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Yet Another Win for Coconut Oil

A new study suggests that coconut oil can be a safe alternative to antifungal drugs.

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Coconut oil in glass jar with raw coconut

xuanhuongho/Thinkstock

Benjamin Franklin declared that “beer is proof God loves us,” but perhaps he’d never met a coconut. If these nuggets of nourishment don’t provide evidence of a benevolent and sustaining universe, what does? The coconut is a true superfood that is not only tasty and filling, but can improve blood cholesterol levels, contain antioxidants, and help boost calorie burning. It’s a healthy cooking oil with a high smoking point, making it safer to use than olive oil at the kitchen stove. Coconut oil is equally hard working in the bathroom cabinet, serving as an inexpensive lip balm, skin moisturizer, hair conditioner, and mouthwash for oil swishing. Some studies have suggested that coconut oil may even improve cognitive function in Alzheimer’s patients, though more research is needed. And now, a new study suggests that coconut oil can be a safe alternative to antifungal drugs.

Researchers at Tufts University found that coconut oil controlled the overgrowth of Candida albicans in mice. C. albicans is a type of yeast that normally lives in the gastrointestinal tract and elsewhere in the body. When it gets too rowdy, C. albicans can cause problems like yeast infections, or, more seriously, invasive bloodstream infections, especially in premature babies and the elderly.

The researchers fed the mice their standard diet, plus either a coconut oil, beef oil or soybean oil. The coconut alone, or a combination of the beef and coconut, reduced the amount of C. albicans in the mice’s gut by more than 90 percent.

“This study marks a first step in understanding how life-threatening yeast infections in susceptible individuals might be reduced through the short-term and targeted use of a specific type of fat,” wrote researcher 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.

“We want to give clinicians a treatment option that might limit the need for antifungal drugs. If we can use coconut oil as a safe, dietary alternative, we could decrease the amount of antifungal drugs used, reserving antifungal drugs for critical situations,” wrote the study’s first author Kearney Gunsalus, Ph.D., an Institutional Research and Academic Career Development (IRACDA) postdoctoral fellow in Kumamoto’s lab. Gunsalus and her colleagues have proposed a clinical trial to assess the efficacy of coconut oil to reduce the amount of C. albicans in the gut of premature infants who are at high risk.

Potentially life-saving medicine, from the same coconuts that give us the piña colada. Further proof that God indeed loves us.


Kathryn Drury Wagner is a writer and editor based in Los Angeles. Her latest book is Hawaii’s Strangest, Ickiest, Wildest Book Ever!


Kathryn Drury Wagner

Kathryn Drury Wagner is a writer and editor based in Los Angeles. She is the author of Hawaii’s Strangest, Ickiest, Wildest Book Ever!, a science and natural history “gross out” for young readers.  


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