E-Mail Edition  Volume 3   Number 1

Originally published Winter, 2006

Published by Piccadilly Books, Ltd., www.piccadillybooks.com.

Bruce Fife, N.D., Publisher, www.coconutresearchcenter.org

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  • Ask Dr. Coconut

  • Coconut and Avian Flu

  • Coconut Oil for Clean Air




Ask Dr. Coconut TM 

Dr. Bruce Fife a.k.a. "Dr. Coconut" answers two of the most often asked questions about coconut oil.


I went to the health food store to buy coconut oil, but all the brands they carry were solid. None were liquefied. Is this how it is always sold? Can you eat it solid? Does it matter?

One of the characteristics of coconut oil is its high melting point. At temperatures above 76 degrees F (24 C) coconut oil is a liquid. At temperatures below this it becomes a solid. The oil will be either liquid or solid depending on the temperature of the room. There is nothing wrong or unusual about this. Butter for instance, does the same thing. In the refrigerator it is solid, but take it out on a hot day and let it sit on the counter and it melts. If you refrigerate olive oil it becomes solid as well, but out of the refrigerator it is liquid.

Sometimes you will see two bottles of coconut oil side by side and one will be solid while the other is liquid.  The reason for this is that it takes several hours for the oil to adjust to the room temperature. If the room is below 76 degrees F, then the liquid bottle came from a warmer environment before it was placed next to the solid bottle. Oil can hold on to heat for a long time, so it may take several hours for the oil in the bottle to solidify. If the room temperature is in the mid or low 70s, it may take 24 hours or more for the oil to solidify.

Critics who try to discredit coconut oil claiming it to be an "artery clogging" saturated fat will often justify their position by pointing out the fact that coconut is solid at room temperature. They say when you eat the oil it will solidify in your arteries, implying that the oil will clog the arteries and cause a heart attack. This idea is totally preposterous. For one thing, our body temperature is 98.6 degrees F. Coconut oil is a complete liquid at that temperature. For another, coconut oil does not circulate inside the arteries after you eat it. Coconut oil, like any other fat or oil, is digested and broken down into individual fatty acids in the digestive tract. The fatty acids from coconut oil are used by the cells in the body as food to produce energy. There is no way they could clog the arteries.

Like butter, you can eat coconut oil whether it is liquid or solid. There is no difference in nutritional value or chemical makeup. You don't need to liquefy the oil before you use it. Solid coconut oil melts very quickly when put in a hot pan. Personally, I like to keep the coconut oil I use solid. I use a knife to spoon it out. When I pour liquid oil, it often drips down the side of the bottle, making a mess. Using the solidified oil prevents this problem.

If your kitchen is kept under 76 degrees F, coconut oil will always be solid. On a hot day it may melt. You can keep it in the refrigerator if you like. However, it isn't necessary. Coconut oil does not need to be refrigerated. It is very stable and has a long shelf life so it can be kept on the kitchen counter or in a cupboard.




Coconut and Avian Flu

 According to experts, the threat of pandemic influenza is not a question of if, but rather a question of when. The possibility of pandemic flu—though always present—has received more attention in recent years because of strains, such as the avian flu, swine flu, and others.

H5N1 or bird flu, as it is commonly known, is highly contagious and deadly among birds. The virus is causing worry worldwide because of the potential for it to mutate into a form that could spread easily from person to person.

The virus first surfaced in 2004. Beginning in late June outbreaks of the flu among poultry were reported in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. The first human cases were reported in Thailand and Vietnam that same year. Since then the flu has infected bird populations and people throughout Southeast Asia and is now spreading into the Middle East, Africa, and Southern and Eastern Europe.

Dr. Julie Gerberding, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), states "We have basically everything of concern except for the last requirement for a pandemic—and that is we have not seen sustained and rapid person-to-person transmission," she said. "We hope we never check this last box, but we are certainly as close to checking it as we've been in the last several decades."

