Coconut oil ‘cures’ Candida fungal infection
COCONUT OIL oil has been shown to be effective against C. albicans infection in mice.
The study – led by Prof. Carol Kumamoto, PhD, from Tufts University in Massachusetts – is published in the American Society for Microbiology’s journal mSphere.
Kumamoto and her colleagues explain that in people with compromised immune systems – such as cancer patients, transplant patients, premature infants and sometimes the elderly – C. albicans can leave the gut and enter the bloodstream, where it can cause deadly infection, affecting the kidneys, liver, spleen, lungs, brain and heart valves.
They note that nearly half of patients with systemic C. albicans infection will die from it.
Cocus nucifera (coconut) is traditionally recognized for its medicinal properties among several other uses. The use of coconut water to counteract poisons is a common practice in Africa as well as India. It has severally been used as an immediate remedy for drug over dosage.
Thrush is becoming one of the commonest infant diseases in the country, not sparing adults with compromised immunity due to certain diseases. It comes with white patches on the tongue and general skin diseases in infants (called nla in Yoruba and obu in Ibo) and in adults with white patches in genital areas.
Candida albicans is part of the normal gut microbiome in humans and animals, but when the fungus gets out of balance in the body, it can cause infection. Though antifungal medications are sometimes used, a new study suggests coconut oil may be an effective treatment.
The Guardian investigation revealed that thrush or candidiasis, caused by Candida albicans, is on the prowl in Nigeria.
Kumatmoto said: “People who get this disease are very sick and generally in the hospital. Candida is one of the most common causes of bloodstream infections in hospitalized patients.”
Although the current first line of defense is to use antifungal drugs, the researchers explain that they can contribute to the emergence of drug-resistant strains, so clinicians are cautious about using them.
Previous in vitro studies have shown that coconut oil has antifungal properties; because changes in the amount and type of fat can alter gastrointestinal microbiota, the team designed an experiment involving different high-fat diets and their effect on the guts of mice.
The high-fat diets fed to the mice contained either coconut oil, beef tallow or soybean oil. Meanwhile, another group of mice was fed a standard diet.
All groups of mice were fed these diets for 14 days before the researchers inoculated them with C. albicans, and they continued on their respective diets for 21 more days.
Results showed that 21 days after the inoculation, the mice that were fed the coconut oil diet had C. albicans colonization in their stomachs that was significantly lower than the mice that were fed the beef tallow diet, the soybean oil diet or the standard diet.
Kumamoto notes that there “was about a 10-fold drop in colonization” in the mice that ate coconut oil, compared with those that ate either beef fat or soy bean oil.
In a further experiment, she and her team switched the mice on the beef fat diet to the coconut oil diet and found that just four days after the diet change, “the colonization changed so it looked almost exactly like what you saw in a mouse who had been on coconut oil the entire time.”
Commenting further on their findings, Kumamoto says: “We found that diet can be an effective way to reduce the amount of Candida in the mouse. The extension of this finding to the human population is something that needs to be addressed in the future.”
She explains that they would like to find out the mechanism behind how coconut oil produces these effects and whether these results can be replicated in humans.
If all goes according to plan, the research team will launch a clinical trial involving hospitalized infants who are at high risk for systemic candidiasis and how coconut oil may help.
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