The oil, one of the commonest foods, has been found to have powerful antifungal features that could literally save lives.
The coconut palm is maybe the most widely distributed and multipurpose food-medicine in the world, and has been valued and even revered by native cultures for a wide range of health complaints since long, long ago. More and more, scientific proofs are emerging and they validate the traditionally ascribed health benefits, such as improving the brain health, reducing stress and depression and protecting the heart.
A recent study conducted by the researchers from the Tufts University has revealed that coconut oil is highly efficient in controlling the overgrowth of the opportunistic fungal pathogen Candida albicans in mice.
The study, titled Manipulation of Host Diet to Reduce Gastrointestinal Colonization by the Opportunistic Pathogen Candida Albicans, was published in the mSphere journal of the American Society for Microbiology. In it, it was said that C. albicans is the most common human pathogen, and its death rate is around 40% when it causes systemic infections.
Usually, Candida albicans is present in the gastrointestinal tract in people, but very often, antibiotics destroy the bacteria that usually keep Candida populations within a healthy range. The study claims that compromised immunity is also one of the key causes of Candida albicans overgrowth and that systemic infections caused by C. albicans can contribute to invasive candidiasis, the fourth most common blood infection amongst hospitalized patients in the United States according to the CDC.
The conventional anti-fungal medications carry with them considerable risk of side-effects and continual use of these medications can contribute to the development of drug resistant strains of fungal pathogens. This makes the natural approaches more appealing. The researchers have assumed that a change in the diet, based on coconut, might reduce Candida infection in mice. The results of the study were the following:
The group of scientists was led by Carol Kumamoto, a microbiologist, and Alice H. Lichtenstein, a nutrition scientist. They tested the effects of three different dietary fats on the quantity of Candida alicans in the gut of the mice: beef tallow, soybean oil and coconut oil. The tested groups of mice were given their usual food for mice. Coconut oil was chosen based on previous research that discovered that the fat had antifungal features in the laboratory setting.
The results of the three groups of mice were different. Compared to the groups that were being given beef tallow and soybean oil, the group of mice that was being given coconut oil had reduced the Candida albicans in the gut. The groups of mice that were given only coconut oil, or coconut oil and beef tallow had a reduced amount of Candida albicans in the gut by over 90 percent compared to the group of mice that was being given only beef tallow.
Groups that were switched from food based on beef tallow to food based on coconut oil has reduced fungal colonization as well once the change has been done, or once they started taking food based on both beef tallow and coconut oil at the same time. These results imply that if you add coconut oil to a patients existing diet you might control the growth of Candida albicans in the gut, and you also might possibly lower the risk of fungal infections caused by Candida albicans, claims Kumamoto, Ph.D., a professor of molecular biology and microbiology at the Tufts Universitys School of Medicine, and also a member of the molecular microbiology and genetics program faculties at the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences.
Even though preliminary, these results have profound suggestions for the practice of medicine. Alice H LIchtenstein, D.Sc., director of the Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University says that this study is the initial step in understanding how life-threatening yeast infections in liable individuals can be reduced through the short-term and besieged use of a specific type of fat. However, no matter how exciting these discoveries are, we have to take into consideration the fact that the majority of adult Americans have an increased risk of heart disease, the number one killer in the United States. That is why the possible use of coconut oil in the short term to control the rate of fungal overgrowth should not be regarded as a prophylactic approach to preventing fungal infections.
Kearney Gunsalus, Ph.D. an Institutional Research and Academic Career Development (IRACDA) postdoctoral fellow at the Sackler School in Kumamotos laboratory and the first creator of the study has also given his opinion on the study implications and says that they want to provide an option for the hospitalized patients that might limit the need for antifungal medications. This could be achieved by the use of coconut oil as a safe dietary alternative, which will lower the amount of antifungal medications used and reserve them for critical situations.
A previous research suggests that coconut oil is also an efficient anti-fungal agent against the growth of dermatophytes. The dermatophytes are a type of yeast that can lead to skin, nails and hair infections, since this type of yeast uses keratin.