Gerberding called the bird-flu situation "serious," saying migratory birds and domestic poultry are spreading the virus to an increasing number of countries. It has evolved so that it can infect cats, pigs, tigers, and humans. In most cases of human infection, the patients have been in direct contact with infected poultry. However, in at least two cases the disease has spread from person to person.

According to the World Health Organization, 160 people have been infected with the virus and at least 85 have died. The fact that the virus has been able to spread from one person to another indicates it is capable of causing a worldwide pandemic.

The federal government's own draft response plan says a medium-level flu pandemic could kill from 89,000 to 207,000 people nationwide. The World Health Organization said that there's no way to make a death prediction until a pandemic begins, but added that an estimate globally of up to 7.4 million is not unrealistic.

The deadliest pandemic on record, which occurred in 1918, is thought to have killed more than a half-million in the United States and 50 million worldwide. The most recent, in 1968-69, caused 34,000 deaths in the United States.

Pandemic viruses differ from traditional flu illnesses in that they are not merely subtypes of an existing virus. They are new strains that move quickly across the globe, sickening a large percentage of the population, which has no resistance to the illness.

The worst-case scenario in a pandemic would be if there is no vaccine, a shortage of antiviral medications, and a particularly lethal strain. This could be the case here.

There are no drugs or vaccines that can protect against H5N1. Only one vaccine, Tamiflu, has been approved to treat H5N1. Tamiflu, however, doesn't stop the virus. So essentially, there is no way to stop the bird flu if it ever transforms into a pandemic.

Currently Tamiflu is the only medical weapon available to fight the avian virus. Even if it were effective in stopping the flu we would not be safe. Most countries have only limited supplies. The US probably has the largest inventory but if the flu strikes now it would only be enough to treat 200,000 people. Even if government stockpiles equaled a hundred times that amount—enough vaccines to treat 20 million people—that still leaves 280 million Americans without the possibility of getting treatment. While the maker of Tamiflu is busy churning out the vaccine and distributing it worldwide, there won't be enough for everyone and not everyone can afford it.

Since there is no medication that will protect against the avian flu, and if there were it wouldn't be available to all, natural remedies may be your best defense. One of the best natural defenses we have against the flu is coconut. Coconut oil possesses powerful antiviral properties that can kill the flu virus, including H5N1.

Coconut oil is composed of a special group of fats known as medium-chain triglycerides. Our bodies convert these fats into medium-chain fatty acids and monoglycerides, both of which have been shown to be effective in killing lipid coated viruses. H5N1 is a lipid coated virus.

By consuming a couple of spoonfuls of coconut oil daily you can develop an immunity of sorts to the flu. Coconut oil also helps boost the immune system, enabling the body to fight off infections more efficiently. This is a safe and economical means to protect yourself from the flu. In the absence of any other form of treatment, coconut oil may be the answer.

The bird flu could be stopped even before it becomes a pandemic. The most likely spot for a pandemic to begin is where the virus first emerged—Southeast Asia. Countries here have an abundance of coconut trees and a nearly endless supply of coconut. Coconut meal, which is a waste product produced from extracting coconut oil and milk from the meat, could be fed to poultry. The meal is already fed to cattle. Coconut meal retains a significant amount of oil which, if eaten by poultry, could possibly provide them with protection from the virus, thus preventing the flu from spreading. The cost would be minimal because the meal is fed to animals anyway. Much of it is simply dumped or used as fertilizer.

The meat from whole coconuts could also be used. Coconuts in these countries are so abundant that most fall to the ground, where they lay unused. Sadly, millions of coconuts sit on the ground rotting when they could be put to use preventing a possible pandemic.

It's ironic that the place where the bird flu got started is also the place where it could end. Unfortunately, government officials will probably ignore the potential in their own backyards and seek ineffective and costly vaccines to solve the problem.

Since we have little control over a possible flu pandemic one thing we can do is consume coconut oil daily. The general recommendation is 3 to 4 tablespoons a day. Use it in your cooking and food preparation. If you don't get enough that way, you can take it by the spoonful like a dietary supplement.


