น้ำมันปาล์ม (palm oil) เป็นน้ำมันพืช (vegetable oil) ที่ใช้วัตถุดิบ คือผลของต้นปาล์ม ที่มีชื่อทางวิทยาศาสตร์ว่า อีเลอีส กีนีเอ็นซิส
(Elaeis guineensis) ผลปาล์มน้ำมัน (palm) เป็นพืชน้ำมัน (oil corp) ซึ่งมีน้ำมันร้อยละ 56 มีสีเหลืองส้มของแคโรทีน (carotene)
น้ำมันปาล์ม (palm oil) ได้จากผลปาล์ม 2 ส่วนคือ
1. จากเปลือกหุ้มภายนอก (mesocarp) น้ำมันที่ได้เรียกกว่า น้ำมันจากเนื้อเมล็ดปาล์ม (palm oil)
2. จากเนื้อในของเมล็ด (palm kernel) น้ำมันที่ได้เรียกว่า น้ำมันจากเมล็ดปาล์ม palm kernel oil ซึ่งมีน้ำมันร้อยละ 44-48
ชนิดของน้ำมันปาล์ม (palm oil)
น้ำมันปาล์ม เป็นอาหารควบคุมเฉพาะ จากประกาศกระทรวงสาธารณสุข ฉบับที่ 56 (พ.ศ.2524) เรื่อง น้ำมันปาล์ม ได้แบ่งประเภทของน้ำมันปาล์มดังนี้
(1) น้ำมันปาล์มจากเนื้อปาล์ม (palm oil)
(2) น้ำมันปาล์มโอลีอินจากเนื้อปาล์ม (palm olein)
(3) น้ำมันปาล์มสเตียรินจากเนื้อปาล์ม (palm stearin)
(4) น้ำมันปาล์มจากเมล็ดปาล์ม (palm kernel oil)
(5) น้ำมันปาล์มโอลีอินจากเมล็ดปาล์ม (palm kernel olein)
(6) น้ำมันปาล์มสเตียรินจากเมล็ดปาล์ม (palm kernel stearin)
ข้อเสียของน้ำมันปาล์ม คือ จะสลายตัว (hydrolyse) ได้ง่ายด้วยเอนไซม์ลิเพส (lipase) เมื่อเกิดการช้ำหรือการกระแทกของผลปาล์ม
ในระหว่างการเก็บเกี่ยวและการขนย้าย ทำให้มีปริมาณกรดไขมันอิสระ (free fatty acid) เพิ่มสูงขึ้น และมีสีเหลืองส้มของแคโรทีน
(1) วิธีธรรมชาติ ทำโดยการบีบอัด หรือบีบอัดโดยใช้ความร้อน หรือวิธีธรรมชาติอื่น ตามที่ได้รับความเห็นชอบจาก สำนักงาน
คณะกรรมการอาหารและยา และนำมาทำให้สะอาดโดยการล้าง การตั้งไว้ให้ตกตะกอน (sedimentation) การกรอง (filtration)
(2) วิธีผ่านกรรมวิธี ทำโดยนำน้ำมันปาล์มที่ได้จากธรรมชาติหรือที่ได้จากการสกัดด้วยสารละลายตามที่ได้รับความเห็นชอบจาก
สำนักงานคณะกรรมการอาหารและยา และนำมาผ่านกรรมวิธี ทำให้บริสุทธิ์อีกครั้งหนึ่ง
น้ำมันปาล์มเป็นอาหารควบคุมเฉพาะ จากประกาศกระทรวงสาธารณสุข ฉบับที่ 56 (พ.ศ.2524) เรื่อง น้ำมันปาล์ม กำหนด
1. น้ำมันปาล์มจากเนื้อปาล์ม (palm oil)
น้ำมันจากเนื้อปาล์ม น้ำมันปาล์มโอลีอินจากเนื้อปาล์ม (palm olein) และ น้ำมันปาล์มสเตียรินจากเนื้อปาล์ม (palm stearin)
ที่ผลิตเพื่อจำหน่าย นำเข้าเพื่อจำหน่าย หรือที่จำหน่าย เพื่อใช้รับประทานหรือใช้ปรุงแต่งอาหาร ต้องมีคุณภาพหรือมาตรฐาน
(1) มีค่าของกรด (acid value) ไม่เกิน 10 มิลลิกรัม โพแทสเซียมไฮดรอกไซด์ ต่อน้ำมัน 1 กรัม สำหรับน้ำมันปาล์ม ที่ทำโดย
วิธีธรรมชาติ และไม่เกิน 0.6 มิลลิกรัม โปแตสเซียมไฮดรอกไซด์ ต่อน้ำหนัก 1 กรัม สำหรับน้ำมันปาล์มที่ทำโดยวิธีผ่านกรรมวิธี
(2) มีค่าเพอร์ออกไซด์ (peroxide value) ไม่เกิน 10 มิลลิกรัมสมมูลย์เพอร์ออกไซด์ออกซิเจน ต่อน้ำมัน 1 กิโลกรัม
(3) มีส่วนประกอบของกรดไขมันเป็นร้อยละของกรดไขมันทั้งหมด โดยใช้วิธีก๊าซลิควิดโครมาโตกราฟฟี หรือ จีแอลซี
(Gas Liquid Chromatography หรือ GLC) ดังนี้
|กรดลอริก (Lauric acid) กรดไมริสติก (Myristic acid) กรดปาลมิติก (Palmitic acid) กรดปาลมิโตเลอิก (Palmitoleic acid) กรดสเตียริก (Stearic acid) กรดโอลีอิก (Oleic acid) กรดลิโนลีอิก (Linoleic acid) กรดลิโนลนิก (Linolenic acid) กรดอะราซิดิก (Arachidic acid)||ไม่เกิน 1.2 ระหว่าง 0.5 ถึง 5.9 ระหว่าง 32 ถึง 59 ไม่เกิน 0.6 ระหว่าง 1.5 ถึง 8.0 ระหว่าง 27 ถึง 52.0 ร ะหว่าง 5.0 ถึง 14 ไม่เกิน 1.5 ไม่เกิน 1.0|
(4) มีค่าสปอนิฟิเคชัน (saponification value) ระหว่าง 190 ถึง 209 มิลลิกรัม โพแทสเซียมไฮดรอกไซด์ ต่อน้ำมัน 1 กรัม
(5) มีค่าไอโอดีนแบบวิจส์ (iodine value, Wijs) ดังนี้
(ก) ระหว่าง 50-56 สำหรับน้ำมันปาล์มจากเนื้อปาล์ม
(ข) ไม่น้อยกว่า 55 สำหรับน้ำมันปาล์มโอลีอินจากเนื้อปาล์ม
(ค) ไม่เกิน 48 สำหรับน้ำมันปาล์มสเตียรินจากเนื้อปาล์ม
6) มีสารที่สปอนิฟายไม่ได้ (unsaponifiable matter) ไม่เกินร้อยละ 1.2 ของน้ำหนัก
(7) มีสิ่งที่ระเหยได้ (volatile matter) ที่อุณหภูมิ 105 องศาเซลเซียส ไม่เกินร้อยละ 0.2 ของน้ำหนัก
(8) มีปริมาณสบู่ (soap content) ไม่เกินร้อยละ 0.005 ของน้ำหนัก
(10) มีสิ่งอื่นที่ไม่ละลาย (Insoluble impurities) ไม่เกินร้อยละ 0.05 ของน้ำหนัก
(11) มีปริมาณแคโรทีนอยด์ (carotenoid) ทั้งหมด คำนวณเป็นบีตา-แคโรทีน ไม่น้อยกว่า 500 มิลลิกรัม ต่อน้ำมัน 1 กิโลกรัม และไม่เกิน 2,000 มิลลิกรัม ต่อน้ำมัน 1 กิโลกรัม สำหรับน้ำมันปาล์มที่ทำโดยวิธีธรรมชาติ
