The Most Important Principles for Staying Young: Chose Only Foods You Know You Can Have a Relationship with— That You Love and Love Your Body Back.

8 Jun

Our basic premise is that your body is amazing. You get a do over. It doesn’t take that long, and it isn’t that hard if you know what to do. In these notes, we give you a short course in what to do so it becomes easy for you and for you to teach others. We want you to know how much control you have over both the quality and length of your life.

This month, I hope to inform you why I am so cautious about coconut oil; it has nothing to do with fats in your blood leading to heart disease or not, but rather that researchers in the lab next to mine at NIH in the early 70s used coconut oil to accelerate brain dysfunction and the development of Alzheimer’s and dementia in animals. And more recently, a scientific article published in a respected peer reviewed journal indicated coconut oil accelerates the inflammatory changes in multiple sclerosis that lead to nervous system dysfunction. (Multiple sclerosis is a disease thought to be caused by or accelerated by nervous tissue inflammation just like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease(s) are.)

Now this side effect relating to accelerating the development of dementia caused by coconut oil in mice and rats and guinea pigs oil isn’t a minor acceleration—it is the human equivalent of bringing it on 16 to 20 years earlier—so instead of 14% of US women developing serious degrees of memory problems at age 83, that 14% would develop them at age 63 to 67 or so if they had used coconut oil as the major fat in their food choices. If just 35% of Americans chose to use coconut oil as their main fat, this earlier development would cost the US an additional $100 billion dollars a year in medical costs by 2024. That mistake to use coconut oil would also lead to too much personal and family costs to even consider. Hopefully 35% don’t and won’t. I realize I am going against the grain of at least two very prominent docs and the marketing might of the coconut oil industry.

Due to the scientific articles I want to inform you about, this article would run the normal length of eight articles (as it is, it will run 2 to 3 time longer than I want). So I will abstract much data here, but place more reference material on my and Jean Chatzky’s AgeProof website and blog site,

The recent paper that triggered my desire to remind you of my concerns about coconut oil use is an abstract (from April 2017) by a different group (a different group means the data are reproducible by others than those who made the original observation—meaning the original observation is much more likely to be real rather than a statistical aberration). That abstract confirms a 2015 publication in the journal Immunity. I won’t discuss the confirming abstract cause it is only an abstract rather than a full peer reviewed scientific paper (abstracts are not scrutinized or vetted to even 10% of the degree papers are). In that memory triggering paper (memory triggering for me) on the effects of dietary coconut oil on MS, entitled “Dietary Fatty Acids Directly Impact Central Nervous System Autoimmunity via the Small Intestine”, coconut oil added to soybean oil in a typical rat diet made the rat’s equivalent of your immune system attack the protective sheath (myelin) that covers your nerve fibers. That inflammatory attack causes the equivalent of communication problems between your brain and the rest of your body.

Studies on memory change, even in rats or mice or guinea pigs, require a long time to complete as they need the inflammation to develop and then destroy the neuronal connections that cause what we know as memory or human brain functioning. Your hippocampus is the only organ where size matters in the human body, as size shrinks as memory and learning problems occur in humans.

That hippocampal size and inflammation reference relates to the 2008 study by Granholm and colleagues in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (Effect of a Saturated Fat and High Cholesterol Diet on Memory and Hippocampal Morphology in the Middle Aged Rat, 2008;14: 133-145) that showed that eight weeks of a diet with hydrogenated coconut oil (most coconut oil is hydrogenated or saturated in nature and as you might buy it) added to the normal diet was associated with inflammation in those key to memory hippocampal nervous tissues. Note they used middle-aged, not young, rats and gave the equivalent of 20 or more human years of the diet to the animals. So I urge you if you do your own research, or if you are a doc in the field, before you advocate something like coconut oil, to make sure the studies you are basing your recommendations on are long enough and look for the changes well enough to ensure that what they advocate isn’t short-term beneficial and long-term hazardous.

A 2012 paper published in the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism (2012; 32; 643-53) indicated that the inflammation associated with hydrogenated coconut oil (like the kind you might use in cooking) causes inflammatory vascular changes and breaks down that key area of the blood-brain barrier in their rat model. Now the research team gave the rats 10% coconut oil, the equivalent of 160 calories or less than 3 tablespoons for a human, and found inflammatory and disruptive changes in one of the proteins key for the tight junctions and thereby functioning of the blood-brain barrier. This breakdown of the blood brain barrier and inflammation in the hippocampus is exactly what the researchers in the laboratory next to mine in 1973-5 found as they tried to understand dementia. They administered coconut oil after causing an inflammatory stimulus (a bacterial skin infection as I recall). That process led to the mice in their studies not being able to learn maze navigation, as I remember it. Since then, other scientists have developed genetic models of dementia in rats and mice. I worry the data are too old for the young docs of today to be aware of that model of accelerated dementia associated with a coconut oil diet plus inflammation.

To summarize, because coconut oil is rich in the medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), it is supposed to be different than other saturated fats that are made of fatty acids with more than 12 or 14 carbons so called Long-term fatty acids (LCFAs). The LCFAs largely come with amino-acids such as carnitine (plentiful in red meat, pork, and even some fish like cod), lecithin, and choline (cheese and egg yolks) that select for bacteria inside your intestine. Those bacteria produce inflammation in your arteries, immune system, and brain (to name just a few areas). Those bacteria then produce fecal matter as they go after the C, H, and O of the red meat, cheese, egg yolks, or peanuts that contains the inflammation-stimulating substance. Soon I am told we will be able to block this red meat, cheese, egg yolk, etc. cause of inflammation and dementia by giving you something that prevents this type of bacteria from thriving. But while you and I are writing for that to happen, stick with fats that you can love and that love you back like the odd omegas in avocados, chia seeds, walnuts, and canola oil (all omega3s), or in extra virgin olive oil (omega-9) or in salmon or ocean trout ( both a lot of omega-3’s and 7’s). And if your doc advocates coconut oil, ask to see the long-term studies that look at learning and inflammation in the brain.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to send questions—to

Young Dr Mike Roizen (aka, The Enforcer)

PS: Thank You for Making AgeProof: Living Longer Without Running Out of Money or Breaking a Hip (which was released on February 28th—grab your copy at your favorite bookseller if you haven’t already) a NY Times and WSJ Bestseller!

NOTE: You should NOT take this as medical advice.
This article is of the opinion of its author.
Before you do anything, please consult with your doctor.

You can follow Dr Roizen on twitter @YoungDrMike (and get updates on the latest and most important medical stories of the week). The YOU docs have two newly revised books: The patron saint “book” of this column YOU Staying Young—revised and YOU: The Owner’s Manual…revised —yes a revision of the book that started Dr Oz to being Dr Oz. These makes great gifts—so do YOU: ON a Diet and YOU: The Owner’s Manual for teens.

Michael F. Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chair of the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. His radio show streams live on Saturdays from 5-7 p.m. He is the co-author of 4 #1 NY Times Best Sellers including: YOU Staying Young.

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