based, and that his intuitive base comes out as a meta-paleo approach, taking into consideration the fact that we have still a lot to learn about paleo woman and man and that foods have been evolving since 25,000 years ago, and other complications to the pure "paleo" approach.

This is not to say that I reject evidence based.  That would be STUPID.  But the vision, the perspective, has to be meta-paleo.  I can't get vision, direction, and guidance out of a jillion different studies.  In the early 1970's, more nutrition studies were coming out than would be possible for one person to read, given an average reading speed.  Today, there are even more studies, but fortunately we have computers and databases and search engines that make it possible to find what we are looking for without have to read everything.  But still, I need direction, perspective, and guidance.  The meta-paleo gives me this vision, perspective, and guidance.  The evidence based approach just gives me details and confusion and having to watch Dr. Oz flirt with women on his show.   (:->)

Oh so someone wants a big study. They want evidence, hm.

How fascinating is the synchronicity of this article's appearance!  No fooling, the timing could not have been more perfect.

Only last night, you see, while scraping the pantry shelves for something half-nutritious for dinner (for I had not yet been to the supermarket and the odd leftover cans+boxes+bits were crying out for creative cooking anyway) I made myself a heap o' instant (antique) mashed potatoes 'n' fresh green veggies - prepared with (antique) coconut milk instead of (ancient) water as the liquid.  It turned out delicious and satisfying; I slept like a baby after.

Then I gets up, next morning, and notes how I feels - and I feel unusually+unexpectedly BRIGHT and generally GOOD - but why?  I had had a perfectly LOUSY make-do dinner (by media-driven suburban-America MikkeDee standards anyhoo) the night before!

Well, maybe that lonely ole can o' off-date Coconut MIlk I had the night afore in my odd-mix'd make-do dinner, had sumpin' t' do with it, hm?  I've done such mixes afore when the larder was sparse - but never before with the coconut milk...

Additional studies are clearly called-for.  The evidence discovered thus far tantalizes my overall speculative sense of possibility - as well as a certain instinctive Sense of the Obvious being piqued.  So:  In the interest of rigorous objectivity and Homemade Honest Science, now hear this:  

Rigorous Commentor Phil, you are hereby invited to join this Old Turtle at my Nutritional Research Laboratory Facility (oh wait wait that's too grandiose I meant kitchen yes a mere breakfast-nook kitchen nothing more than that oh no) for the sole purpose of producing a well-documented Nutritional  Studies Practicum (oh wait wait too darn grandiose again sorry Phil I only meant all kind of different dinners with coconut milk in them for a sixty-day Study Period) an' lessee if we can both get a leetle schmarter over dinner - an' wer can + should exactly write it all up presentable for publication after, OK?  OK!)

I'll buy the groceries and cook; you bring the IQ tests and clean.   We'll just collaborate on that fine series of research papers after - fair?  OK!  And that is all.  0{:-)o[


One more time . . .

To tell you the truth, phil@pricom, I don't give a rat's rear end if mainstream medicine and science need massively large and expensive studies to believe things.  I think that one reason that they desire such mega-studies for pharmaceutical drugs is that most often those drugs kill people if they don't get it JUST right.  But no one ever died from eating some food or herb.  And yes, sometimes we may have gotten it wrong, although I can't remember the last time that that happened (after being a health hobbyist for over 40 years).  But we get it right almost every time.  But as far as I can see, pharmaceutical companies, who do these massively large and expensive studies, have NEVER gotten it right; "it" being building health.  They may have gotten symptom removal right many times, but NEVER, NOT ONCE, have they ever gotten health building right.  If anything, they have gotten health destroying right most of the time.  ALL of these pharmaceutical drug companies, whose scientific styles you admire, have NEVER built health.  Sayer Ji and numerous other thinkers are in the business of building health.  So, I think that I will stick with Mercola, Ji, Sisson, etc. etc. etc., and you are welcome to stick with your pharmaceutical drug style of science.

One more time . . . whatever . .


Unfortunately, everything you said had no relevancy to what I said . . good luck with your health "hobby".

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” - Daniel Patrick Moynihan



What constitutes facts . . . .