(12) ไม่มีกลิ่นหืน (rancidity)
น้ำมันปาล์มจากเมล็ดปาล์ม (palm kernel oil) น้ำมันปาล์มโอลีอินจากเมล็ดปาล์ม (palm kernel olein) น้ำมันปาล์มสเตียริน
จากเมล็ดปาล์ม (palm kernel stearin) ที่ผลิตเพื่อจำหน่าย นำเข้าเพื่อจำหน่าย หรือที่จำหน่าย เพื่อใช้รับประทานหรือใช้ปรุง
แต่งอาหาร ต้องมีคุณภาพหรือมาตรฐาน ดังต่อไปนี้
(1) มีค่าของกรด (Acid value) ไม่เกิน 0.6 มิลลิกรัม โพแทสเซียมไฮดรอกไซด์ ต่อน้ำมัน 1 กรัม สำหรับน้ำมันปาล์มที่ทำโดย
(2) มีค่าเพอร์ออกไซด์ (Peroxide value) ไม่เกิน 10 มิลลิกรัมสมมูลย์เพอร์ออกไซด์ ออกซิเจน ต่อน้ำมัน 1 กิโลกรัม
(3) มีส่วนประกอบของกรดไขมันเป็นร้อยละของกรดไขมันทั้งหมดโดยใช้วิธีกาซลิควิดโครมาโตกราฟฟี หรือ จีแอลซี (Gas Liquid Chromatography) หรือ G L C) ดังนี้ เว้นแต่น้ำมันปาล์ม โอลีอินจากเมล็ดปาล์มและน้ำมันปาล์มสเตียรินจากเมล็ดปาล์ม ให้มีได้ตามที่ได้รับความเห็นชอบจากสำนักงานคณะกรรมการอาหารและยา
|กรดคาโปรอิค (Caproic acid) กรดคาปรีลิค (Caprylic acid) กรดคาปริค (Capric acid) กรดลอลิค (Lauric acid) กรดไมริสติค (Myristic acid) กรดปาล์มมิติค (Palmitic acid) กรดสเตียริค (Stearic acid) กรดโอลีอิค (Oleic acid) กรดไลโนลีอิค (Linoleic acid)||ไม่เกิน 0.5ระหว่าง 2.4 ถึง 6.2ระหว่าง 2.6 ถึง 7.0ระหว่าง 41 ถึง 55ระหว่าง 14 ถึง 20ระหว่าง 6.5 ถึง 11ระหว่าง 1.3 ถึง 3.5ระหว่าง 10 ถึง 23ระหว่าง 0.7 ถึง 5.4|
(4) มีค่าสปอนิฟิเคชั่น (Saponification value) ระหว่าง 230 ถึง 254 มิลลิกรัม โพแทสเซียมไฮดรอกไซด์ ต่อน้ำมัน 1 กรัม
(5) มีค่าไอโอดีนแบบวิจส์ (Iodine value, Wijs) ระหว่าง 13 ถึง 23 เว้นแต่น้ำมันปาล์มโอลีอินจากเมล็ดปาล์ม และน้ำมันปาล์มสเตียรินจากเมล็ดปาล์ม ให้มีได้ตามที่ได้รับความเห็นชอบจากสำนักงานคณะกรรมการอาหารและยา
(6) มีสารที่สปอนิฟายไม่ได้ (Unsaponifiable matter) ไม่เกินร้อยละ 1 ของน้ำหนัก
(7) มีสิ่งที่ระเหยได้ (Volatile matter) ที่อุณหภูมิ 105 องศาเซลเซียส ไม่เกินร้อยละ 0.2 ของน้ำหนัก
(8) มีปริมาณสบู่ (Soap content) ไม่เกินร้อยละ 0.005 ของน้ำหนัก
(10) มีสิ่งอื่นที่ไม่ละลาย (Insoluble impurities) ไม่เกินร้อยละ 0.05 ของน้ำหนัก
(12) ไม่มีน้ำมันแร่ น้ำมันปาล์มที่ผลิตตามวิธีอื่นในข้อ 3 (3) ให้ได้รับการยกเว้นไม่ต้องมีคุณภาพหรือมาตรฐานตาม (3) (4)
(5) (6) และ (9) แต่ต้องมีคุณภาพหรือมาตรฐานตามที่ได้รับความเห็นชอบจากสำนักงาน คณะกรรมการอาหารและยา ข้อ 6
น้ำมันปาล์มที่ใช้วัตถุเจือปนอาหาร (food additive) หรือที่มีสารปนเปื้อน (contaminants) ต้องใช้หรือมีได้ตามชนิดและปริมาณ
ที่กำหนดไว้ในบัญชีท้ายประกาศนี้เท่านั้น ข้อ 7 น้ำมันปาล์มที่ใช้ประโยชน์อย่างอื่นนอกจากใช้รับประทานหรือใช้ปรุงแต่งอาหาร
ให้ได้รับการยกเว้นไม่ต้องมีคุณภาพหรือมาตรฐานตามข้อกำหนดที่ระบุไว้ในข้อ 4 ข้อ 5 และข้อ 6 แต่ต้องแสดงฉลากไว้ที่
ภาชนะบรรจุว่า"ห้ามใช้รับประทาน" ด้วยตัวอักษรสีแดง ขนาดไม่เล็กกว่า 1 เซนติเมตร ในกรอบพื้นสีขาว และในฉลากนั้นให้แสดง
เครื่องหมายที่สำนักงานคณะกรรมการอาหารและยาออกให้ไว้ด้วย ข้อ 8 ภาชนะบรรจุที่ใช้บรรจุน้ำมันปาล์มที่ใช้รับประทานหรือ
ใช้ปรุงแต่งอาหาร ให้ปฏิบัติตามประกาศกระทรวงสาธารณสุขว่าด้วย เรื่อง ภาชนะบรรจุ ข้อ 9 การแสดงฉลากของน้ำมันปาล์มที่
ใช้รับประทานหรือใช้ปรุงแต่งอาหาร ให้ปฏิบัติตามประกาศกระทรวงสาธารณสุขว่าด้วยเรื่อง ฉลาก
ประกาศฉบับนี้ไม่กระทบกระเทือนถึงใบสำคัญการขึ้นทะเบียนตำรับอาหาร ซึ่งออกให้ตามประกาศกระทรวงสาธารณสุข ฉบับที่ 22
(พ.ศ.2522) เรื่อง กำหนดน้ำมันและไขมันเป็นอาหารควบคุมเฉพาะและกำหนดคุณภาพหรือมาตรฐาน วิธีการผลิต และฉลาก
สำหรับน้ำมัน และไขมัน เว้นแต่เฉพาะส่วนที่เกี่ยวกับน้ำมันปาล์มจากเนื้อปาล์มตามข้อ 2 (1) (2) หรือ (3) หรือน้ำมันปาล์มจาก
เมล็ดปาล์มตามข้อ 2 (4) (5) หรือ (6) ให้ผู้ที่ได้รับใบสำคัญการขึ้นทะเบียนตำรับอาหารตามประกาศกระทรวงสาธารณสุขฉบับ
ดังกล่าวมาดำเนินการแก้ไขตำรับอาหารให้มีรายละเอียดถูกต้องตามประกาศฉบับนี้ ภายในเก้าสิบวัน นับแต่วันที่ประกาศนี้ใช้บังคับ
Palm oil is derived from the fruit of oil palms.
It consists mostly of saturated and monounsaturated fats, with small amounts of polyunsaturates.
This makes palm oil a good choice for cooking.
