Coconuts are in the news, and your grocery-store shelves, due to mounting evidence related to coconuts’ health benefits. The latest research into the fuzzy, fibrous fruit shows coconut oil could combat tooth decay.

Digested coconut oil is a natural antibiotic that could be incorporated into commercial dental care products, say scientists who presented their work at the Society for General Microbiology’s Autumn Conference at the University of Warwick.

The team from the Athlone Institute of Technology in Ireland 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.