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Harvard’s Dr. Tanzi on Diet & Alzheimer’s Risk


Harvard’s Dr. Rudolph Tanzi, world-renowned Alzheimer’s researcher, explores lowering risk. Topics include turmeric, vegetarianism, coconut oil and what he applies to his own daily life.

Summary of Video: (Watch the video for more details on these topics.)

“Never has diet been so important for brain health and reducing risk for Alzheimer’s. This is not a simple diet book―it’s a food bible that tells you all you need to know to start eating your way to a healthy brain, right now!”
——— Dr. Rudolph E. Tanzi, Director, Alzheimer’s Genome Project; Director, Genetics and Aging Research Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital; and Joseph. P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School

Do vegetarians get Alzheimer’s at lower rates than meat-eaters?
We don’t know that. Most vegetarians still eat dairy products, so they’re still getting animal fat in their diets. It’ll be interesting to see whether vegans, who eat no animal products, get Alzheimer’s. That study hasn’t been done yet. 
The only data about vegetarianism is with animals – old carnivores get Alzheimer’s; old herbivores don’t (so far).
Thoughts on turmeric?

Turmeric lowers amyloid production and aggregation…in a petri dish. The problem with turmeric (or more specifically, the ‘active ingredient’ curcumin), is that it doesn’t get into the brain very well, and therefore can’t help much with Alzheimer’s pathology. There are other good things about curcumin, though – some studies say it could have anti-cancer effects.

At Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, we’re developing some curcumin-like compound that can get into the brain. If these can be made safe, they may be effective against Alzheimer’s.

What about coconut oil?

I’d like to see a real trial. I’m intrigued by the anecdotes, but as a scientist, you get burned by anecdotes all the time. There are companies doing some trials now. Non-virgin coconut oil can have negative health effects – it raises your triglycerides.

What do you, Dr. Tanzi, do to lower your own risk of getting Alzheimer’s?
I stay intellectually and socially engaged. I’m a vegetarian – we don’t know for sure, but I do think that will help. The only supplement I take is called ashwagandha, which has anti-amyloid effects. Unfortunately, most of the ashwagandha you’ll find online does not work. The best one comes from Douglas Labs, but you need to get it through a doctor.

The Cure Alzheimer’s Fund

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July 5, 2015 5:02 pm

As Cure Alzheimer Fund(C.A.F.) has billions of dollars from grants and donations, and as professor doctor Tanzi (the main researcher from the C.A.F.) declared above that he wants to see some research with extra virgin coconut oil,then ,as a suggestion, what about if the main scientist of Cure Alzheimer Fund,as he desires ,uses some few hundred dollars from it billions of dollars of grants and donations of C.A.F. to do some very cheap,effective,fast and welsuccesful scientific research with coconut oil, and what about to develops derivatives from coconut oil ,with the same mechanisms of action of coconut oil, but with a higher effectiviness ((as he is developing fromthe spice turmeric)? For example 115 years ago, without none computers (as C. A. F.has now in 2015) researchers between the end of the XIX century and the first year of the XX century, WITHOUT none computer from the very primitive white willow bark (the salix alba),developed the Acetyl Salicic Acid (A.S.A.)so called ASPIRIN,that is reliefing pain and saving lives (from heart attacks),until these days).
Then if Cure Alzheimer Fund wants, with it billions dollars and hardwares, softwares and with theirs prestigious researchers, they can develops powerful derivatives from coconut oil to treat dementias.It is purely a question of good will and compassion (that I'm sure that C.A.F.researchers have a lot) to develop it derivative from coconut oil as professor Tanzi wants.I understand, that probably it will not leads to huge monetary proffits, but will leads to huge health proffits to the "poor" dementia patients…But for sure, the only proffit that C. A. F. wants is for the health of dementia patients.Then, please " Hands On" with coconut oil…

Reply to  Unknown
July 6, 2020 5:58 am

My mom no longer gets sugar cravings since switching to coconut oil and stopping all yellow oils and spreads. She has put on the weight she lost. I advise folks to rub MCT oil over back, arms and legs of LO's to increase absorption thru the skin, which is the largest organ. Zinc min 50mg for all LO's and a few more. Mostly, take note of blood test results. They hold key clues for pathways through which Alz/dementia develops. Eg B12 through the gut. I am damn sure Fluoride will prove to be a major factor in the end. It affects the thyroid and parathyroid, which are involved in vit D, Calcium, Sodium pump, bp, cholesterol control and more. My mom had an excess of Calcium, which caused her cognitive impairment and memory loss. Also tied to Acetylcholine deficiency. Why are they not researching known nutritional deficits? I know why more women than men get Alzheimer's and I am "gifted", but no genius. Big pharma not wanting to get answers. The money making Statins and other drugs are just too much big business. Even memory care places.

