Partially Digested Food Saves Teeth

Everything that you eat or drink first must go trough your mouth, so you know that it is very important that you practice continuous oral hygiene in order to keep your mouth and teeth healthy. Healthy teeth are good indicators of your overall health and genetic quality.¬†However, your teeth aren’t here JUST for a pretty smile. Thousands of years of evolution have shaped human teeth specifically to support human eating habits – that of omnivores.Our teeth serve as food grinders which enable your stomach to digest food more efficiently. This implies that the state of your teeth can have a significant impact on the quality of your life (notice how people with no/bad teeth have problems with chewing solid food, so they must chop everything into small pieces before eating). Bad teeth can also be the underlying cause of many other conditions, as bacterial infections can spread to other organs.

The leading cause of dental caries (decay) is a family of bacteria known as ‘streptococci mutans’. Naturally, your teeth are safeguarded from bacterial decay by your saliva, which contains antibacterial compounds (e.g. immunoglobulin A and lysozime). However, when you fall asleep, saliva secretion drops to zero, which means – party time for bacteria. The lack of saliva and modern half-artificial sugar-rich low quality junk food increase the risk of tooth decay, which means that we have to do everything we can to help our body to fight off dental caries. This means using additional dental care products. Flouride (main toothpaste ingredient) was the compound of choice for the oral care industry up until now.Recently however, the scientific community is buzzing about a new discovery in the field; enzyme-activated food with antimicrobial action. It has been discovered, that enzyme-modified foods can successfully fight off bacteria which cause dental caries.

The research was carried out in a laboratory, but the enzymes which the scientists used are the same ones used by your stomach to digest food. This in fact means that some partially digested foods can help prevent dental caries (e.g. coconut oil, milk). When subjected to digestion, coconut oil becomes a powerful antibacterial agent which effectively inhibits the growth of several different bacteria; ‘streptococcus mutans’, which causes dental caries and ‘candida albicans’ which causes both oral and genital infections. The breakthroughs were presented at the Society for General Microbiology’s Autumn Conference at the University of Warwick in the UK. () The end goal of this effort is to incorporate enzyme-treated coconut oil into dental care products and make it available to millions around the world, which would hopefully improve the overall dental health around the world. This way, enzyme-modified coconut oil could replace a whole myriad of chemical additives used in toothpastes today and provide a natural alternative to synthetic antibiotics.

The research was pioneered by Dr. Damien Brady¬†and his fellow scientists from the Irish Athlone Institute of Technology, who decided to experiment with the effect of enzymes on coconut oil, after previous research on milk showed promising results. The results of their work are also beneficial for understanding the antimicrobial flora present in the human gastrointestinal tract. Dr. Brady and his team have also shown that partially digested milk can effectively prevent bacteria from penetrating the cells of intestinal walls. This research is very important, because it makes way for research on other – more dangerous bacteria. Dr. Brady and his team are currently trying to find out how enzyme-modified foods and bacteria interact on a molecular level. Considering that more and more bacteria are showing resistance to conventional antibiotics, partially digested coconut oil and its antimicrobial properties are a significant contribution to our never ending battle with organisms who occupy the microbial “world”.

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