Could This Healthy Fat Be the Secret to Preventing Candida Infection?

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Could This Healthy Fat Be the Secret to Preventing Candida Infection?

The secret to preventing deadly candida infection may in fact be linked to your diet. According to a new study published in the American Society for Microbiology’s journal mSphere, the consumption of coconut oil has been linked with reduced gastrointestinal colonization by Candida albicans in mice.

This discovery is very promising with regards to the prevention of the invasive candida infection, which can seriously affect major organs and kills 40-50 percent of sufferers. Candida is a very common blood infection in hospitalized patients, often found in people who already have reduced immune systems, such as cancer patients, transplant patients, premature infants and intensive care unit patients. In less severe cases, candida overgrowth can cause a variety of issues that are often controlled by diet.

The discovery of coconut oil’s role in preventing this infection may also allow doctors to reduce their use of antifungal drugs in the treatment or prevention of Candida albicans, thus reducing the emergence of drug resistant strains of the microbe, a serious problem plaguing the medical world.

Candida albicans is a naturally occurring part of the gastrointestinal system in both mice and humans; it is only once it is out of control that it becomes a problem. Aside from serious infection cases, it is estimated that 70% of all people are affected in some way by candida overgrowth, according to research from Rice University.

The new study, funded by NIH, compared the Candida content of the gastrointestinal systems of mice on a high-beef tallow, soybean oil, or coconut oil diet or the standard American diet. “When you compared a mouse on a high fat diet that contained either beef fat or soy bean oil to mice eating coconut oil, there was about a ten-fold drop in colonization,” said lead study author Carol Kumamoto, PhD, professor of molecular biology and microbiology, Tufts University School of Medicine. These results were seen in as few as four days after the change in diet.

At this time, the study has not yet discovered whether this reduction in Candida extends to humans, though this is one of the possible directions the study could be taken at this point, according to Kumamoto. The researchers are currently in discussion with regards to the development of a clinical trial at Women and Infants Hospital of Rhode Island testing coconut oil in hospitalized infants at high-risk for developing systemic candidiasis.

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Coconut oil image via Shutterstock

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