Red Palm Oil (the unrefined variety) is best. It is also rich in Vitamins E, Coenzyme Q10 and other nutrients.
However, some concerns have been raised about the sustainability of harvesting palm oil, apparently growing these trees means less environment available for Orangutans, which are an endangered species.
Palm oil (also known as dendê oil, from Portuguese) is an edible vegetable oil derived from the mesocarp (reddish pulp) of the fruit of the oil palms, primarily the African oil palm Elaeis guineensis, and to a lesser extent from the American oil palm Elaeis oleifera and the maripa palm Attalea maripa.
Palm oil is naturally reddish in color because of a high beta-carotene content. It is not to be confused with palm kernel oil derived from the kernel of the same fruit, or coconut oil derived from the kernel of the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera). The differences are in color (raw palm kernel oil lacks carotenoids and is not red), and in saturated fat content: Palm mesocarp oil is 41% saturated, while palm kernel oil and coconut oil are 81% and 86% saturated respectively.
Palm oil is a common cooking ingredient in the tropical belt of Africa, Southeast Asia and parts of Brazil. Its use in the commercial food industry in other parts of the world is widespread because of its lower cost and the high oxidative stability (saturation) of the refined product when used for frying.
The use of palm oil in food products has attracted the concern of environmental activist groups; the high oil yield of the trees has encouraged wider cultivation, leading to the clearing of forests in parts of Indonesia in order to make space for oil-palm monoculture. This has resulted in significant acreage losses of the natural habitat of the orangutan, of which both species are endangered; one species in particular, the Sumatran orangutan, has been listed as critically endangered. In 2004, an industry group called the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was formed to work with the palm oil industry to address these concerns. Additionally, in 1992, in response to concerns about deforestation, the Malaysian Government pledged to limit the expansion of palm oil plantations by retaining a minimum of half the nation's land as forest cover.
Palm oil, like all fats, is composed of fatty acids, esterified with glycerol. Palm oil has an especially high concentration of saturated fat, specifically, of the 16-carbon saturated fatty acid palmitic acid, to which it gives its name. Monounsaturated oleic acid is also a major constituent of palm oil. Unrefined palm oil is a large natural source of tocotrienol, part of the vitamin E family.
The approximate concentration of fatty acids in palm oil is:
|Fatty acid content of palm oil|
|Type of fatty acid||pct|
|Myristic saturated C14||1.0%|
|Palmitic saturated C16||43.5%|
|Stearic saturated C18||4.3%|
|Oleic monounsaturated C18||36.6%|
|Linoleic polyunsaturated C18||9.1%|
|black: Saturated; grey: Monounsaturated; blue: Polyunsaturated|
When unrefined or when processed into red palm oil, it is naturally rich in carotenes, which give it its characteristic dark red color. Like tomatoes, carrots and many other fruits and vegetables but unlike most oils, palm oil naturally contains the nutrients alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and lycopene. Palm oil contains other carotenes including tocopherols and tocotrienols (members of the vitamin E family), CoQ10, phytosterols, and glycolipids.
Processing and use
After milling, various palm oil products are made using refining processes. First is fractionation, with crystallization and separation processes to obtain solid (stearin), and liquid (olein) fractions. Then melting and degumming removes impurities. Then the oil is filtered and bleached. Physical refining[clarification needed] removes smells and coloration to produce "refined, bleached and deodorized palm oil" (RBDPO) and free sheer fatty acids,[clarification needed] which are used in the manufacture of soaps,washing powder and other products. RBDPO is the basic palm oil product sold on the world's commodity markets. Many companies fractionate it further to producepalm olein for cooking oil, or process it into other products.
Red palm oil
Butter and trans fat substitute
The highly saturated nature of palm oil renders it solid at room temperature in temperate regions, making it a cheap substitute for butter or trans fats in uses where solid fat is desirable, such as the making of pastry dough and baked goods. A recent rise in the use of palm oil in the food industry has partly come from changed labelling requirements that have caused a switch away from using trans fats. Palm oil has been found to be a reasonable replacement for trans fats; however, a small study conducted in 2009 found that palm oil may not be a good substitute for trans fats for individuals with already-elevated LDL levels. The USDA agricultural research service states that palm oil is not a healthy substitute for trans fats.
Biomass and bioenergy
Palm oil is used to produce both methyl ester and hydrodeoxygenated biodiesel. Palm oil methyl ester is created through a process called transesterification. Palm oil biodiesel is often blended with other fuels to create palm oil biodiesel blends. Palm oil biodiesel meets the European EN 14214 standard for biodiesels.Hydrodeoxygenated biodiesel is produced by direct hydrogenolysis of the fat into alkanes and propane. The world's largest palm oil biodiesel plant is the Finnish-operated Neste Oil biodiesel plant in Singapore, which opened in 2011 and produces hydrodeoxygenated NEXBTL biodiesel.
The organic waste matter that is produced when processing oil palm, including oil palm shells and oil palm fruit bunches, can also be used to produce energy. This waste material can be converted into pellets that can be used as a biofuel. Additionally, palm oil that has been used to fry foods can be converted into methyl esters for biodiesel. The used cooking oil is chemically treated to create a biodiesel similar to petroleum diesel.
In wound care
According to the Hamburg-based Oil World trade journal, in 2008 global production of oils and fats stood at 160 million tonnes. Palm oil and palm kernel oil were jointly the largest contributor, accounting for 48 million tonnes, or 30% of the total output. Soybean oil came in second with 37 million tonnes (23%). About 38% of the oils and fats produced in the world were shipped across oceans. Of the 60.3 million tonnes of oils and fats exported around the world, palm oil and palm kernel oil made up close to 60%; Malaysia, with 45% of the market share, dominated the palm oil trade.
Food label regulations
Previously, palm oil could be listed as "vegetable fat" or "vegetable oil" on food labels in the European Union (EU). From December 2014, food packaging in the EU is no longer allowed to use the generic terms "vegetable fat" or "vegetable oil" in the ingredients list. Food producers are required to list the specific type of vegetable fat used, including palm oil. Vegetable oils and fats can be grouped together in the ingredients list under the term "vegetable oils" or "vegetable fats" but this must be followed by the type of vegetable origin (e.g. palm, sunflower or rapeseed) and the phrase "in varying proportions".
Nutrition and health
Palm oil is also an important source of calories and a food staple in poor communities. However its overall health impacts, particularly in relation to cardiovascular disease, are controversial and subject to ongoing research.
Much of the palm oil that is consumed as food is cooking oil, to some degree oxidized rather than in the fresh state, and this oxidation appears to be responsible for the health risk associated with consuming palm oil.
Several studies have linked palm oil to higher risks of cardiovascular disease including a 2005 study conducted in Costa Rica which indicated that replacing palm oil in cooking with polyunsaturated non-hydrogenated oils could reduce the risk of heart attacks, and a 2011 analysis of 23 countries which showed that for each kilogram of palm oil added to the diet annually there was an increase in ischemic heart disease deaths (68 deaths per 100,000 increase) though the increase was much smaller in high-income countries.
According to studies reported on by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), excessive intake of palmitic acid, which makes up 44 percent of palm oil, increases blood cholesterol levels and may contribute to heart disease. The CSPI also reported that the World Health Organization and the US National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute have encouraged consumers to limit the consumption of palmitic acid and foods high in saturated fat. According to the World Health Organization, evidence is convincing that consumption of palmitic acid increases risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, placing it in the same evidence category astrans fatty acids.
However, a 1993 study published by the United Nations University Press found that consumption of palmitic acid appeared to have no impact on cholesterol levels when daily cholesterol intake is below 400 mg per day.
