By Kevin Woo, August 18, 2013
Today I spent some time researching some recent studies relating to Alzheimer’s disease. To my surprise (perhaps skepticism?) I found two stories about the benefits of every day consumer products – cocoa and coconut oil – that claim to have beneficial effects for patients with the disease.
According to one study from the University of L’Aquila in L’Aquila, Italy there’s a substance in cocoa, called flavonols, that can help improve blood flow to the brain for people with mild cognitive impairment. The test subjects were instructed to remove all other sources of flavonol from their diets, which includes grapes, tea, red wine and apples to measure the effectiveness of cocoa.
It should be noted that the study was partially funded by Mars Inc., makers of M&M’s, Milky Way, and Snickers.
And last April, the Woodbury-Middlebury Patch, a Connecticut news outlet, ran a story about a “flood” of blogs claiming that coconut oil maybe a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.
The story read, in part, “Very recently, there seems to be a flood of websites and blogs all touting coconut oil as a ‘cure’ for Alzheimer’s disease. One website states that there is a way to both prevent and reverse Alzheimer’s disease…the solution involves coconut ketones – a high energy brain food.”
Are these snake oil solutions for a disease that will affect 36 million Americans (and 115 million worldwide) by 2050? You can look at it that way. Or, perhaps it’s an indication of how people are beginning to realize the importance of the disease and how devastating it will be if we don’t increase research funding, pool resources, learn how to provide care for loved ones, teach businesses how to become dementia friendly…or find a cure.
Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are a tsunami waiting to hit. Whether the answer is more cocoa, coconut oil or other more mainstream pharmaceuticals something needs to be done to treat the disease. So while it may seem odd that researchers study the effects of cocoa or coconut oil on the brain one thing can be said for them – they’re trying.