Family: Arecaceae (or Palmae).
See also: Coconut oil.
See also: Cocamide DEA.
There have in the past been 60 other species classified under the genus Cocos, but the Coconut palm is actually monotypic, meaning that within the genus Cocos only one species, nucifera, is now recognised, though within this species are numerous varieties.
The Coconut is native to tropical eastern regions, but today it is also grown in the tropical parts of the United States, in Central and South America, and in Africa. The largest-producing countries are Mozambique, Tanzania and Ghana. It is regarded as a staple food in Asia. Coconuts are both a subsistence food and one of the main sources of income for producing countries, and a source of many important products used in the industrialised world.
The Coconut palm is a long-lived, single-trunk plant up to 30m tall, with a spiky to drooping crown of long leaves at the top. The fruit, as big as a mans head and 1-2kg in weight, is a drupe with a thin, smooth, grey-brownish epicarp, a fibrous mesocarp and a woody endocarp. Inside it contains one seed, which is partly liquid (Coconut milk), and partly solid (Coconut meat).
Man can use every part of the coconut. Coconut can be harvested when young, but the mature fruit is more familiar to the West. The white nut-meat can be eaten raw or shredded and dried, and is used in a great variety of recipes. The sap produces palm wine and vinegar. The apical buds are eaten as palm-cabbage. Desiccated coconut consists of dried and shredded endosperm. Coconut milk derives from the unripe nuts and is used fresh or fermented. Though dried and shredded coconut meat in sweets and pastries is the most visible use of Coconut in the West, the oil is very widely used in processed foods. Coconut is sensitive to oxidation due to high oil content and should be stored in well-sealed containers.
At one time Coconut oil received negative press because of its high level of saturated fat. However, recent research has shown that the fatty acids in unhydrogenated Coconut oil, the medium-chain triglycerides, do not raise serum cholesterol or contribute to heart disease like the long-chain triglycerides found in seed oils.
Coconuts are high in protein. Additionally, they have been classified as a "functional food," providing health benefits over and beyond the basic nutrients. The Lauric acid in Coconut oil is converted into monolaurin in the body. Monolaurin is the antiviral, antibacterial, and antiprotozoal monoglyceride used by humans and animals to destroy lipid-coated viruses and various pathogenic bacteria. Some studies have also shown some antimicrobial effects of free lauric acid. Coconut oil is also being used by thyroid sufferers to increase body metabolism and to lose weight.
Non-edible parts of the plant are used for thatch, fertiliser, basket-weaving and many other handicrafts, charcoal, lumber, furniture and implements, gas masks and air filters, and caulking materials. Coconut oil may be burned for illumination, and is often used for making natural soaps and other health products. Extracts of Coconut oil is also used for manufacturing soap, margarine, detergents, etc.
The allergens appear to be 55 and 36.5kd in size. The 35 kD coconut protein was shown to be immunologically similar to soy glycinin (legumin group of seed storage proteins). (Teuber 1999 ref.3280 5)
Protein bands of 15, 20, 35, 45 and 200 kDa were detected. IgE immunoblot showed intense reactivity to a 78 kDa protein and weaker bands for 15-20, 22 and 30 kDa proteins. (Rosado 2002 ref.5657 2)
Cocosin, a globulin, is a legume class reserve protein found in coconut endosperm. (Balasundaresan 2002 ref.7657 3) Its allergenicity is unknown.
Coconut water contains the proteins glutelin and prolamin. (Birosel 1976 ref.7665 4)
Oil is used for manufacturing soap, margarine, detergents, etc.
IGE AND IMMUNE:
Allergy to coconut is infrequent.
Allergy reactions, from itching in the mouth, urticaria, to anaphylaxis. Skin sensitivity.
A baby of 8 months fed from birth with maternal milk, developed severe gastro-intestinal symptoms due to the presence of coconut oil in the formulation. Diagnosis was made using skin specific IgE tests and with oral challenges. (Couturier 1994 ref.1777 9)
Anaphylaxis in a 28-year-old atopic man following ingestion of coconut ice-cream. The reaction consisted of oral pruritis, vomiting and intense angioedema of the lips and uvula. (Rosado 2002 ref.5657 2)
Two patients with tree nut allergy manifested by life-threatening systemic reactions reported the subsequent onset of systemic reactions after the consumption of coconut. The clinical reactivity in these 2 patients is likely due to cross-reacting IgE antibodies primarily directed against walnut, the original clinical allergy reported, and most likely to a walnut legumin-like protein. (Teuber 1999 ref.3280 5)
A coconut phytobezoar was detected in the distal ileum of a 4-year-old boy, admitted for suspected appendicitis. (Venuta 2001 ref.7658 1)
Information supplied from an abridged section of:
Allergy Advisor - Zing Solutions
© zingsolutions.com 1998