2016 Volume 65 Issue 8 Pages 693-699
Coconut oil has recently attracted considerable attention as a potential Alzheimer’s disease therapy because it contains large amounts of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) and its consumption is thought to stimulate hepatic ketogenesis, supplying an alternative energy source for brains with impaired glucose metabolism. In this study, we first reevaluated the responses of plasma ketone bodies to oral administration of coconut oil to rats. We found that the coconut oil-induced increase in plasma ketone body concentration was negligible and did not significantly differ from that observed after high-oleic sunflower oil administration. In contrast, the administration of coconut oil substantially increased the plasma free fatty acid concentration and lauric acid content, which is the major MCFA in coconut oil. Next, to elucidate whether lauric acid can activate ketogenesis in astrocytes with the capacity to generate ketone bodies from fatty acids, we treated the KT-5 astrocyte cell line with 50 and 100 μM lauric acid for 4 h. The lauric acid treatments increased the total ketone body concentration in the cell culture supernatant to a greater extent than oleic acid, suggesting that lauric acid can directly and potently activate ketogenesis in KT-5 astrocytes. These results suggest that coconut oil intake may improve brain health by directly activating ketogenesis in astrocytes and thereby by providing fuel to neighboring neurons.