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Coconut Oil, Tooth Cavities and You

May 01, 2013

Faithful readers of this column are probably familiar with the Singhalese proverb: “If you had teeth of steel, you could eat iron coconuts.” Or did Gary Sinise say that as Lieutenant Dan in Forrest Gump? Whatever.

The point is our May blog series is on healthy foods for dental wellness and today we’re talking about coconut oil and how it may help prevent tooth cavities. What? You heard somewhere that coconut oil is a saturated fat that is bad for your arteries, bad for your cholesterol and bad for your hands because it’s hard to squeeze on your movie theatre popcorn?

Friends, that is sooo 90’s thinking.

Food tastes (pun intended), like fashion fads, are cyclical. Coconut advocates today believe that coconut oil helps regulates the blood sugar of diabetics, assists with weight loss, and is good for skin and hair. Coconut fundamentalists also believe that coconut oil even relieves the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease

In A Nutshell Like all fats, coconut oil is a blend of fatty acids.  Pure virgin coconut oil is 92% saturated fat, making it the Fattest Fat Cat of saturated fats.  But coconut oil contains a unique blend of short and medium chain fatty acids, including 44% lauric and 16.8% myristic acids. It's this unusual composition of acids that proponents think may provide some metabolism magic.

Lauric acid is used in treating viral infections, colds and fever blisters. Myristic acid is used in the food industry as a flavoring agent and the body uses it to stabilize different proteins, including those in the immune system.

Like all saturated fats, the American Heart Association says coconut oil should be limited to 7%-10% of daily calories because it may increase the risk of heart disease.

Tooth Cavity Shield Today dental researchers are jumping on the coconut oil benefit bandwagon. Scientists from Ireland’s Athlone Institute of Technology have reported that enzyme-modified coconut oil inhibits the growth of Streptococcus mutans.

I know what you’re thinking. What do dinosaurs have to do with coconut oil and cavity prevention? Streptococcus mutans is the acid-producing bacteria long known to be a major cause of tooth decay. Not as long known as the dinosaurs but I digress.

Scientists modified the enzyme in their testing to mimic what happens to coconut oil after it’s digested because earlier studies showed that enzyme-modified milk reduced the clinginess of tooth decay bacteria to tooth enamel.

Researchers believe that enzyme modified coconut oil shows potential as a practical anti-microbial (germ fighter) that could benefit the oral health industry.  “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,” said Dr. Damien Brady, study researcher.

Aww, Nuts – Not So Fast Not everyone in the medical community is nuts about the benefits of coconut oil. WebMD currently has an article posted online entitled, “The Truth About Coconut Oil.” In a nutshell the article says most of the claims about the benefits of coconut oil are personal testimonials rather than documented clinical evidence.

“All that has been studied well is the impact of coconut oil on cholesterol levels and the findings are intriguing but we still don’t know if it is harmful or beneficial,” says Dariush Mosaffarian, MD, DrPH of Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health.

Translation: many of the benefits of coconut oil may be true, but more clinical studies are needed before concluding it’s an all-purpose health fruit that can be consumed in generous amounts without harming your heart and arteries.

So go ahead and enjoy an occasional Almond Joy® and cooking/baking with coconut oil, but use the ol’ coconut on top of your shoulders and do so in moderation.

Check back next week when Felicia shares her take on healthy foods for dental wellness. Felicia is a big fan of the Paleo diet and using coconut oil and olive oil for cooking and baking so she’ll have some ideas you won’t want to miss!

Thanks for reading Agent Straight-Talk and remember, “You’re never fully dressed without a smile.” Email us with comments

Copyright 2013 Bloom Insurance Agency, LLC©
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