Coconut oil has grown in popularity as a healthy alternative in cooking oil and even as a drink. While it is high in saturated fat, since it is primarily comprised of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), it is digested faster than the long-chain triglycerides found in other fats and oils. It’s also purported to raise your metabolism.
While more research needs to be done on the aforementioned health benefits, there’s another one being floated around: fighting tooth decay. Researchers at the Athlone Institute of Technology in Ireland say that when they treated coconut oil with enzymes, it blocked the growth of streptococcus bacteria, a leading cause of tooth decay.
Here’s how tooth decay comes about: Bacteria feed on sugar. They then make acids that attack your teeth. So, if the bacteria growth can be minimized to begin with, your chances for tooth decay can also be minimized.
The researchers tested vegetable oil and olive oil alongside coconut oil. Each was treated with enzymes to try to mimic the digestive process. They say that only coconut oil stopped the growth of most strains of streptococcus bacteria. When lauric acid, a fatty acid in coconut oil, is digested, it converts into monolaurin. Proponents believe it helps fight harmful bacteria.
Tooth decay affects more than one in four children between two and five years old in the United States. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about half of all children have had tooth decay.