Comparison to trans fats
In response to negative reports on palm oil many food manufacturers transitioned to using hydrogenated vegetable oils in their products, which have also come under scrutiny for the impact these oils have on health. A 2006 study supported by the National Institutes of Health and the USDA Agricultural Research Service concluded that palm oil is not a safe substitute for partially hydrogenated fats (trans fats) in the food industry, because palm oil results in adverse changes in the blood concentrations of LDL cholesterol and apolipoprotein B just as trans fat does. However, according to two reports published in 2010 by the Journal of theAmerican College of Nutrition palm oil is again an accepted replacement for hydrogenated vegetable oils and a natural replacement for partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, which are a significant source of trans fats.
Comparison with animal saturated fat
Not all saturated fats have equally cholesterolemic effects. Studies have indicated that consumption of palm olein (which is more unsaturated) reduces blood cholesterol when compared to sources of saturated fats like coconut oil, dairy and animal fats.
In 1996, Dr Decker of University of Massachusetts Medical School stressed that saturated fats in the sn–1 and -3 position of triacylglycerols exhibit different metabolic patterns because of their low absorptivity. Dietary fats containing saturated fats primarily in sn–1 and -3 positions (e.g., cocoa butter, coconut oil, and palm oil) have very different biological consequences than those fats in which the saturated fats are primarily in the sn–2 position (e.g., milk fat and lard). Differences in stereospecific fatty acid location should be an important consideration in the design and interpretation of lipid nutrition studies and in the production of specialty food products.
A 2009 study tested the emission rates of acrolein, a toxic and malodorous breakdown product from glycerol, from the deep-frying of potatoes in red palm, olive, and polyunsaturated sunflower oils. The study found higher acrolein emission rates from the polyunsaturated sunflower oil (the scientists characterized red palm oil as "mono-unsaturated") and lower rates from both palm and olive oils. The World Health Organization established a tolerable oral acrolein intake of 7.5 mg/day per kilogram of body weight. Although acrolein occurs in French fries, the levels are only a few micrograms per kilogram. A 2011 study concluded a health risk from acrolein in food is unlikely.
Of the tropical oils, coconut gets the most attention, while palm oil gets mostly ignored. The virgin coconut oil has a fairly distinct flavor, but it’s one most people are familiar with, and it lends itself well to both sweet and savory dishes. Palm oil, especially the virgin red variety that gets all the attention for its positive health effects, also has a distinct flavor, but it’s one many people seem to dislike, probably because it’s so unfamiliar (in the US, at least; worldwide, palm oil is the most widely used cooking oil) to our palates. Scott Kustes had a guest post awhile back discussing the tropical oils, but I thought it would be good to give a short, comprehensive primer on the multiple varieties of palm oil.
Palm oil is extracted from the flesh of the plum-sized palm fruit. In the better brands, the processing that goes into the extraction isn’t overly invasive, and people have been doing it in roughly the same manner (the scale of operations has changed, of course). The main steps, for both small and large operations:
- Separation of individual fruits (palm fruits grow in bunches).
- Softening up the flesh.
- The pressing of the fruit.
- The purification of the resultant oil.
Now, step four is where everything changes. If you want to make an ultra-refined product for shipping to the masses, you subject the raw oil to a purification process that renders the oil white and nearly flavorless. This highly-refined palm oil, as long as it hasn’t been hydrogenated (partially or otherwise), is a great choice for relatively high heat stir frying, but you will be losing some nutritional value (see Red Palm Oil below). Refined palm oil is about 50% saturated fat, 39% monounsaturated fat, and only around 11% polyunsaturated fat, making it stable for cooking (and storage) and semisolid at room temperature. Feel free to use this as a primary cooking oil.
Palm Kernel Oil
Palm kernel oil comes from the same fruit and the same tree, only this time the oil’s coming from the seeds of the plant – or the kernel. Health officials are quick to warn against excess consumption of palm kernel oil owing to its much higher saturated fat levels, which is usually our cue to do the exact opposite. Palm kernel oil is highly saturated (around 80% SFA, 15% MUFA, and 2.5% PUFA), making it fantastic for high heat cooking. It’s very similar to coconut oil. I haven’t tried it myself, and I can’t get word either way about the flavor, so I’m unclear as to how it differs from normal refined palm oil beyond the fatty acid profile. Anyone know?
Red Palm Oil
This is the virgin, unrefined stuff. Palm oil is naturally reddish, and it comes chock full of vitamins and antioxidants. When palm oil is highly refined, though, it loses its color and taste right along with the inarguably beneficial effects. Vitamin E (may help prevent LDL oxidation), betacarotenes (many more than carrots or tomatoes), and co-enzyme Q10 (a major participant in cellular respiration) are all in red palm oil. Furthermore, the vitamin E in red palm oil is made up of both tocotrienols and tocopherols; the vitamin E in most foods is mainly tocopherol, which may be less effective than the tocotrienols abounding in red palm oil. Red palm oil does have a strong taste – according to one Portuguese explorer, “It smells of violets, tastes like olives and has a colour that blends foods together like saffron, but even all this can’t sufficiently describe its special qualities.” A bit of hyperbole? Perhaps. But the point is that you don’t want to be mixing this stuff with just anything; you might, for example, try this West African dish employing red palm oil.
Most health food stores should carry palm oil, both refined and red, and I know that Whole Foods definitely carries both. If there’s no Whole Foods in your area, check out any local co-ops or the smaller health food shops. On the online front, Tropical Traditions makes a great virgin red palm oil that can be ordered.
I think red palm oil is worth having around. For regular sautéing (eggs, for example), butter would probably work just fine, but certain cuisines use a lot of palm oil, and it’s great having options. Plus, it’s an extremely shelf stable fat. Use liberally and with great gusto!
Generally, plant oils are more beneficial for health than animal fats, but palm oil is an exception. Palm oil comes from the fruit of the palm oil tree and is grown on large plantations in tropical places such as Indonesia and Malaysia. At room temperature, palm oil is the consistency of butter or shortening and is often used in place of them in baked goods and processed foods. The large amount of saturated fat and high number of calories it contains make palm oil a risky choice for your health.
High in Fat
Diets high in fats such as palm oil can lead to weight gain, heart problems and other chronic disease. Eating a proper amount of fat is essential to human health, but too much can be detrimental. According to the Institute of Medicine Food and Nutrition Board, adults eating a 2,000-calorie daily diet should consume no more than 44 to 78 grams of fat per day. One tablespoon of palm oil has 120 calories and 13.6 grams of fat. If using palm oil, do so sparingly with regard to the amount of calories and fat it contains.
Palm oil is particularly high in saturated fat. The University of Maryland Medical Center states that diets high in saturated fat can lead to an elevated cholesterol level and a build up of plaque in the arteries. Over time, this can lead to heart attack or stroke. Thus, it is recommended by the American Heart Association to eat no more than 16 grams of saturated fat per day for a daily diet of 2,000 calories. One tablespoon of palm oil has 6.7 grams of saturated fat. In just 2.5 tablespoons of palm oil, you would exceed the recommended daily maximum of saturated fat.
Cholesterol comes from foods that you eat and also from our bodies, which naturally produces it from saturated fat. This means the more saturated fat you consume, the more building blocks your body has available to make cholesterol, leading to elevated levels and increased potential for health complications. According to food expert Marion Nestle, author of the book "What to Eat", palmitic acid is a type of saturated that makes up most of the fat in palm oil. She goes on to say in her book that this fat is "especially adept at raising cholesterol levels" and that "palm oils are decidedly worse than butter" for this reason.
In addition to causing weight gain and elevated cholesterol, consuming palm oil that has been heated may elevate blood pressure. A study published in the December 2011 issue of "Clinics" found that heating vegetable oil produces free radicals. Over time, free radicals can lead to chronic disease. In this study consuming heated palm oil was specifically linked to hypertension. However, when the palm oil was unheated and raw, no detrimental impact on blood pressure was seen. This means palm oil may be safer to consume in a raw, unheated, uncooked state.
