Coconut Oil Fights Deadly Yeast Infections, Study Suggests

Many indigenous cultures have looked towards coconut palm for a source of medical treatment since ancient times. 

Now, scientific evidence is validating the traditional health benefits including heart protection, reduction of stress and depression, and maintaining brain health. 

At Tufts University, a new study conducted by researchers has discovered that coconut oil is highly effective in prohibiting the excessive overgrowth of fungal pathogen Candida albicans in mice. 

The American Society for Microbiology’s journal mSphere published a study titled,"Manipulation of Host Diet to Reduce Gastrointestinal Colonization by the Opportunistic Pathogen Candida Albicans," that finds C. Albicans is a popular human pathogen, that has a mortality rate of 40% when causing systemic infections. 

C.Albicans is commonly present in the gastrointestinal tract in humans, but with the use of antibiotics, the healthy bacteria that keep candida levels low, are killed off. The study concluded that the overgrowth of C. Albicans had contributed to a compromised immune system, and "Systemic infections caused by C. albicans can lead to invasive candidiasis, which is the fourth most common blood infection among hospitalized patients in the United States according to the CDC."

Many anti-fungal drugs carry many adverse side effects with them, and the use of them repetitively, can ultimately lead to the development and rapid growth of drug-resistant strains of fungal pathogens, which makes healthier alternatives the best option to undertake. It was hypothesized by the researchers that a coconut-based diet could lower Candida infection in mice. had reported the design and results of the study below: 

The team was led by Alice H. Lichtenstein, a nutrition scientist, and Carol Kumamoto, a microbiologist. Both investigated the three different fats on the levels of C. Albicans in the guts of the mice: beef tallow, coconut oil and soybean oil. A standard diet was administered to a control group of mice and it was found that coconut oil, based form previous studies, that the fat contained anti-fungal properties. A diet with coconut oil was found to reduce amounts of C.albicans in the gut by over 90 percent in comparison to a diet consisted of beef tallow.

"Coconut oil even reduced fungal colonization when mice were switched from beef tallow to coconut oil, or when mice were fed both beef tallow and coconut oil at the same time. These findings suggest that adding coconut oil to a patient's existing diet might control the growth of C. albicans in the gut, and possibly decrease the risk of fungal infections caused by C. albicans," says Kumamoto, Ph.D., a professor of molecular biology and microbiology at Tufts University School of Medicine and a member of the molecular microbiology and genetics program faculties at the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences.

In a statement to ScienceDaily, 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:"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. 

As exciting as these findings are, we have to keep in mind that the majority of adult Americans are at high risk for heart disease, the number one killer in the U.S. The potential use of coconut oil in the short term to control the rate of fungal overgrowth should not be considered a prophylactic approach to preventing fungal infections."

Kearney Gunsalus, PhD. who is the first author of the study, and an Institutional Research and Academic Career Development (IRACDA) postdoctoral fellow at the Sackler School in Kumamoto's lab, had to say this on the implications of the study: "We want to give clinicians a treatment option that might limit the need for anti-fungal drugs. If we can use coconut oil as a safe, dietary alternative, we could decrease the amount of anti-fungal drugs used, reserving anti-fungal drugs for critical situations.” 

Past research can be found on, that proves coconut oil is a potent fighter against dermatophytes (a type of yeast that causes hair, nails, and skin infections because they can use keratin.

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