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Coconut oil and dementia

There is currently a lack of evidence to show that coconut oil plays a role in preventing or treating dementia or its symptoms.

Does coconut oil affect dementia?

There have been some claims that coconut oil could be used as a treatment, or even a cure, for Alzheimer's disease or dementia. There is currently not enough experimental evidence to back up these claims.

Some believe coconut oil may act as an alternative energy source for brain cells that may need more glucose in dementia. However, there is not enough evidence to suggest that coconut oil effectively provides this. It is not known whether the problem that brain cells seem to have with making energy is a cause of the disease or the result of other disease-related processes.

How to reduce the risk of dementia

A lifelong approach to good health is the best way to lower your risk of dementia.

There are some lifestyle behaviours with enough evidence to show that changing them will reduce your risk of dementia.

Reduce your risk of dementia

Research into coconut oil to treat dementia

To ensure that any potential treatment is safe and effective, it is tested in clinical trials.  Clinical trials normally test safety first and then effectiveness on a very small group of people, before testing on a much larger group.

One small trial tested medium chain triglycerides – found in coconut oil – on 20 people living with Alzheimer’s disease. In commonly used memory and thinking tests, medium chain triglycerides (MCT) showed no benefit.

Other thinking tests did show benefits, but these tests are thought to be susceptible to participants getting better at them through repeated testing.

All other trials were either withdrawn, incomplete or only confirmed the safety of taking coconut oil or MCT and not tested its effectiveness.

Questions about coconut oil and dementia

If you have a question about coconut oil and dementia, we’d suggest discussing it with your GP.

Coconut oil is a popular topic within our online community forum. Visit our Online Support Forum to connect with other people affected by dementia and share your thoughts and experiences.

In the ketogenic (keto) diet, carbohydrates are strictly limited and replaced by high-fat intake, forcing the body to use fat as a primary energy source. This is a similar idea behind the Atkins diet.

Coconut oil is sometimes used as part of these diets to allow a slightly higher level of carbohydrate intake, making the very strict diet slightly easier to follow, but still preventing the body from using sugar from carbohydrates as the main energy source. This works only because the body is forced to metabolise fats.

The ketogenic diet must be incredibly strict because the body will always preferentially use glucose for metabolism instead of fats. This means that simply adding coconut oil to the diet would not provide brain cells with an alternative energy source.

The keto diet is also linked to very high cholesterol levels, which is known to increase risk factors for stroke, heart disease and dementia.

The NHS and World Health Organization advise against consuming a large amount of coconut oil as it contains high levels of saturated fat which can lead to high cholesterol levels.

Further reading

There are ways to manage eating and drinking problems for people living with dementia.

Find out more

Learn about high cholesterol, which can be caused by saturated fats in coconut oil.

Find out more

Read the WHO advice on limiting sources of saturated fats, including coconut oil.

Find out more

Last reviewed: December 2023

Next review: December 2025