Coconut oil might be about to step off the beaches and out of the kitchen and into the tanks of Australian trucks and cars, with research released today showing that as a component of biodiesel, it may reduce the impact of vehicle emissions on human lungs.

The research, presented at this month’s Annual Scientific Meeting of the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand in Perth, was undertaken jointly by University of Queensland, Queensland University of Technology’s International Laboratory for Air Quality and Health, and The Prince Charles Hospital.

The researchers tested the theory by exposing cells that line the bronchial tubes to both pure diesel emissions and those from biodiesel with between five and 20 per cent coconut oil in the mix. The lab tests showed a “significantly reduced” impact from fumes with the coconut blend, the researchers said.

“To our knowledge, this is the first study to look at the safety and toxicity of coconut oil-blended biodiesels in the lungs, and the results are promising,” said Professor Ian Yang, research leader at the School of Medicine, The University of Queensland and The Prince Charles Hospital.

The researchers said the use of coconut oil in biodiesel was increasing throughout the Asia Pacific region.

“It is already known that coconut oil blends produced an effective fuel, resulting in better combustion, less pollution and more engine power,” Professor Yang said.

“Now we have further evidence demonstrating their potentially less toxic impact on lung health. This is particularly important to countries in our region, many of which are exploring ways to develop domestic markets for this product.”