What constitutes facts is often a matter of opinion.  My health "hobby" is a matter of life or death.  The so-called "health care" industry is really a disease care industry that is a matter of profit at other people's expense.

Sayer Ji, there is no purpose for us to continue this conversation.  I have met this kind of mind many times in the past.  He would rather be right than healthy.  If I were running this blog, I would close this conversation out.  I will not be responding to his posts any more as there is no benefit to anyone.

Good luck Phil

Despite your attempt to use the word "hobby" disparagingly, you have made an excellent point Phil. By their very definition, people do not take up hobbies to 'make a living' from them. That would be the domain of the Church of Scientism, where pointing out a "lack of evidence" is a business strategy and/or power grab.


Baseball bats

Coconut oil may not be a magic bullet, but it is at least a magic baseball bat.  It is so powerful that I usually only eat it in the mornings so that I can sleep at night.

MCT Fats Found In Coconut Oil Boost Brain Function In . .

This is a very small sample size and the number of people that showed the single dose effect (four out of twenty ie 20%) is quite small as well.  You would need a sample size a couple of orders of magnitude greater than this to derive much meaning.  It is interesting enough to continue looking at the usefulness of coconut oil but not proof of anything by itself.  Also, I would have expected a more recent and bigger study by now - 2004 is old in biomedical research terms . . 

Works for me.

The study works for me, especially when I can test it on myself.  There are many other studies.  We don't really need massive and massively expensive studies done over and over dozens of different ways to prove something.  That may be OK for pharmaceutical drugs that have not existed before since the Big Bang.  But with natural foods, small studies, testimonials, deductive reasoning, and intuition point us in the right directions.

Sample Size and Study Date

Realistically, who may we presume will fund future larger studies into a non-patented natural food compound such as MCTs? And do we need a series of randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trials in order to prove something that makes biological sense, and has the safety of a food derivative standing behind it for those curious to implement it? Also, why does the date of the research mean so much to folks? Are we to assume that newer research is always better, or truer? If so, please explain this perspective in greater detail and the justification for it? 



Sample Size, Study Date etc

I agree that funding for studies like these are not going to be made by organisations that have the resources but a vested interest in other products but the fact remains that science depends on evidence and this study is not conclusive evidence - the study needs to be replicated by other researchers and on larger scales.  The results of this one study may make "biological sense" but I know from long experience that only actual measurements will confirm opinions. The rate of growth of computing power and data from scientific research is growing exponentially every year so one small study in 2004 is a long time ago. Although this study is interesting and positive (otherwise it would not have even been reported on this site) there is still some way to go for definitive evidence to be available. This study may be enough for some people to base a change in their dieets but I am going to investigate further.

This is so sad


your comments and reasoning remind me in a powerful way of how hopeless that kind of thinking is.  My stepson is a professor at a university (research) who has a son diagnosed as having ADHD, and so this child is on Ritalin.  I was horrified when I heard that these educated parents just followed the "medical experts" like sheep to the slaughter.... When I passed along some articles on how nutrition could be the answer, he refused to even consider anecdotal evidence but insisted on peer-reviewed, double-blind, published studies.  Talk about sacrificing your own flesh to the god of "science". It breaks my heart to think of what the future will hold for this child, and millions like him.

P.S.--Have you ever heard of anyone coming to harm on good nutrition?


If you are referring here to "evidence-based" medicine (an incredibly presumptuous self-designation), whose criteria for absolute truth presupposes billions of dollars in funding to "prove" what our ancestors must have known in order for us to exist here today, millions of years after dietary and 'folkloric' medical trial-and-error succeeded without so-called "scientific" precognition or verification -- well then, what is there remaining to say? Between our approaches to the research referenced here is a chasm as vast and perhaps inseparable as that which exists between religion and politics. Good luck with your path, and I'm perfectly happy on mine.

Oh, Sayer Ji said that...

I am happy to be agreeing with Sayer Ji.  Science has this fixation that all knowing of any value happens in the present and folks long ago were too stupid to come up with anything of value.  Sort of like gangsta rap is naturally better than Mozart.


i think this is great that there are people doing reserach for this.

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Sayer Ji
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