Does Oil Pulling Help with Cancer?

Does Oil Pulling Help with Cancer?
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What evidence exists to suggest oil pulling can effectively treat serious diseases, such as paralysis, meningitis, cancer, and AIDS?

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

I’ve done videos on how coconut oil is safe to put on your hair, or on your skin. But, you certainly don’t want to eat the stuff. You may not even want to be in the same kitchen when it’s being cooked with. I don’t know where people get the idea it’s safe to cook with. It’s got one of the lowest smoke points. At typical frying temperatures, it can release a variety of toxic compounds—in fact, even below the smoke point. So, you want there to be good ventilation.

You also don’t want to inject it into your privates, and even standing under a coconut tree is not completely without risk. But, what about swishing coconut oil around in your mouth? So-called “oil pulling” is evidently “a time-honored…folk remedy that involves swishing…oil in [your] mouth”—“pulling” it back and forth between your teeth “for [purported] oral and systemic health benefits.” You put a spoonful of oil in your mouth, swishing for up to 20 minutes. If that’s too much, you can go five or 10 minutes. Then, you spit it out, rinse out your mouth, and then, brush your teeth.

I could see how it might dislodge dental plaque or something, and have oral health benefits, but what’s this about systemic effects? Not only is it supposedly “absolutely harmless,” but “it effectively treats the most varied diseases, in some cases enabling one to avoid [drugs and surgery].” I was excited to check out this citation, until I realized the citation was to oilpulling.com, an e-book, where you can evidently get answers to questions like “oilforoilpulling, pulling oil and diseases cured, and the science behind oilpulling therpy and much more.”

The moral of the story is: always check your sources.

There is one source cited by oil-pulling proponents that seems legit, published in the British Dental Journal, but it’s just a letter from some guy saying that the literature has reported that oil pulling can “effectively treat” things like “paralysis,…meningitis,…and chronic diseases like [oh] cancer, AIDS etc.” But, absolutely no references are given. So, this literature of which he speaks is presumably the fairy-tale literature. The bottom line is that there is simply no scientific proof. Okay, but what about the “oral health” claims?

If you look at the list of purported “benifits” (I think oil pulling may adversely impact spell check), they go from blood clots to “stop[ping] the growth of malignant tumors.” And, you look at those citations purported to back such wild statements up, and you won’t be surprised at this point to see they have absolutely nothing to do with blood clots, cancer, or any of those other diseases, but instead are references to studies done on dental health. Okay, well, let’s not spit the baby out with the bathwater; let’s see what they say.

The studies started out like this: add oil pulling to some people’s regular oral hygiene regimens, and stand back and watch gingivitis get better, week after week, as the amount of plaque gets less and less. Conclusion: “Oil pulling [has] dental benefits.” This was with sunflower oil; same thing with coconut oil. Gingivitis; gum inflammation started to get better within a week, as the dental plaque went down. Looks pretty good, right? So, same conclusion: “Oil pulling…could be an effective [addition to one’s oral hygiene habits].”

Okay, so what’s wrong with these studies? Right, “no control group.” But, why am I always going on and on about needing control groups? I mean, didn’t they each act as their own control? Look, we know where they were at baseline, and then look at that: week after week, bam, bam, bam, bam, down to less than half the plaque, half the gingivitis. What? Are we supposed to imagine it’s all just one big coincidence that they all just happened to start getting better right after they started the coconut oil? Come on!

Let me tell you about the Hawthorne effect. “Patients frequently appear to improve merely from the effects of being placed in a clinical trial.” Why? “[B]ecause patients may improve oral hygiene…as a result of the special attention [or] frequent examinations” they get. That’s the Hawthorne effect, and why it’s so important to do controlled trials.

Think about it. You know how you may brush really good the morning of your dentist appointment? Well, imagine knowing that you’re going to be going back to the dentist for an exam every single week to see how your plaque and gingivitis is going? I mean, don’t you think you’d brush a little extra well, floss a few more times that month? And, that alone could get you these kinds of results. So, the only way to tell if the oil pulling had anything to do with it is to have a control group that didn’t do the oil pulling, but also knew they would be getting these weekly checkups. But, there was never any compilation of controlled studies—until now, which we’ll cover next.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Icons created by Vladimir Belochkin, Alessandro Suraci, Daniel Polshin, Hopkins and M. Turan Ercan from The Noun Project.

Image credit: Andreas Levers. Image has been modified.