Coconut Oil for Clean Air

 Coconut oil has gained recognition as a safe and natural product with a multitude of uses. It has proven valuable in treating a variety of health concerns ranging from psoriasis to obesity. Coconut oil is used in food preparation and as a skin lotion, sun block, healing salve, lip moisturizer, hair conditioner, and dietary supplement. It's also a primary ingredient in many soaps, lotions, and beauty products.

Another remarkable benefit is that it can help protect the lungs from the dangers of air pollution. How can it accomplish this incredible feat? It can do this as a fuel additive or fuel replacement to power automobiles and generators. Coconut oil is an amazingly clean source of energy that can significantly reduce air pollution.

The technical feasibility of using coconut oil in diesel engines has been successfully demonstrated in trials in many Asian and Pacific countries. The use of coconut oil in diesel engines is not new. Vegetable oils have been used to power diesels for years. In fact, the inventor Rudolf Diesel ran his original engine on peanut oil.

Coconut oil has been used periodically throughout the South Pacific for decades. It was used extensively in the Philippines during the Second World War when diesel was in short supply. Since then, the wide availability of diesel throughout the world and difficulties in running engines on coconut oil in cooler weather virtually ended its use in this way. In recent years, however, there has been a revival of interest. This is due to the growing demand for fuel, frequent shortages, and increasing energy prices. There are also concerns about environmental pollution caused by the use of petroleum.

Probably no one is more experienced in using coconut oil to power automobiles than 52-year-old Australian born mechanic Tony Deamer. Now living in Vanuatu—a small island nation in the South Pacific—Deamer has championed the use of coconut oil as an alternative source of fuel for many years.

Coconut oil has many advantages over petroleum, including a smoother ride with plenty of power. "Rounding a corner and heading up a steep hill outside the capital of Port Vila," writes one reporter, "Tony Deamer stomped on the gas pedal of his Range Rover—but didn't downshift. With nary a sputter or a cough, the vehicle—modified to run on coconut oil instead of diesel fuel—took the incline in stride."

"Coconut oil is a bit more torquey, because it burns slower," says Deamer, "Normally, I'd have to shift down into first gear, but with coconut oil, I can keep it in second."

Among the other advantages, it doesn't make black smoke, it is less costly (at least in the South Pacific), it has the potential to stimulate employment among local coconut growers, and, perhaps most importantly for the world at large, it is an environmentally friendly fuel. And, according to Deamer, cars burning it can be fun to drive.

Deamer has succeeded in proving that automotive diesel engines, with very little modification, can run safely on pure coconut oil as well as coconut oil/petroleum mixes.

Some 200 minibuses in Vanuatu are using a coconut oil/diesel mix on a daily basis. Deamer runs his fleet of rental vehicles on a blend of 85% coconut oil and 15% kerosene. Countries such as Thailand and the Philippines are using coconut oil based fuels in many of their government owned vehicles.

The main drawback with using coconut oil is that it solidifies at temperatures below 76° F (24°C). When it becomes solid it can't flow through the fuel lines and filters. This is a definite problem in temperate climates and even in many places in the tropics where temperatures can drop below this point at night. 

In the tropics coconut oil can be mixed with up to about 20% diesel without any modifications to the engine. Pure coconut oil or a coconut oil/diesel mix over 20% needs some modification to the fuel system. This problem is overcome by using either a twin tank system or a pre-heater fitted to the fuel line. In the twin tank system, one tank is used for diesel and another for coconut oil. The engine is started and stopped on diesel. The exhaust or coolant hoses are run through the coconut oil tank to heat it. When the oil reaches a safe operating temperature an automatic switchover device changes the supply from diesel to coconut oil. An advantage of this system is no coconut oil is left in the engine which might solidify in the injectors when the engine is stopped and cooled down. With a pre-heater on the fuel line, pure coconut oil or a coconut oil/diesel mix can be fed from a single tank.