INTRODUCTION Palm oil has been used in food preparation for over 5,000 years. Palm oil, obtained from the fruit of the oil palm tree, is the most widely produced edible vegetable oil in the world and it’s nutritional and health attributes have been well documented (Chandrasekharan et al. 2000). According to the Malaysian Oil Palm Statistics in 2005 (http: //www.tocotrienol.org/en/index/ news/58.html), it surpassed soybean oil as the most widely produced vegetable oil in the world. Palm oil is currently enjoying strong appeal worldwide as a cooking aid because it is free of artery-clogging trans-fats. Besides being cleaner and more stable, cooking with palm oil leaves the kitchen becomes less greasy and easy to clean. It is consumed worldwide as cooking oil, in making of margarine and shortening, apart from being used as an ingredient in fat blends and a vast array of food products. In the United States, palm oil’s principal edible use is as an ingredient in prepared foods (primarily baked goods). Food manufacturers choose palm oil because it has a distinct quality, requires little or no hydrogenation, and prolongs the shelf life of different products (Anonymous 2003). The palm fruit (Elaeis Guineensis) is the source of both palm oil (extracted from palm fruit) and palm kernel oil (extracted from the fruit seeds). Babassu oil is extracted from the kernels of the Babassu palm. Malaysia and Indonesia account for 83 percent of production and 89 percent of global exports. Oil Palm is grown as an industrial plantation crop, often (especially in Indonesia) on newly cleared rainforest or peat-swamp forests rather than on already degraded land or disused agricultural land. In Malaysia, the area devoted to Oil Palm has increased 12-fold to 13,500 square miles. The vast plantations that grow Oil Palm trees have contributed to the destruction of the rainforest and wildlife of Southeast Asia (http: // en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palm_oil). PALM OIL Composition of Palm Oil The palm oil and palm kernel oil are high in saturated fatty acids, about 50% and 80% respectively and esterified with glycerol. The Oil palm gives its name to the 16 carbon saturated fatty acid palmitic acid; monounsaturated oleic acid is also a constituent of palm oil while palm kernel oil contains mainly lauric acid. Palm oil is the largest natural source of tocotrienol. Palm oil is also high in vitamin K and dietary magnesium. Napalm derives its name from naphthenic acid, palmitic acid and pyrotechnics or simply from a recipe using naphtha and palm oil. Table 1 shows fatty acids composition of palm oil and palm kernel oil. Palm oil contained about 10% linoleic acid, which is an unsaturated omega-6 fatty acid. Linoleic acid is one of the two essential fatty acids that humans require. Palm oil also contains small amounts of squalene (possible cholesterol lower- 198 ANALAVA MITRA AND SUTAPA MUKHERJEE ing and anti-cancer properties) and ubiquinone (energy booster). Besides Red palm oil is also rich in co-enzyme Q10. Antioxidants in Palm Oil Effects of Carotenoids: Crude palm oil is considered to be the richest natural source of carotenoids (about 15 times more than in carrots). The human body uses carotenoids as Vitamin A. Carotenoids also enhance immune function by a variety of mechanisms, and can improve cardiovascular health. Carotenoids also play an important potential role by acting as biological antioxidants, protecting cells and tissues from the damaging effect of free radicals. When on being exposed to pollutants in cigarette smoke, industrial pollution, stress, unbalanced diets, pesticide and insecticide residues in food and water, and many other negative environmental influences, one is also exposed to free radicals. A build-up of free radicals in the body is associated with degenerative diseases such as heart disease and cancer, as well as general ageing. It is, therefore, in one’s own best interest to ensure that to eat a diet rich in antioxidants that will prevent the damage that is done to bodies by free radicals. Red palm oil is a form of processed palm oil (deacidified and deodorised) which retains 80% of the original carotenoids, making it a remarkable source of Vitamin A. These natural antioxidants act as buffers against free radicals and are believed to play a protective role in cellular ageing, atherosclerosis, cancer, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease. Effects of Tocopherols and Tocotrienols: In fact, no other vegetable oil has as much Vitamin E as compared to palm oil (Chow 1992). Natural vitamin E exists in eight different forms or isomers, four tocopherols and four tocotrienols. Natural palm oil contains alpha, beta, gamma, and deltatocopherols and alpha, beta, gamma, and deltatocotrienols. Tocotrienols in Vitamin E have been found to have antioxidant and anti-cancer activities. Tocotrienols by its action on liver enzymes lowers blood cholesterol levels without reduction in good cholesterol (High Density Lipoprotein or HDL). Its antioxidant properties bring many benefits to the human body, such as preventing skin aging, preventing fat oxidation, reducing blood pressure etc. Human studies have shown that palm tocotrienols have the ability to reverse blockage of the carotid artery and platelet aggregation (the clumping together of cells) thereby reducing the risk of stroke, arteriosclerosis, and ischaemic heart diseases. Palm tocotrienols have been shown to be protective after a strenuous bout of exercise by preventing protein oxidation and lipid peroxidation. Tocotrienol-rich fraction of palm oil is capable of protecting brain against oxidative damage and thereby from the ensuing adverse alterations that accompany aging. Lipid peroxides in blood vessels and plasma show a positive correlation with blood pressure. The antioxidant ability of gamma-tocotrienol may prevent development of increased blood pressure by reducing lipid peroxides and enhancing the total antioxidant status, including superoxide dismutase activity. Melanoma, also on the increase, can be inhibited with the delta fraction of tocotrienols. When applied topically, vitamin E/tocotrienols is quickly absorbed into the deep layers of the skin. Gamma- and delta-tocotrienols derived from palm oil exhibit a strong activity against tumor promotion by inhibiting Epstein- Barr virus. The delta and gamma factions of tocotrienols can inhibit certain types of cancer, including both the estrogen- positive and estrogen-negative breast cancer cells. The inhibition of the growth of breast cancer cells by palm tocotrienols could have extraordinarily important clinical implications on world health. Not only can the palm tocotrienols prevent the growth of these unwanted cells, but they can also do this in the presence as well as in the absence of estradiol, thereby protecting against both hormone-related and other kinds of breast cancer. It is interesting to note that tocotrienols can inhibit or even kill normal cells, but only in extremely high amounts — just as most any Palm Oil Saturated acids- Palmitic (C16) 44.3%, Stearic (C18) 4.6%, Myristic (C14) 1.0% Mono Unsaturated acids- Oleic (C18) 38.7% Poly Unsaturated acids- Linoleic (C18) 10.5% Other/Unknown - 0.9% Table 1: Fatty acids composition of palm oil and palm kernel oil (Chow 1992) Palm Kernel Oil Saturated acids- Lauric (C12) 48.2%, Myristic (C14) 16.2%, Palmitic (C16) 8.4%, Capric (C10) 3.4%, Caprylic (C8 ) 3.3%, Stearic (C18) 2.5% Mono Unsaturated acids-Oleic (C18) 15.3% Poly Unsaturated acids-Linoleic (C18) 2.3% Other/Unknown 0.4% HEALTH EFFECTS OF PALM OIL 199 beneficial substance can be detrimental in excessive quantity. Malignant cells, on the other hand, are very sensitive to tocotrienols. In fact, the more cancerous the cell, the more susceptible it is to the destructive effects of tocotrienol, so very little is required to accomplish its favorable role of cancercell annihilation (Ebong et al. 1999). Benefits of Palm Oil Palm oil is consumed in the fresh state and/or at various levels of oxidation. Feeding experiments in various animal species and humans have highlighted the beneficial role of fresh palm oil to health. These benefits include reduction in the risk of arterial thrombosis and atherosclerosis, inhibition of cholesterol biosynthesis and platelet aggregation, and reduction in blood pressure. However, on being used in the oxidized state possesses potential dangers to the physiological and biochemical functions of the body. Oxidized palm oil induces an adverse effect on plasma lipid profile, free fatty acids, phospholipids and cerebrosides. Additionally, oxidized palm oil induces reproductive toxicity and organ toxicity particularly of the kidneys, lungs, liver and heart. Available evidence suggests that at least part of the oxidized oil impact on health is due