Possible Philippine Coconut Production Boost In Wake Of Irish Research
3 Sep 2012
Coconut oil toothpaste could be in the shops shortly giving organic protection against tooth decay
Researchers at Irish Technology Institute show coconut oil could combat tooth decay
Work at the Athlone Institute Of Technology (AIT) in Ireland has discovered that coconut oil has an anti-bacterial effect, reducing dental caries and could lead to an "organic" toothpaste.
The worrying growth of bacteria which are antibiotic resistant is also of interest in this research.
Digested coconut oil is able to attack the bacteria that cause tooth decay. It is a natural antibiotic that could be incorporated into commercial dental care products, say scientists at Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT).
The team from AIT tested the antibacterial action of coconut oil in its natural state and coconut oil that had been treated with enzymes, in a process similar to digestion. The oils were tested against strains of Streptococcus bacteria which are common inhabitants of the mouth.They found that 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.
Many previous studies have shown that partially digested foodstuffs are active against micro-organisms. Earlier work on enzyme-modified milk showed that it was able to reduce the binding of S. mutans to tooth enamel, which prompted the group to investigate the effect of other enzyme-modified foods on bacteria.
Further work will examine how coconut oil interacts with Streptococcus bacteria at the molecular level and which other strains of harmful bacteria and yeasts it is active against. Additional testing by the group at AIT found that enzyme-modified coconut oil was also harmful to the yeast Candida albicans that can cause thrush.
The researchers suggest that enzyme-modified coconut oil has potential as a marketable antimicrobial which could be of particular interest to the oral healthcare industry. Dr Brady said: “Dental caries is a commonly overlooked health problem affecting 60-90% of children and the majority of adults in industrialised countries. Incorporating enzyme-modified coconut oil into dental hygiene products would be an attractive alternative to chemical additives, particularly as it works at relatively low concentrations. Also, with increasing antibiotic resistance, it is important that we turn our attention to new ways to combat microbial infection.”
The work also contributes to our understanding of antibacterial activity in the human gut. “Our data suggests that products of human digestion show antimicrobial activity. This could have implications for how bacteria colonize the cells lining the digestive tract and for overall gut health,” explained Dr Brady.
“Our research has shown that digested milk protein not only reduced the adherence of harmful bacteria to human intestinal cells but also prevented some of them from gaining entrance into the cell. We are currently researching coconut oil and other enzyme-modified foodstuffs to identify how they interfere with the way bacteria cause illness and disease,” he said.
The research was supported by the AIT President’s Seed Research Fund, which has invested €750,000 in postgraduate research work since 2010. The MSc project is being carried out by Patricia Hughes, supervised by Dr Brady and Prof Neil Rowan at AIT. Ms Hughes graduated with a degree in veterinary nursing in 2009 from Athlone Institute of Technology.
AIT has expanded in size, scope, and influence over the past 40 years.
Its focus in the early years was on providing training in a broad spectrum of occupations ranging from craft to professional level, notably in engineering and science, but also in commercial, linguistic, and other specialities. This has evolved considerably, and at present the institute caters for an educational spectrum that stretches from craft and apprentice training through to doctoral studies and post-doctoral research.
AIT has grown its capabilities as a leader in innovative business-oriented research and development for new technologies, through upgrading its research centres and expanding the level of interaction with the industry base in its catchment area.
These actions highlighted the importance of ensuring that AIT and other third level institutions in the region move up the value chain in relation to the provision of undergraduate and postgraduate courses, while also developing a world-class research capability in research areas that are aligned with and build on the region’s sectoral industrial strengths.
The student population in Athlone is characterised by a high proportion of learners from overseas. In the current academic year, 435 students (11.1% of the student body) from 22 different countries are registered at AIT. This number is split approximately evenly between European and non-European students, although within that there are large variations. China remains the largest source of international students and in the current academic year, 164 learners from that country are studying at AIT. Recent agreements signed with the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have impacted on the numbers coming from the Middle East.
Key initiatives within AIT’s research strategy include the underpinning and support of strategic research activities aligned with the strengths of regional and national priorities, the development of three focused research institutes in materials (MRI), bioscience (BRI) and software (SRI), the development of joint research initiatives with HEIs in Ireland and internationally, and the creation of a new research campus in collaboration with key regional and international stakeholders.