London: Coconut oil is a natural antibiotic that attacks the bacteria causing tooth decay. It could be incorporated into commercial dental care products, say scientists.
Researchers from the Athlone Institute of Technology, 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.
They found that enzyme-modified coconut oil strongly inhibited the growth of most strains of Streptococcus bacteria which commonly inhabit the mouth, including Streptococcus mutans – an acid – producing bug that is a major cause of tooth decay.
Damien Brady who is leading the research at Athlone, said: “Dental carries is a commonly overlooked health problem affecting 60-90 percent of children and the majority of adults in industrialised countries.”
Additional testing by the Athlone Institute found that enzyme-modified coconut oil was also harmful to the yeast Candida albicans that can cause thrush.
Researchers suggest that enzyme-modified coconut oil has potential as a marketable antimicrobial which could be of particular interest to the oral health care industry, according to an Athlone 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,” added Brady.
These findings were presented at the Society for General Microbiology’s Autumn Conference at the University of Warwick, UK.