Reply to  Unknown
July 6, 2020 8:34 am

Blaming Big Pharma is a big cop-out. We all know what we should be eating less, drinking healthy, sleeping more, moving more, smoking less. Instead, as a society, we legalize more ways to smoke, computerize more ways to sit around, ignore food facts, entertain ourselves out of a good night's sleep, and remind ourselves each day that drinking Coke is "Open Happiness". Stop blaing, start building yourself up. Go to NutritionFacts.Org for the facts.

Reply to  Unknown
July 7, 2020 12:15 am

Pete – I could not agree more. For information on peer reviewed scientific facts NutritionFacts.Org has got everything covered.

January 22, 2018 7:02 pm

Coconut is a saturated fat. All saturated fats are a cognitive hazard:

And of course, coconut oil to treat AD has been thoroughly debunked:
Reply to  otto9B9otto
January 22, 2018 7:23 pm

Funny. I checked the link you provided after you said coconut oil has been "thoroughyl debunked." According to the study at YOUR link:

"an effect of coconut oil for the prevention or treatment of AD remains to be seen, as no clinical trial data is as of yet available to substantiate or refute these claims."

And then it goes on to discuss Axona, which is a powdered MCT concentrate that seems to be a pure coconut oil extract. The study you linked to states perfectly clearly that:

"While the benefit remains uncertain, the risks appear minimal, and this strategy is taking root in the armament of treatments many clinicians offer their patients with AD."

Which simply means that nothing about coconut oil for dementia has been debunked, while more and more doctors are making the effort to advise their patients to try it.

Thank you for the link to this study. It certainly helps add clarity to the topic of giving coconut oil for dementia a try.

Reply to  otto9B9otto
July 6, 2020 5:59 am

Ignorance is bliss. It works for us.

Reply to  otto9B9otto
July 7, 2020 12:22 am

otto9B9otto – you are correct. It is well documented in many peer reviewed research articles that heart health and brain health are linked. Not one doctor would recommend coconut oil or any other saturated fat if you had heart disease. All oils are processed foods and none are deemed useful in Alzheimer's prevention. While eating polyunsaturated fats in their real form (as in the the nut or fruit it comes from) has shown to lower cholesterol and prevent cardiovascular disease, this does not apply once converted into oils. If you want to do your best to prevent Alzheimer's the best foods to consume are whole plant foods.

Reply to  otto9B9otto
June 20, 2021 5:50 am

Thank you, otto. Precisely. Of course, "Motor Mouth" is just that. I'll venture he/she is also anti-vax and, of course, her/his mother still has AD. All the saturated fat in the world isn't going to "cure" her; in fact, it will hasten her demise from this horrendous syndrome (which I firmly think AD is).

Saturated fat is extremely inflammatory and that's a death knell for all things neurocognitive. If she's still with her/him, he/she would help her much more by concentrating on supplements that can help her maintain the integrity of her BBB (blood brain barrier), because she probably has at least one apoe variant.

September 23, 2019 7:05 pm

Folks with dementia are deficient in cholesterol, which has a massive protective effect on the brain. 20% of cholesterol is used in the brain, but only 40% gets through the blood-brain barrier. In my mom's case coconut oil stopped the sugar cravings and weight loss..So many folks with dementia have sugar cravings, which is the brain screeching for energy. I can see why folks with dementia lose weight. Their brains scour the body for fat to use as energy, which is why fish (krill) oils and other omega 3 & 6 fats like flaxseed supplementation is so important. Add the avocado and olive oil. I hAve begun to realize that to get in sufficient health white oils from.plant based sources
one has to rub MCT or coconut oil could be rubbed into the backs, arms and legs to increase absorption through the skin as the largest organ. Recently I read that it is Homosysteine levels that are a greater factor in memory loss. Finland leads the world dementia stats thanks to a low cholesterol drive started by a doctor in the early 70's to lower heart disease statistic's. Then you have anticholigenic meds and Statin drugs causing damage to our brains. Not to mention fluoride toxicity and heavy metals. There is plenty of cause and effect.

Reply to  MotorMouthAlzheimer's
June 20, 2021 5:42 am

OH, PLEASE. Spare everyone your pseudo science woo-woo. You've no idea what you're saying…you don't know a THING about Apoe4, do you? Look it up and its link to cholesterol. Then hush. SMH

B. Berger

B. Berger

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