The Impact of Monolaurin on Immune Health
If you’ve ever listened to one of Jo Gamble’s webinars, you’ll be familiar with the idea of having a ‘toolkit’ of potential diet/lifestyle/supplement recommendations that you can use to help a client with a particular area of health. Think of your toolkits as carefully curated sets of resources from which you can then select your individualised recommendations.
And when it comes to building your immune health toolkit, there’s lots to consider, including a natural compound called monolaurin which receives less attention than many other immune-helpers yet is no less worthy. In fact, it may well be among the most useful natural compounds you’ll have in there when it comes to helping the body to deal with viral and bacterial pathogens.
Let’s take a closer look at monolaurin – what it actually is and how it works – because we think it’s an important consideration for immune support.
What is monolaurin?
Monolaurin is a monoester formed from glycerol and the saturated fatty acid lauric acid. Monolaurin is also commonly referred to by its chemical name glycerol monolaurate (GML). Both lauric acid and the monoester monolaurin are found in coconut oil, human breast milk and palm kernel oil.1 It is possible for the body to convert lauric acid into monolaurin via enzyme activity, but how much this conversion process occurs is still fairly unknown.
How does monolaurin work?
Fatty acids (such as lauric acid) and their esters (such as monolaurin) are well known for having antimicrobial activity. The level of antimicrobial activity (of fatty acids and their esters) however, differs depending on variable factors such as fatty acid chain length, saturation and functional groups.
Among many other immune-supportive compounds, human breast milk contains both lauric acid and monolaurin. It has long been known that breast feeding is highly beneficial to babies through antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory activities. In a 2019 study published in Scientific Reports, researchers found human breast milk to contain high levels of monolaurin. They also found human breast milk to be inhibitory to pathogen growth, to have anti-inflammatory activity and that both are in part dependent on monolaurin.2
Monolaurin is considered to be one of the more potent antimicrobial agents, among fatty acids and their esters, and is estimated to be around 200 times more effective than lauric acid. Monolaurin is believed to work as an antimicrobial mainly by disrupting lipid bi-layers.
Anti-viral & anti-bacterial activity
Monolaurin has demonstrated broad inhibitory activity against a number of common enveloped viruses, yet not against non-enveloped viruses. Since viral envelopes are composed of lipid bi-layers this adds further weight to its likely mode of action as mainly being disruptive to the lipid bi-layer.3 Unlike many conventional antiviral agents, monolaurin is not associated with induced resistance and is safe and well tolerated.
In addition, monolaurin has demonstrated anti-bacterial activity against many gram-positive bacteria, but not entirely with gram-negative bacteria.3 It also appears to increase the effectiveness of other anti-bacterial agents in vitro4 and has demonstrated effectiveness against several bacterial biofilms.
Monolaurin - A valuable addition to your immune health toolkit
Monolaurin is a simple natural compound with remarkable potential that can be taken in dietary supplement form. With significant antimicrobial activity against a wide range of viral and bacterial pathogens, yet without negative effects, it is a valuable addition to your immune health toolkit at any time of the year.
Find out more on building your immune health toolkit here:
1. Barker LA, Bakkum BW, et al. The clinical use of monolaurin as a dietary supplement: a review of the literature. J Chiropr Med. 2019 Dec; 18 (4): 305 – 310
2. Schlievert PM, Kilgore SH, et al. Glycerol monolaurate contributes to the antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory activity of human milk. Scientific Reports 9, Article number: 14550 (2019)
3. Morrin ST, Buck RH, et al. Milk-derived anti-infectives and their potential to combat bacterial and viral infection. Journal of Functional Foods Volume 81, June 2021, 104442.
4. Preuss HG, Echard B, Dadgar A. Effects of essential oils and monolaurin on Staphylococcus aureus: in vitro and in vivo studies. Toxicol Mech Methods. 2005;15(4):279–285.
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