The reason? It turns out the oil is able to fight the bacteria that cause tooth decay, according to scientists who recently presented their work at the Society for General Microbiology's Autumn Conference at the University of Warwick in the UK. What's more, coconut oil appears to have a broad impact against many pathogens - making it an important, natural weapon in fighting infections which have grown increasingly resistant to antibiotics.
The researchers from the Athlone Institute of Technology in Ireland tested the antibacterial action of coconut oil by treating it with enzymes in a process similar to digestion to see how the oil would react once consumed. They found that coconut oil, once ingested, should be able to halt the growth of most strains of Streptococcus bacteria, including Streptococcus mutans. This type of bacteria is a primary cause of cavities because it produces tooth-damaging acid.
In addition, the research team discovered the enzyme-modified coconut oil was also active against the yeast Candida albicans that can cause thrush and other health problems. Now the scientists are working to find out how coconut oil interacts with Streptococcus bacteria at the molecular level and which other kinds of harmful bacteria and yeasts it might be able to zap.
"Dental caries is a commonly overlooked health problem affecting 60-90 percent of children and the majority of adults in industrialized countries," Dr. Damien Brady, who is leading the research, said in a press statement. "Incorporating enzyme-modified coconut oil into dental hygiene products would be an attractive alternative to chemical additives, particularly as it works at relatively low concentrations. Also, with increasing antibiotic resistance, it is important that we turn our attention to new ways to combat microbial infection."
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About the author:
Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA's "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine's "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic's "Men's Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.