to generation of toxicants due to oxidation. The reduction of the dietary level of oxidized oil and/ or the level of oxidation may reduce the health risk (Ebong et al. 1999). A study by a group of researchers in China comparing palm, soybean, peanut oils and lard showed that palm oil actually increased the levels of good cholesterol and reduced the levels of bad cholesterol in the blood (Zhang et al. 1997 cited by Koh 2007). A study by Hornstra in 1990 also showed similar results. Zhang et al. (1997) found that in normo and hypercholesterolemic subjects, the use of palm oil in the diet should be safe and will not increase the risk of Cerebro Vascular Disease (CVD). Toxicological and pharmacological studies show that supplementation with palm tocotrienols up to 2,500 milligrams per day per kilogram of body weight does not produce any significant side effects. Although higher levels can be used for therapeutic purposes, those who want to enhance their antioxidant intake can use 30 to 50 milligrams of tocotrienols daily. Additional phyto-nutrients, designed by some of our best formulators, provide synergy for the palm tocotrienols (http: / /www.bettykamen.com/newsletters/palmoil.htm). Controversies of Palm Oil For many years now, it has been established that the primary cholesterol-elevating fatty acids are the saturated fatty acids with 12 (lauric acid), 14 (myristic acid) and 16 (palmitic acid) carbon atoms with a concomitant increase in the risk of coronary heart disease. The World Health Organization in its report (2003) states that there is convincing evidence that palmitic oil consumption contributes to an increased risk of developing of cardiovascular diseases. In the past, palm oil was attacked as “saturated” since it contains 44% palmitic acid and 5% stearic acid, and thereby allegedly raises blood cholesterol and increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. However, a sizeable and growing body of scientific evidence indicates that palm oil’s effect on blood cholesterol is relatively neutral when compared to other fats and oils. Palm oil raises plasma cholesterol only when an excess of dietary cholesterol is presented in the diet. Two meta-analysis have examined the effect of palmitic acid (found in palm oil) on serum cholesterol. In a 1997 study based on 134 clinical studies, British researchers concluded that, compared to carbohydrates, palmitic acid raises blood cholesterol levels (Clarke et al. 1997). In 2003, Dutch scientists conducted a meta-analysis of 35 clinical studies (Mensink et al. 2003) and examined what many experts consider the best indicator of heart-disease risk: the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol (Institute of Medicine, National Academies 2002). Palmitic acid increased the total: HDL cholesterol ratio more than other saturated fatty acids, including lauric acid and myristic acid, which are abundant in palm kernel oil and coconut oil; the other highly saturated tropical oil (Enig 1993). Palm oil increases the total: HDL cholesterol ratio more than the average U.S. or British dietary fat (Jensen et al. 1999; Keys et al. 1957). That finding indicates that, in terms of blood cholesterol, palm oil is somewhat more harmful than the average U.S. dietary fat and much more harmful than such liquid oils as olive, soy, and canola. The World Health Organization has stated that there is “convincing evidence” that palmitic acid increases the risk of cardiovascular disease (World Health Organization 2003). A number of pre-1990 human feeding studies 200 ANALAVA MITRA AND SUTAPA MUKHERJEE reported that palm oil diets resulted in lower serum cholesterol levels than pre-study values. Indeed, scientists concluded that these studies, although not specifically designed to study palm oil, have revealed that a palm oil diet lowered plasma cholesterol compared with the starting periods during which the subjects were eating their habitual Western diets. These conclusions were questioned because the studies were not designed to measure the effects of palm oil. But subsequent studies, specifically designed to evaluate palm oil, confirmed that palm oil’s impact on serum lipid and lipoprotein profiles compares favorably to corn oil, lightly hydrogenated soybean oil, and olive oil. Thus, palm oil’s impact on serum lipids is more like a monounsaturated than saturated oil. Palm oil contains a high percentage of monounsaturates (40%). Palm oil’s saturated fatty acids are palmitic (44%) and stearic (5%), which do not appear to elevate blood cholesterol in people with cholesterol levels within normal ranges. Palm oil stimulates the synthesis of protective HDL cholesterol and removal of harmful Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Palm oil is rich in vitamin E, (particularly tocotrienols), which appear to reduce serum cholesterol concentrations (Ebong et al. 1999). Ancel Keys is largely responsible for starting the anti-saturated fat agenda in the United States. From 1953 to 1957 Keys made a series of statements regarding the atherogenicity of fats. These pronouncements were: “All fats raise serum cholesterol; Nearly half of total fat comes from vegetable fats and oils; No difference between animal and vegetable fats in effect on Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) (1953); Type of fat makes no difference; Need to reduce margarine and shortening (1956); All fats are comparable; Saturated fats raise and polyunsaturated fats lower serum cholesterol; Hydrogenated vegetable fats are the problem; Animal fats are the problem.” Recently, an editorial by Harvard’s Walter Willett, in the American Journal of Public Health (1990) acknowledged that even though “the focus of dietary recommendations is usually a reduction of saturated fat intake, no relation between saturated fat intake and risk of CHD was observed in the most informative prospective study to date.” Another editorial, this time by Framingham’s William P. Castelli in the Archives of Internal Medicine (1992), declared for the record that “...in Framingham, Mass, the more saturated fat one ate, the more cholesterol one ate, the more calories one ate, the lower the person’s serum cholesterol... the opposite of what the equations provided by Hegsted et al. (1965) and Keys et al. (1957) would predict...” Castelli (1992) further admitted that “...in Framingham, for example, we found that the people who ate the most cholesterol, ate the most saturated fat, ate the most calories, weighed the least, and were the most physically active”. Dietary fat and CHD Dietary fat is principally composed of triacylglycerol (TAG). Therefore, following digestion of a meal, there is a significant increase in the plasma TAG concentration. Prospective epidemiological studies show that plasma TAG, especially the non-fasting level is an important factor in the pathogenesis of coronary heart disease (CHD) (Roche 2000). A positive correlation between plasma TAG levels and CHD risk has been found in women, diabetics, the Japanese and those with elevated LDL or decreased HDLC levels (Betterbridge 1999; Mann 1993). An Israeli study suggests that elevated plasma TAG levels are an independent risk factor for mortality among CHD patients (Vogel et al. 1997). Elevation of post-prandial TAG rich plasma lipoproteins and suppression of HDL-C concentrations are considered potentially atherogenic (Patsch 1994). Several clinical studies have shown that elevated levels of TAG rich lipoprotein and its remnants during the post-prandial phase of lipid metabolism are related to the presence and progress of coronary atherosclerosis (Cohn 1994; Roche and Gibney 1995). Atherosclerosis and thrombosis are the two key patho-physiological processes, which lead to the development of CHD. An excessive postprandial TAG response to a meal high in fat can be due to over production of TAG rich lipoproteins to inadequate lipolysis or to abnormalities in the metabolism of remnant lipoproteins. In the latter instance, the remnant lipoproteins will accumulate in the circulation. In this situation, chylomicrons remain in the circulation longer and interact with both LDL and HDL. Chylomicrons give their TAGs to the LDLs, which become smaller and denser, and more atherogenic (Patsch 1994). The HDLs also become over enriched with TAGs. The resultant HDLs are more susceptible to catabolism, whereby the liver removes the cardio protective HDL fraction from the circulation. These chylomicron remnants are a component of the atherosclerotic plaque; therefore HEALTH EFFECTS OF PALM OIL 201 excessive chylomicron remnant concentrations promote the process of atherogenesis (Slyper 1992). It is known that the quantity of dietary fat increases postprandial lipemia in a dose dependent manner and that the production and clearance of lipoproteins and lipoprotein derived remnants are