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Bug repellent made from coconut oil could work better than chemicals

Maybe it's not "pure poison" after all

Sarah Young
Friday 02 November 2018 09:57
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Compounds derived from coconut oil are more effective at repelling insects than chemicals, a new study has revealed.

Research by the US Department of Agriculture found that fatty acids derived from coconut oil had long-lasting insect-repelling properties against a number of insects including flies, ticks, bed bugs and mosquitos.

Lead researcher Junwei Zhu asserted that it was the compounds extracted from coconut oil – not the oil itself – which were found to be effective.

“Coconut oil itself is not a repellent,” the study says.

Published in the journal Scientific Reports, the findings are significant in part due to safety concerns associated with diethyltoluamide (DEET), a chemical found in many mosquito sprays.

Previous research carried out by Institut de Recherche pour le Développement in Montpellier, France questioned the safety of DEET after finding that it directly inhibited enzyme activity in both insect and mammal nerves.

Similarly, a 2015 report by Consumer Reports claimed that DEET sometimes came with serious side effects including “rashes, disorientation and even seizures”.

But, what can you use instead? While this new study admits that many natural alternatives quickly lose their effect on bugs, it insists that this wasn’t the case for coconut oil compounds.

Instead, it says that the coconut oil compounds out-performed DEET with an effective rate greater than 95 per cent, repelling bed bugs and ticks for two weeks, compared to DEET’s three days of effectiveness.

However, the concentration of coconut oil compounds required to effectively repel mosquitoes is far greater.

The study authors hope that the research will help work towards the development of coconut oil-based insect repellents.

Opinions towards coconut oil have been divided in recent months. While many experts claim that it has a host of health benefits, including the ability to reduce the risk of heart disease, others have gone as far as to call it “pure poison”.

Earlier this year, Dr Karin Michels, a professor at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and director of the Institute for Prevention and Tumour Epidemiology at the University of Freiburg stated that coconut oil is “one of the worst foods you can eat.”

This, she said, was because of the damaging effect the saturated fatty acids in the coconut oil have on your body.

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