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Coconut oil, also known as coconut butter, is a tropical oil with many applications. It is extracted from copra (derived from Malayalam word "kopra" which means dried coconut). Coconut oil constitutes seven percent of the total export income of the Philippines, the world's largest exporter of the product.
Coconut oil was developed as a commercial product by merchants in the South Seas and South Asia in the 1860s.
- 1 Physical properties
- 2 Health effects
- 3 Types of oil available
- 4 Applications
- 5 See also
- 6 References
Coconut oil is a fat consisting of about 90% saturated fat. The oil contains predominantly medium chain triglycerides, with roughly 92% saturated fatty acids, 6% monounsaturated fatty acids, and 2% polyunsaturated fatty acids. Of the saturated fatty acids, coconut oil is primarily 44.6% lauric acid, 16.8% myristic acid a 8.2% palmitic acid and 8% caprylic acid, although it contains seven different saturated fatty acids in total. Its only monounsaturated fatty acid is oleic acid while its only polyunsaturated fatty acid is linoleic acid.
Among the most stable of all oils, coconut oil is slow to oxidize and thus resistant to rancidity, lasting up to two years due to its high saturated fat content. In order to extend shelf life, it is best stored in solid form (i.e. below 24.5°C [76°F]).
Medical science has determined that consumption of saturated fats can increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Since coconut oil contains a high proportion of saturated fats, regular consumption of coconut oil may elevate this risk. However, a 2004 study published in the journal Clinical Biochemistry found that coconut oil, especially virgin coconut oil, reduced the LDL cholesterol associated with cardiovascular disease, while raising beneficial HDL levels. An epidemiological study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined two indigenous populations whose food energy intake was 63% and 34% derived from coconuts respectively, and found no elevated risk of cardiovascular disease.
A 2004 article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition raises the possibility that the supposed causal relationship between saturated fats and heart disease may actually be a statistical mistake.
A study conducted at University College Hospital in Ibadan, Nigeria published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that coconut oil was effective in killing some strains of Candida, which cause the condition candidiasis in humans. The authors recommended that coconut oil be used in the treatment of fungal infections.
Types of oil available
Virgin coconut oil
Virgin coconut oil is derived from fresh coconuts (rather than dried, as in copra). Most oils marketed as "virgin" are produced one of three ways:
- Quick drying of fresh coconut meat which is then used to press out the oil.
- Wet-milling (coconut milk). With this method the oil is extracted from fresh coconut meat without drying first. "Coconut milk" is expressed first by pressing. The oil is then further separated from the water. Methods which can be used to separate the oil from the water include boiling, fermentation, refrigeration, enzymes and mechanical centrifuge.
- Wet-milling (direct micro expelling). In this process, the oil is extracted from fresh coconut meat after the adjustment of the water content, then the pressing of the coconut flesh results in the direct extraction of free-flowing oil.
Unlike olive oil, there is no world or governing body that sets a standard definition or set of guidelines to classify coconut oil as "virgin". The Philippines has established a Department of Science and Technology (DOST) governmental standard.
Refined coconut oil is referred to in the coconut industry as RBD (refined, bleached, and deodorized) coconut oil. The starting point is "copra", the dried coconut meat. Copra can be made by smoke drying, sun drying, or kiln drying. The unrefined coconut oil extracted from copra (called "crude coconut oil") is not suitable for consumption and must be refined.
Coconut oil is often partially or fully hydrogenated to increase their melting point in warmer temperatures. This increases the amount of saturated fat present in the oil, and may produce trans fats.
"Fractionated coconut oil" is a fraction of the whole oil, in which most of the long-chain triglycerides are removed so that only saturated fats remain. It may also referred to as "caprylic/capric triglyceride" or medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil because mostly the medium-chain triglycerides caprylic and capric acid are left in the oil.
Because it is completely saturated, fractionated oil is even more heat stable than other forms of coconut oil and has a nearly indefinite shelf life.
Coconut oil is commonly used in cooking, especially when frying. In communities where coconut oil is widely used in cooking, the refined oil is the one most commonly used. Coconut oil is commonly used to flavor many South Asian curries.
Coconut oil is used in volume quantities for making margarine, soap and cosmetics.
Coconut oil is an important component of many industrial lubricants, for example in the cold rolling of steel strip.
Cosmetics and skin treatments
Coconut oil is excellent as a skin moisturizer and softener. A study shows that extra virgin coconut oil is as effective and safe as mineral oil when used as a moisturizer, with absence of adverse reactions. Although not suitable for use with condoms, coconut oil is an excellent, inexpensive lubricant for sexual intercourse, though it may cause an allergic reaction.