Motion graphics by Avocado Video.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

I’ve done videos on how coconut oil is safe to put on your hair, or on your skin. But, you certainly don’t want to eat the stuff. You may not even want to be in the same kitchen when it’s being cooked with. I don’t know where people get the idea it’s safe to cook with. It’s got one of the lowest smoke points. At typical frying temperatures, it can release a variety of toxic compounds—in fact, even below the smoke point. So, you want there to be good ventilation.

You also don’t want to inject it into your privates, and even standing under a coconut tree is not completely without risk. But, what about swishing coconut oil around in your mouth? So-called “oil pulling” is evidently “a time-honored…folk remedy that involves swishing…oil in [your] mouth”—“pulling” it back and forth between your teeth “for [purported] oral and systemic health benefits.” You put a spoonful of oil in your mouth, swishing for up to 20 minutes. If that’s too much, you can go five or 10 minutes. Then, you spit it out, rinse out your mouth, and then, brush your teeth.

I could see how it might dislodge dental plaque or something, and have oral health benefits, but what’s this about systemic effects? Not only is it supposedly “absolutely harmless,” but “it effectively treats the most varied diseases, in some cases enabling one to avoid [drugs and surgery].” I was excited to check out this citation, until I realized the citation was to oilpulling.com, an e-book, where you can evidently get answers to questions like “oilforoilpulling, pulling oil and diseases cured, and the science behind oilpulling therpy and much more.”

The moral of the story is: always check your sources.

There is one source cited by oil-pulling proponents that seems legit, published in the British Dental Journal, but it’s just a letter from some guy saying that the literature has reported that oil pulling can “effectively treat” things like “paralysis,…meningitis,…and chronic diseases like [oh] cancer, AIDS etc.” But, absolutely no references are given. So, this literature of which he speaks is presumably the fairy-tale literature. The bottom line is that there is simply no scientific proof. Okay, but what about the “oral health” claims?

If you look at the list of purported “benifits” (I think oil pulling may adversely impact spell check), they go from blood clots to “stop[ping] the growth of malignant tumors.” And, you look at those citations purported to back such wild statements up, and you won’t be surprised at this point to see they have absolutely nothing to do with blood clots, cancer, or any of those other diseases, but instead are references to studies done on dental health. Okay, well, let’s not spit the baby out with the bathwater; let’s see what they say.

The studies started out like this: add oil pulling to some people’s regular oral hygiene regimens, and stand back and watch gingivitis get better, week after week, as the amount of plaque gets less and less. Conclusion: “Oil pulling [has] dental benefits.” This was with sunflower oil; same thing with coconut oil. Gingivitis; gum inflammation started to get better within a week, as the dental plaque went down. Looks pretty good, right? So, same conclusion: “Oil pulling…could be an effective [addition to one’s oral hygiene habits].”

Okay, so what’s wrong with these studies? Right, “no control group.” But, why am I always going on and on about needing control groups? I mean, didn’t they each act as their own control? Look, we know where they were at baseline, and then look at that: week after week, bam, bam, bam, bam, down to less than half the plaque, half the gingivitis. What? Are we supposed to imagine it’s all just one big coincidence that they all just happened to start getting better right after they started the coconut oil? Come on!

Let me tell you about the Hawthorne effect. “Patients frequently appear to improve merely from the effects of being placed in a clinical trial.” Why? “[B]ecause patients may improve oral hygiene…as a result of the special attention [or] frequent examinations” they get. That’s the Hawthorne effect, and why it’s so important to do controlled trials.

Think about it. You know how you may brush really good the morning of your dentist appointment? Well, imagine knowing that you’re going to be going back to the dentist for an exam every single week to see how your plaque and gingivitis is going? I mean, don’t you think you’d brush a little extra well, floss a few more times that month? And, that alone could get you these kinds of results. So, the only way to tell if the oil pulling had anything to do with it is to have a control group that didn’t do the oil pulling, but also knew they would be getting these weekly checkups. But, there was never any compilation of controlled studies—until now, which we’ll cover next.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Icons created by Vladimir Belochkin, Alessandro Suraci, Daniel Polshin, Hopkins and M. Turan Ercan from The Noun Project.

Image credit: Andreas Levers. Image has been modified.

Motion graphics by Avocado Video.

Doctor's Note

This is the first in a four-part series on oil pulling, which also includes:

I delved into oil pulling because people kept asking me about it. What other health topics, nutrition-related or not, do you want me to take on?

Why did I say not to swallow coconut oil? See:

What can one do for cancer? Check out How Not to Die from Cancer, my overview video.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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