There are numerous benefits to using coconut oil. If the oil is produced locally, it can be cheaper than imported fuel. This can have a significant economic impact by lowering energy costs and providing employment to locals to harvest coconuts and produce the oil. Unlike fossil fuels, which are being depleted, coconut oil is a renewable energy source that is virtually unlimited. Coconut oil is easy to use. It works in diesel engines without any major modifications. Coconut oil enhances fuel economy, performance, and endurance and is environmentally friendly.

Different vegetable oils are being tested around the world as alternative sources of fuel. Most vegetable oils, however, must be converted in biodiesel to be of any practical use. Unaltered polyunsaturated vegetable oils like soybean and linseed oils undergo chemical changes in the engine, forming tough epoxy-like deposits that can clog valves, injectors, and pistons and cause loss of power and excessive wear.

Coconut oil is chemically more stable than other oils and has better burning properties making it, without question, the best oil for diesel use. Unlike most other vegetable oils, diesel engines can run on 100% coconut oil or a mixture of coconut oil and diesel or coconut biodiesel. Biodiesel is produced through a process called transesterification in which coconut oil is made to react with alcohol, forming an ester—mdash;coconut methyl ester or coconut biodiesel. Coconut biodiesel can be substituted completely for diesel or blended with it. Because production is relatively expensive, it is generally mixed with diesel.


Coconut oil burns more slowly than diesel, which results in a more even pressure applied to the pistons during their movement in the cylinders of the engine. This in turn leads to less engine wear, a quieter engine, and better fuel economy.

 Also, as the coconut oil burns slower and has better lubricating qualities than diesel,   the engine

Coconut biodiesel is being used in public and government vehicles in many countries. This is one of the trucks operated by the Philippine Department of Agriculture.


gets less hot and there is less wear, which helps to prolong engine life. Under-revving of the engine is also less of a problem, so it is not always necessary to shift down the gears when slowing down or climbing hills, which makes for easier driving and less wear on the gearbox. Trials lasting over one year, using unprocessed coconut oil and diesel mixtures, have confirmed decreased wear on the engine and components compared with using diesel on its own.

Coconut oil acts as a lubricant and solvent. It increases lubricity of the fuel by 36 percent thus reducing wear and tear on the engine. It increases solvency of the fuel, which dissolves carbon deposits in the combustion chamber and declogs fuel nozzles, lines, and ports, allowing for greater engine efficiency. It also enhances cold starting efficiency of diesel fuel.

Coconut oil is an excellent additive for reducing air pollution. Even a small amount can make a very significant difference. Diesel fuel blended with just 1% coconut oil reduces emissions considerably. Studies conducted in Japan and Korea show that emission of particulate matter is reduced by as much as 60% and nitrogen oxide (a major pollutant) by 20% and smoke is reduced by 70%. Adding 2% coconut oil lowers pollution even more with smoke emission decreasing by an incredible 90%! 

 Coconut oil burns cleanly, producing only carbon dioxide and energy. "One of the reasons I like using coconut oil instead of diesel fuel," says Deamer "is you are putting back into the atmosphere the same carbon dioxide that the tree took out a year ago." Burning coconut oil does not increase atmospheric carbon dioxide because it is essentially recycled back into the trees. "It's completely sustainable," says Deamer. "Coconut trees are very efficient carbon absorbers." And unlike petroleum, coconut oil is completely non-toxic. "What other Pacific fuel can you cook your fish and chips in and run your truck on?"


 Machacon, H.T.C., et al. The effect of coconut oil and diesel fuel blends on diesel engine performance and exhaust emissions. JSAE Review 2001;22:349-355.


 Tan, R., et al. Carbon balance implications of coconut biodiesel utilization in the Philippine automotive transport sector. Biomass & Bioenergy 2004;26:579.




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 Copyright © 2007, 2005, Bruce Fife. All rights reserved.