Highlights from Jonathan Otto's interview with Dr. Mary Newport, for the Depression & Anxiety Series. Dr. Mary Newport discusses her research into Alzheimer's and dementia, and her experience with healing her husband's dementia. In particular, she discusses the power of ketones, coconut oil/MCT oil for the mind.

Dr. Mary Newport

Dr. Newport: Well, my first result was with my husband. I just happened upon this information about ketones as an alternative fuel for the brain on the Internet, a press release about a medical food that was being studied. It wasn’t going to be out for another year. It improved the memories of nearly half the people who took it with Alzheimer’s disease and I had to find out what it was. Then I learned from their pan application that it was medium chain triglyceride oil. I was familiar with that because I’m a neonatologist. We used to add it to the feedings of our premature newborns, a little bit to each feeding, our tiniest ones, because they absorb it very well and because it help them grow faster. I knew right away what MCT oil was. I think if I wasn’t a neonatologist, nothing further would have happened. I wouldn’t have known that I could get it and what it might be able to do.

But with Steven, what happened was I knew that coconut oil was available over-the-counter and I learned from the pan application that MCT oil is extracted from coconut oil and coconut oil is about 60% medium-chain triglycerides. He was scheduled for two screenings for two different clinical trials two days in a row. I learned this information the night before the first screening and didn’t really have time to go out and do anything about it. We had a day before and a day that he started coconut oil was very amazing. The first screening, when we didn’t have it available, he scored two points below the threshold that he needed to get into the clinical trial and that was devastating. He was asked to draw a clock, he drew a few little random circles and a few numbers. I think was 9, 10, 11, 12, just a very random … Nothing structured like a clock and I was told that he was on the verge of severe Alzheimer’s.

I thought, “What do we have to lose? I’m going to pick up some coconut oil,” and we stopped at a health food store on the way home. When we got home, I looked on the Internet for more information to remind myself what are the medium chain triglycerides. I found the fatty acid composition from a USDA website of coconut oil and learned that it was 60%, so I calculated how much coconut oil I would need to give him to equal 20 grams of medium chain triglycerides that they were using in the medical food. The next day, that turned out to be a little over two tablespoons of coconut oil. The next morning, a few hours before he was scheduled for the screening, I put a little over two tablespoons of coconut oil in some oatmeal. He ate that. Several hours later, he improved.

We’re in a different center than we were the previous day, but he remembered the different town that we were in. he remembered the day of the week. He remembered the season. He knew what flora we were on and those were things that he could not remember the day before when he took the mini-mental status test. This time, he scored 18 which was two points over the threshold to get into the clinical trial. He was literally accepted into a clinical trial because of his response to simply taking coconut oil. At first, I wasn’t a 100% sure. Did we just get very lucky or was it related to coconut oil, but we decided to keep it going.

Every morning in the beginning, he would get a little over two tablespoons of coconut oil and then I started cooking with it, and got every recipe I can get my hands on and eventually added MCT oil as well because it’s more ketogenic. Certain medium chain fatty acids raise ketone levels higher and I continue coconut oil because that’s what he improved from. Initially, I thought, “What if there’s something in coconut oil that’s not in MCT oil that has something to do with this effect?” So we incorporated both into his diet and we saw steady improvement over about a 9-month to 10-month period where he went from the day before not even being able to draw a clock, and if we were gardening, for example, he couldn’t remember if he was digging a hole or filling it in. He would get confused about the simplest things that he was doing. He had great difficulty finishing a sentence.

Over a 9 to 10 month period, he improved so much. Physical symptoms went away like tremors and a stiff gait. His memory began to improve. The animation came back in his face. People with Alzheimer’s often have kind of a … They call it a dead look. That came back. His sense of humor came back. he had a visual disturbance where he could not read and he described it … He couldn’t describe it until after it went away with coconut oil. He said it was like the words were moving around on the page. The shaking stopped and then he was able to read again. 

Nine to 10 months after we started this, he was able to remember what he had read earlier in the day and tell me about it. One example of that is we were in a doctor’s office. I was the one that had the appointment and he sat in the waiting room and there were Scientific American and other magazines on the table. Several hours after we left the doctor’s office, he said “You know, I was reading this Scientific American article about Albert Einstein.” He told me details about that and it was just so profound to me that he had come so far that before he started using coconut oil, he couldn’t remember if he was filling in a hole or digging the dirt out of it. Now, he could remember what he had read something detailed several hours earlier. It was just really an amazing journey to see his recovery and reversal of a lot of his symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease.

I think it would’ve made a vast difference. One of the reasons I say that is because after the information got out on the internet, I started hearing back from other people that tried it. Now, I’ve collected more than 400 little case reports, I guess you might call them, from people that have reported to me their response to coconut oil or MCT oil or even the prescription Axona. The medical food that did ultimately come out, which is [C8 ], it’s one of the medium-chain triglycerides and just amazing results. People had very similar the results to Steve and sometimes they ... I didn’t prompt them. I didn’t give them ideas about what they should be seeing. I just said what did you see. What were the differences that you saw?

Many of them reported increase in alertness, in memory, recognizing family members that they had not been recognizing and engaging in conversation. Some people who had not been talking for a year started talking again. Some things were just phenomenal and probably about 60% of them reported some type of cognitive improvement and a lot of people reported physical improvements. Steve had tremors that went away. He had a visual disturbance that went a way, gait problems. Then, I started hearing from people with Parkinson’s Disease too, 40 or so people that I collected their little case reports that had much improvement in their physical symptoms. It’s just an amazing collection of anecdotal reports, but it actually, that little collection of reports, helped fund the study at the Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute that’s ongoing now with looking at coconut and MCT oil in people with mild or moderate Alzheimer’s to see what effect it might have.

Anecdotal reports are useful for something and if the right people pay attention to those, then they can put together the studies that will convince doctors, which that’s what doctors are looking for. They’re looking for studies.