affected by the composition of the diets. A prothrombotic state is produced by elevated post-prandial lipemia because a high concentration of TAG rich lipoprotein in the circulation activates coagulation factor VII (FVII). There are indications that dietary fat intake is a major determinant of factor VII activity (FVIIc). Postprandial TAG rich lipoprotein enhances postprandial FVIIc (Larsen et al. 1997). A positive relationship between FVIIc and CHD mortality has been demonstrated. Patients with CHD have high levels of FVIIc. The possible mechanisms involved could be that the plasma TAG concentration affects the concentration and catabolism of FVII and converts the inactive FVII (zymogen) to FVIIa. Altering the saturated: monounsaturated fatty acid (SFA: MUFA) ratio of an acute test meal does not influence the magnitude of post-prandial FVIIc (Marckman et al. 1990; Roche and Gibney 1997). Several studies have demonstrated that all the traditional coronary risk factors are associated with endothelial dysfunction, independent of the presence of CHD (Vogel et al. 1997). It has become increasingly clear that endothelial cells play important roles in the maintenance of the homeostatic balance in vivo and in the modulation of vascular function in health and disease. Ong et al. (1999) have reported that the consumption of a meal high in monounsaturated fat was associated with acute impairment of endothelial function (as measured by flow mediated reactivity of the brachial artery) when compared with a carbohydrate rich meal. It is pertinent in this context to note that a study in the US found that men with the highest level of saturated fatty acids had the lowest incidence of ischaemic stroke (Gillman et al. 1997). These findings once again reaffirm that fats and oils with different fatty acid compositions do not differ in their acute effects on plasma TAG and FVII levels. The present observations lend further testimony to the merits of Palm Oil in that it is comparable to the other oils in terms of its postprandial lipid response and effects on prothrombotic activity (Thomsen et al. 1999). In developing countries, vegetable oils are replacing animal fats because of the cost and health concerns and Palm Oil has become one of the major edible oils in the world (Chandrasekharan 1999). It is reassuring to know that the consumption of Palm Oil as a source of dietary fat does not pose any additional risks for coronary artery disease when consumed in realistic amounts as part of a healthy diet (Pedersen et al. 1999). Increasingly, over the past 40 years, the conception of diet has undergone major changes. Many of these changes involve changes of fats and oils. There has been an increasing supply of the partially hydrogenated trans-containing vegetable oils and a decreasing amount of the lauric acid-containing oils (Enig 1996). As a result, there has been an increased consumption of Tran’s fatty acids and linoleic acid and a decrease in the consumption of lauric acid. This type of change in diet has an effect on the fatty acids the body has available for metabolic activities. Although popular literature of epidemiological studies usually attribute an increased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) to elevated levels of serum cholesterol, which in turn are thought to derive from a dietary intake of saturated fats and cholesterol (Mann 1993). But, saturated fats may be considered a major culprit for CHD only if the links between serum cholesterol and CHD and between saturated fat and serum cholesterol are each firmly established. Decades of large-scale tests and conclusions there from have supported to establish the first link. In fact, this relationship has reached the level of dogma. But the scientific basis for these relationships has now been challenged as resulting from large-scale misinterpretation and misrepresentation of the data (Enig 1993; Mann 1993; Smith 1991; Ravnskov 1995; Roche 2000). CONCLUSION Epidemiological studies usually attribute an increased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) to elevated levels of serum cholesterol, which in turn are thought to derive from a dietary intake of saturated fats and cholesterol. Dietary fat is principally composed of triacylglycerol (TAG). Therefore, following digestion of a meal, there is a significant increase in the plasma TAG concentration. Prospective epidemiological studies show that plasma TAG, especially the nonfasting level is an important factor in the pathogenesis of coronary heart disease. In the past, palm oil was attacked as “saturated” since 202 ANALAVA MITRA AND SUTAPA MUKHERJEE it contains 44% palmitic acid and 5% stearic acid, and thereby allegedly raises blood cholesterol and increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. However, a sizeable and growing body of scientific evidence indicates that palm oil’s effect on blood cholesterol is relatively neutral when compared to other fats and oils. Palm oil raises plasma cholesterol only when an excess of dietary cholesterol is presented in the diet. Palm oil stimulates the synthesis of protective HDL cholesterol and removal of harmful LDL cholesterol. Palm oil is rich in vitamin E, (particularly tocotrienols), which appear to reduce serum cholesterol concentrations and has potent anti-oxidant effects.
The health benefits of olive oil have been touted for many hundreds of years. More recently,coconut oil has become all the rage and hailed by many as the king of oils. But, whatever oil you choose – whether it’s olive, coconut, almond, canola, peanut, safflower, walnut, or even avocado oil – none compare to the powerful nutritional virtues of virgin organic red palm fruit oil.
Bonus: The health benefits of red palm fruit oil can be achieved by incorporating only 1-2 tablespoons into your daily diet.
Red Palm Fruit Oil vs. Palm Kernel Oil
Regarded as a sacred healing food by many civilizations, including the ancient Egyptians, crude or virgin red palm fruit oil should be regarded as one of the most nutritious edible oils in the world. It is not to be confused with palm kernel oil. It is derived from the fruit of the oil palm tree (Elaeis guineensis) and is referred to as "red palm oil" because of its rich dark red color in its unprocessed natural state. Palm kernel oil is derived from the seed or the kernel.
Palm fruit oil contains mainly palmitic and oleic acids and is about 50% saturated, while palm kernel oil contains mainly lauric acid and is more than 89% saturated. The general assumption that kernel oil and palm fruit oil are one in the same may have lead to one of the greatest oversights in modern nutrition. The stigma attached to the kernel has kept the fruit in the dark - at least until now. Virgin organic sustainable red palm fruit oil is otherwise a bona fide food.
Palm kernel oil does not convey the same health benefits that red palm fruit oil does. The health benefits are only achieved due to the red color of the palm fruit oil that is attributed to its high content of carotenes, which include beta-carotene and lycopene. These powerhouse antioxidant nutrients are the same ones that give tomatoes and carrots and other fruits and vegetables their rich red and orange colors. What may shock you is that red palm fruit oil contains more that tomatoes or carrots. Red palm fruit oil is also densely packed with numerous tocotrienols – a powerful form of vitamin E.
Processed palm oil does not contain cholesterol and behaves like hydrogenated fats (the dangerous trans-fatty acids) in packaged foods since it has “thickness” at room temperature. This makes it ideal for many food manufacturers to use in place of hydrogenated oils in their snack products. Processed foods can then be advertised as being "trans fat free" and "cholesterol free”. But, when red palm oil is refined and processed, the red color disappears and its nutritional and healing benefits are destroyed. Once it becomes part of a processed snack food, it no longer features the health benefits and powerful antioxidants found only in the raw palm oil.
Red Palm Fruit Oil vs. Fish and Coconut Oils
But how does red palm fruit oil compare with fish oil you may ask? Frankly, comparing fish oilto red palm oil would be comparing apples to oranges.
The health benefits of fish oil come mainly from its high levels of omega-3 essential fatty acids known as EPA and DHA. These are incredibly important to our health. In fact, fish oils feature some of the most wide-reaching health benefits, and far and away have the most robust science to back claims related to heart, brain, and immune health and serve to manage inflammation better than any other oil. However, fish oil is extremely susceptible to high temperature, air and light – which is why you can't cook with it. Red palm fruit oil, on the other hand, is very stable.
