Sept 3, 2012
by NATASHA LONGO
The human body converts the lauric acid found in coconut oil into an amazing monoglyceride called monolaurin which is only found in abundance in one other liquid--breast milk. It has anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-protozoa properties. Lauric acid is a powerful virus and gram-negative bacteria destroyer, and coconut oil contains the most lauric acid of any substance on earth. It is able to attack the bacteria that cause tooth decay say scientists presenting their work at the Society for General Microbiology's Autumn Conference at the University of Warwick.
The team from the Athlone Institute of Technology in Ireland tested the antibacterial action of coconut oil in its natural state and coconut oil that had been treated with enzymes, in a process similar to digestion. The oils were tested against strains of Streptococcus bacteria which are common inhabitants of the mouth. They found that enzyme-modified coconut oil strongly inhibited the growth of most strains of Streptococcus bacteria including Streptococcus mutans -- an acid-producing bacterium that is a major cause of tooth decay.
Coconut oil is:
Anti-bacterial (kills bacteria that cause ulcers, throat infections, urinary tract infections, gum diseases, and other bacterial infections)
Anti-carcinogenic (coconut oil has antimicrobial properties so it effectively prevents the spread of cancer cells and enhances the immune system)
Anti-fungal (kills fungi and yeast that lead to infection)
Anti-inflammatory (appears to have a direct effect in suppressing inflammation and repairing tissue, and it may also contribute by inhibiting harmful intestinal microorganisms that cause chronic inflammation.)
Anti-microbial/Infection Fighting (the medium-chain fatty acids and monoglycerides found in coconut oil are the same as those in human mother's milk, and they have extraordinary antimicrobial properties. By disrupting the lipid structures of microbes, they inactivate them. About half of coconut oil consists of lauric acid. Lauric acid, its metabolite monolaurin and other fatty acids in coconut oil are known to protect against infection from bacteria, viruses, yeast, fungi and parasites. While not having any negative effect on beneficial gut bacteria, coconut oil inactivates undesirable microbes.)
An Antioxidant (protects against free-radical formation and damage)
Anti-parasitic (fights to rid the body of tapeworms, lice and other parasites)
Anti-protozoa (kills giardia, a common protozoan infection of the gut)
Anti-retroviral (kills HIV and HLTV-1)
Anti-viral (kills viruses that cause influenza, herpes, measles, hepatitis C, SARS, AIDS, and other viruses)
Has no harmful for discomforting side effects
Known to improve nutrient absorption (easily digestible; makes vitamins and minerals more available to the body)
Nontoxic to humans and animals
Many previous studies have shown that partially digested foodstuffs are active against micro-organisms. Earlier work on enzyme-modified milk showed that it was able to reduce the binding of S. mutans to tooth enamel, which prompted the group to investigate the effect of other enzyme-modified foods on bacteria.
Further work will examine how coconut oil interacts with Streptococcus bacteria at the molecular level and which other strains of harmful bacteria and yeasts it is active against. Additional testing by the group at the Athlone Institute of Technology found that enzyme-modified coconut oil was also harmful to the yeast Candida albicans that can cause thrush.
The researchers suggest that enzyme-modified coconut oil has potential as a marketable antimicrobial which could be of particular interest to the oral healthcare industry. Dr Damien Brady who is leading the research said, "Dental caries is a commonly overlooked health problem affecting 60-90% of children and the majority of adults in industrialized countries. 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."
Type of Coconut oil to use:
Virgin (unrefined) coconut oil tastes and smells coconutty and is great for cooking and baking where you want that flavor. You can use it for anything but it will impart a coconut taste (mild) and odor (pleasant in my book)! Unrefined coconut oil retains the most nutritional value and is superior to refined oil.
Expeller pressed (refined) coconut oil can be used for anything. It does not have a coconutty smell or taste. It is still outstanding to use but does lose some of it’s health properties during the refining process.
The work also contributes to our understanding of antibacterial activity in the human gut. "Our data suggests that products of human digestion show antimicrobial activity. This could have implications for how bacteria colonize the cells lining the digestive tract and for overall gut health," explained Dr Brady. "Our research has shown that digested milk protein not only reduced the adherence of harmful bacteria to human intestinal cells but also prevented some of them from gaining entrance into the cell. We are currently researching coconut oil and other enzyme-modified foodstuffs to identify how they interfere with the way bacteria cause illness and disease," he said.
Natasha Longo has a master's degree in nutrition and is a certified fitness and nutritional counselor. She has consulted on public health policy and procurement in Canada, Australia, Spain, Ireland, England and Germany.