In India and Sri Lanka, coconut oil is commonly used for styling hair, and cooling or soothing the head. People of Tamil Nadu and other coastal areas such as Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Goa bathe in warm water after applying coconut oil all over the body and leaving it as is for an hour to keep body, skin, and hair healthy.
As a fuel
Coconut oil is used in oil lamps.
In diesel engines
Coconut oil is blended to make biodiesel but can also be used straight, without blending. B100 biodiesel blends are only possible in temperate climates as the gel point is approximately 10C (50 degrees Fahrenheit). The oil needs to meet the Weihenstephan standard for pure vegetable oil used as a fuel since otherwise moderate to severe damage from coking and clogging will occur in an unmodified engine . Stationary engines that are continuously loaded (>70%) may possibly be used without engine modifications but there is divergent opinion about this.
The physical constraints of using raw coconut oil in a diesel engine are formed by:
- higher viscosity of coconut oil (up to 10 times as high as diesel), leading to altered spray pattern of injected fuel, additional stress on injection pump
- minimum combustion chamber temperature of 500 °C (Expression error: Missing operand for *. ) to avoid polymerization of the fuel, leading to clogged injectors, sticking piston rings and lubrication oil deterioration
- solidification point between 22-25 °C requires an additional fuel tank heater in temperate climates.
Raw coconut oil can be used as a fuel for generating electricity by remote communities that have an abundant supply of coconuts and milling capacity, provided diesel engines are adapted.
Coconut oil is currently used as a fuel for transport in the Philippines. Further research into the oil's potential as a source of electricity is being carried out in the islands of the Pacific. In the 1990s Bougainville conflict, islanders cut off from supplies due to a blockade used it to fuel their vehicles.
During February 2008, a mixture of coconut oil and babassu oil was used to partially power one engine of a Boeing 747, in a biofuel trial sponsored by Virgin Atlantic.
On January 16, 2008, a company converted coconut oil into engine oil using Korean biotechnology. Rey Mangio, managing director of the Chun Hae Food Processor in Matina Pangi, Davao City, Philippines unveiled the S-9 lubricating motor oil for gasoline and diesel engine: "Since 2005, more than 400 vehicles, both diesel and gasoline fueled, have tested the product at a blended rate of 20 percent of crankcase capacity; chemical analyses show that the product reduces fuel consumption up to 45 percent, it also reduces smoke emission up to 95 percent, it has more power and it has cooler engine operating temperatures." The company produces 5,000 liters of motor oil per month.
- Nutrition Facts and Information for Vegetable oil, coconut
- Nutrient analysis of coconut oil - USDA
- Cooking For Engineers - Kitchen Notes: Smoke Points of Various Fats
- Know Your Fats
- Association of higher saturated fat intake with higher risk of hypertension in an urban population of Trivandrum in south India
- Dietary saturated and trans fatty acids and cholesterol and 25-year mortality from coronary heart disease: the Seven Countries Study
- Clin. Biochem. (2004). Beneficial effects of virgin coconut oil on lipid parameters and in vitro LDL oxidation
- Cholesterol, coconuts, and diet on Polynesian atolls: a natural experiment: the Pukapuka and Tokelau island studies
- [http://www.prosperityorganicfoods.com/pdfs/abstract_coconut_oil.pdf Collection of abstracts on coconut oil research
- Saturated fat prevents coronary artery disease? An American paradox
- Dietary coconut oil increases conjugated linoleic acid-induced body fat loss in mice independent of essential fatty acid deficiency.
- Successful treatment of acute aluminium phosphide poisoning: possible benefit of coconut oil.
- Ogbolu DO et al. (2007). In vitro antimicrobial properties of coconut oil on Candida species in Ibadan, Nigeria. Journal of Medicinal Food.
- Joint Statement on Philippine National Standard for Virgin Coconut Oil as food
- Agero AL, Verallo-Rowell VM A randomized double-blind controlled trial comparing extra virgin coconut oil with mineral oil as a moisturizer for mild to moderate xerosis Dermatitis 2004 Sep;15(3):109-16
- Weihenstephan vegetable oil fuel standard (German Rapeseed Fuel Standard)
- Coconut fuel - PRI's The World
- Coconut Oil for Power Generation by EPC in Samoa - Jan Cloin
- "Coconut oil powers island's cars". BBC. May 8, 2007.
- The Coconut Revolution: a documentary film
- "First biofuel flight" BBC News, February 24, 2008
- GMA NEWS.TV, Davao firm converts coco oil to engine oil - report