Study leader Dr. Damien Brady at 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 -- a process similar to digestion -- against strains of Streptococcus bacteria common in the mouth.
The study found the 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.
"Dental caries is a commonly overlooked health problem affecting 60 percent to 90 percent 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," Brady said in a statement. "Also, with increasing antibiotic resistance, it is important that we turn our attention to new ways to combat microbial infection."
The findings were presented at the Society for General Microbiology's autumn conference at the University of Warwick in England.