This book needed to be written. Fortunately it has been written by a gentle expert, who has the patience and integrity to distinguish fact from opinion by providing references to scientific publications to support every claim.
Subtitled “A Step-by-Step Guide to Using Diet and a High-Energy Food to Protect and Nourish the Brain”, this book fulfills that role with clarity and practicality. It provides well-thought and well-presented lay-discussions of the known science regarding nourishment and healing of damaged brains and practical guidance for implementation in daily life. Importantly, it also provides a guide to recent thinking regarding the practice and efficacy of ketogenic therapy for damaged brains. It contains succinct introductions and references to numerous scientific publications which have appeared since the 2011 publication of “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living: An Expert Guide to Making the Life-Saving Benefits of Carbohydrate Restriction Sustainable and Enjoyable” by Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney.
Fresh ideas are presented and supported by scientific evidence. Dr. Newport is fellowship trained in Neonatology, the care of sick and premature newborns, and not in Neurology. This provides her with the advantage of a nonconventional viewpoint, but with the disadvantage of not belonging to the club. Neurological practice usually emphasizes drug treatments and surgeries to provide relief from the onerous symptoms of brain disorders, and less frequently considers nutritional issues. An emphasis of neonatal care is nutritional issues and their role in the proper development of the brains of premature infants. Ketones and Coconut Oil have an important role. Aware that her nutritional emphasis is a departure, Dr. Newport has gone to great lengths to consult with scientific experts from around the world in her quest for scientific support. Findings from these consultations are discussed and well-documented.
Enough background, let’s look at the contents of this book. This book is divided into three parts and each part contains several chapters. Part One: A Dietary Plan… is designed to introduce the reader to the high-energy/low-carb approach. Readable discussions and numerous recipes illustrate the principles, the facts, and the intuition of a low-carb life. Part Two discusses disorders that may respond to ketogenic therapy. These discussions include lay-level arguments for why some researchers believe there is hope. Part Three presents an introduction to the science. Doctor Newport attempts to find a middle ground between a superficial discussion and overwhelming scientific detail. This kind of presentation will rarely satisfy everyone and perhaps will satisfy no one. I think she has found a defendable middle ground. Throughout the book, there are ample references to satisfy those who want more detail.
Part One: Chapter 1 provides a high level discussion of why we should be interested in ketones and how they are provided by coconut oil and MCT oil. In these discussions Doctor Newport presents the pros and cons of simply adding these oils to your diet and the limitations on what benefits can be expected from that approach. Chapter 2 discusses how a low-carb diet can be expected to provide a substantial increase in benefits and begins a discussion of the practicalities of accepting the change of lifestyle, which is involved in undertaking a low-carb diet. Chapters 3 and 4 lapse into an informal question-and-answer format to provide additional information and answer many concerns and questions that have been raised about coconut oil and MCT oil. Part One concludes with a listing of simple, flavorful recipes, which emphasize the ingestion of coconut oil and MCT oil.
Part Two has chapters for each of the four primary neurological diseases: Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, and Multiple Sclerosis. Each chapter presents a discussion of why there is reason to believe that the disease is related to a deficiency in the ability of the brain to accept glucose-based nutrition, and how ketones have a potential to overcome this deficiency. Included are discussions of difficulties in obtaining ketone levels, which researchers believe are required for a full benefit. These difficulties appear to be more political than scientific. Although this could be taken as an appeal for political action, Doctor Newport does not make the pointed appeal characterized by Michael J Fox.
Part Three discusses the notion of Diabetes of the Brain, and how it is related to the neurodegenerative diseases. Ketone therapy is presented not as a cure for diabetes of the brain but rather an alternative nutritional path to serve the needs of the brain. The discussion continues: difficulties in achieving adequate ketone levels in the bloodstream; some practical scientific solutions, which could overcome these difficulties; and political roadblocks.
The second and third appendices provide additional depth of understanding with regard Alzheimer’s disease, which have come from Doctor Newport’s heroic efforts to find benefits for her husband Steve.
I found this book to be very readable. The subject matter is heavy, and while the discussions cannot be described as enjoyable, they are informative and they engender some hope. There is good evidence that it is not false hope. I recommend this book to anyone who is afflicted, to anyone who has an afflicted love-one, and to anyone who plans to live long enough that there is risk that they might become afflicted.
Disclaimer: While writings of the reviewer from HealthUnlocked are quoted, with permission, in chapter 9 of this book, the reviewer has received, and will receive no compensation for the use of his words other than an advance copy of the book.
Personal note. I continue to function on minimal Parkinson's meds, with 8T coconut oil. Parkie has made some gains. I have found that the CO works best for me if I minimize carbs -- the message in this book.