coconut oil alzheimer'sCoconut oil as a possible treatment for Alzheimer’s disease has gotten a lot of attention recently. Advocates for this approach cite stories of folks whose symptoms have reversed and abated, even if just for a period of time. A frequently-told story is that of a Florida man suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s. His wife began mixing coconut oil into his morning oatmeal, and he began to show improvement within days and complete tasks that had become too hard for him. Ten years later, the disease has progressed nowhere near as quickly as expected. Coconut oil advocates also point out that the disease occurs less often in cultures where coconut oil is used often. Are these claims valid, or is this just another crazy food fad? There is a possible explanation for why coconut oil may help. As the disease advances, Alzheimer’s patients have trouble with using glucose as energy for the brain. Without fuel, brain cells die and cognitive function suffers. However, there is another substance that the brain can use for energy: ketone bodies, which are produced as byproducts when the body digests coconut oil. That being said, as of now there is no scientific evidence that coconut oil does what its supporters claim. Formal clinical trials to investigate are just beginning, and the results should begin to come in a couple years from now. But in the meantime, speculation and individual experience are all we have. But since coconut oil is just another food on the supermarket shelf, there’s no harm in trying it, right? This is true in part, but there’s another factor to consider with coconut oil: its high saturated fat content. The Food and Drug Administration has not confirmed any health benefits for coconut oil, but they do warn people to keep their saturated fat intake to a minimum. Those with high cholesterol or problems with heart disease should talk with their doctors before enjoying coconut oil frequently. If you do decide to try coconut oil, look for brands marked “virgin,” which will have no trans-fats or hydrogenated oils. Do some research and consider the risks. Be careful of exaggerated claims you may see online: many of those singing the praises of coconut oil also happen to be selling it! Still, you may want to try adding coconut oil to your loved one’s diet slowly. This may be an area of research to keep an eye on.
One of the hardest things for seniors living on their own is having meals that are both nutritious and enjoyable. Cooking for one person is tough enough when you’re young and energetic, but when everyday tasks are more difficult and you move more slowly, it’s that much more difficult. Some seniors can’t get out to the grocery store to even get food to begin with. Especially when it comes to men and others who may not have done much cooking earlier in their lives, making your own meals can seem like an impossible task. In these situations, seniors tend to go for what’s quick and easy, not what would be the most ideal choice from a health standpoint. In addition, seniors living by themselves eat alone much of the time. Having dinner with only the TV for company can be pretty lonely. Even if the senior lives with family, how often in busy homes with kids does everyone come together to share a meal? Despite the living situation the end result may be the same: a microwave dinner in front of the evening news while children stay late to deal with work responsibilities and grandchildren attend basketball practice or reherse for the school play. This scenario may make the senior feel even more cast aside. To be fair, some seniors are still excellent cooks and can fend for themselves. But the chances are good that sooner or later, food will become an issue. When it does, it can contribute to making a senior’s delicate health even worse. Poor nuturition makes people more likely to get sick, can exacerbate conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia, and can lead to depression. Those who are concerned about their older loved ones should not wait for the senior to ask for help, as sometimes they will fear the loss of their independence and hide problems. Watch for clues like excessive weight loss or a refrigerator with barren shelves or expired food. Consider whether getting to the grocery store is a challenge: does the senior have trouble getting outside his or her home? You also may want to ask if he or she is having problems with swallowing or chewing or if they’re experiencing a loss of appetite. This is one area in which assisted living can make a big difference in a senior’s life. Assisted living residents do not have to worry about cooking for themselves. They get to have regular mealtimes within a community and experience the comfort of gathering together with people they know. A good assisted living facility will make sure the senior gets the proper diet for his or her specific health issues. We all feel happier when eating well and enjoying good company. Attention to this area can be a huge boost in a senior’s quality of life.