Palm fruit oil contains less cholesterol-lowering “long-chain” omega-3 fatty acids than fish oil. What red palm oil contains, however, is a lot of “medium-chain” and “short-chain” fatty acids – both of which scientists recognize as healthy for us and necessary in moderation.
And while we're comparing, let’s look at an apple-to-apple scenario: coconut oil vs. red palm fruit oil. Even when you account for the marginally higher levels of medium chain triglyceride (MCT) levels that coconut oil has over palm, it is once again the carotenoid and tocotrienol antioxidants that give it a significant health advantage over coconut oil.
Heart Helper, Disease Fighter
Red palm oil has great science behind it for its beneficial role in fighting heart disease and high cholesterol. Over the past two decades, researchers have intensely studied red palm oil’s effect on cardiovascular health and the preliminary results initially baffled scientists.
At room temperature, this semi-solid oil seems as likely as lard to clog your arteries. But what might shock you to learn, as it has equally stunned researchers, is that although red palm fruit oil is indeed high in saturated fat, it actually protects against heart disease. Saturated fats behave like a thick molasses through the cardiovascular system, eventually contributing to plaque (atherosclerosis). But studies show that adding palm oil into the diet can remove plaque build-up in arteries and, therefore, reverse the process of plaque and prevent blockages. In fact, studies funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have shown that a natural form of vitamin E called alpha tocotrienol, which is the form found in high amounts in red palm fruit oil, can help reduce the effects of stroke by 50% by protecting your brain’s nerve cells.
Removing plaque is not the only way red palm oil may protect against strokes and heart attacks. Red palm oil can also improve cholesterol values and also helps maintain proper blood pressure. Science now understands that inflammation in the artery lining is what warrants cholesterol to deposit in the first place. So, it makes sense that the protective effects come from the high antioxidant, anti-inflammatory content of the red palm oil which works to quench free radicals and keep inflammation under control.
But red palm oil’s benefits aren't exclusive to heart health. Research is showing that the antioxidant power of red palm oil can be of help in protecting against a variety of health problems, including osteoporosis, asthma, cataracts, macular degeneration, arthritis, and liver disease. It can even slow down the premature aging processes by protecting the skin against damaging UV rays.
But nothing ages us faster than being overweight. And, where traditional fats and oils like margarine, or other vegetable oils take a long time to break down for energy and are eventually stored as fat, red palm oil goes straight to liver and ignites metabolism. That means you’ll burn calories from fat much faster.
When it comes to your brain, the special form of vitamin-E (tocotrienol) in red palm oil stops destructive damage and improves blood flow to brain cells, which can also help to preventAlzheimer's disease and dementia.
The high antioxidant content of red palm oil makes it a potent anti-cancer food. Though tocotrienols can be found in rice bran, barley and wheat, red palm oil is the richest source of tocotrienol. Research suggests that this form of vitamin E may help fight skin, stomach, pancreas, liver, lung, colon, prostate, breast, and other cancers.
Additionally, research has shown that red palm oil promotes nutrient utilization, improves liver detoxification pathways and improves immune function.
Availability and Sustainability
By now, one question you may have is, “Where do I get some?” Actually, you can already purchase this at your local health food store. It gets imported from Malaysia, the world’s second largest producer of palm oil.
Besides its known nutritional virtues, private enterprise has recognized palm oil’s other lucrative applications.
With the price of crude oil and gas hitting an all-time record high through 2012, palm oil seems to have caught the attention of scientists and corporations as one of the few plausible sources of biodiesel. The concept that palm oil should be used as a renewable substitute for petroleum-derived diesel has already received criticism from various non-governmental organizations worldwide.
The controversy is focused primarily on three issues: Extinction of orangutans, deforestation, and, particularly, the food vs. fuel dispute. Besides demolishing the habitat of one of the most wonderful creatures on earth, it is thought that the conversion of the crops currently used for food over to fuel would significantly decrease accessibility to those looking to use the oil for dietary purposes, increasing the number of undernourished people in the world.
A Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was formed in 2004 to promote the growth and use of sustainable palm oil products. Where some researchers believe that the palm oil industry has the capacity to fulfill both demands, responsible people don't want to create negative environmental impact. So, on top of “virgin” and “organic” red palm fruit oil, we need to look for brands that produce the oil sustainably.
Palm Oil and Coronary Heart Disease (the long explanation)
Palm Oil Increases Cholesterol Level : A Misconception
Palm oil is produced from the fruit of the Elaeis guineensis. It is a vegetable oil, not an animal or dairy product, and therefore does not contain cholesterol. Palm oil sometimes is confused with palm kernel oil, but in fact is different, being derived from the mesocarp of the palm fruit rather than the centre kernel.
Palm oil contains much less saturated fat than palm kernel oil or coconut oil. Palm oil has been used in food preparation for over 5,000 years. Today it is consumed worldwide as a cooking oil, in margarines and shortening, and as an ingredient in fat blends and a vast array of food products. Food manufacturers choose palm oil because it has a distinctive quality, requires little or no hydrogenation, and lengthens the shelf life of products. These advantages are difficult to duplicate at the same cost with polyunsaturated oils, which often have higher market prices and require additional processing for the same characteristics.
Even though palm oil consists of about 45% - 50% saturated fatty acid, the saturated fatty acid is made up of palmitic saturated fatty acid. Palm oil should be classified as both a “saturated fat” and an “unsaturated fat”. It contains equal proportions of saturated fatty acids and unsaturated fatty acids. The saturated fatty acids are made up of 44% palmitic acid and 5% stearic acid. The unsaturated fatty acids consist of 39% oleic acid (monounsaturates) and 10% linoleic acid (polyunsaturates). The fatty acid composition in palm oil is entirely different from the so-called “saturated fats” such as coconut oil and palm kernel oil.
The saturated fatty acids that have been shown through various epidemiological studies, to increase bad LDL cholesterol level are the C12 Lauric and C14 Myristic saturated fatty acid. These two saturated fatty acid are abundantly found in coconut oil and palm kernel oil. Unfortunately, more often than not, palm oil has been confused with palm kernel oil. Palm oil is derived from the fleshy part of the palm fruits while palm kernel oil is derived from the seed or the kernel. Palm kernel oil and palm oil are two different oils with very distinct fatty acid composition.
Palm kernel oil is used mainly in oleochemical (detergent/surfactant) industry and not as an edible or cooking oil. Palm oil, on the other hand, is used worldwide (more than 100 countries) for cooking and other food preparations. Palm oil is currently the number two edible oil in the world.
Trans-Fatty Acid – The “Stealth” Fat
In addition, palm oil is non-genetically modified and trans-fat free. It does not need to go through the hydrogenation process. In comparison, most vegetable oils (corn oil, soy oil, cottonseed oil, canola oil, etc) require hydrogenation – “hardening of oils”. The “hardening” of oils through hydrogenation creates trans-fatty acid. Trans-fatty acid has been shown to lower good cholesterol and raise the bad cholesterol. In fact, the cholesterol-raising effect of trans-fatty acid is significantly higher than saturated fatty acid. Because of this fact, it has prompted the FDA to require food manufacturers to list trans-fatty acid content on food labels soon.
In May 1994, Prof. Walter C. Willett and Dr. Albert Ascherio (1994), members of the Harvard University Department of Nutrition and Epidemiology, reviewed the growing science on trans fatty acids and heart disease, and concluded:
“Although the percentage of coronary heart disease deaths in the United States attributable to intake of trans fatty acids is uncertain, even the lower estimates from the effects on blood lipids would suggest that more than 30,000 deaths per year may be due to consumption of partially hydrogenated vegetable fat. Further, the number of attributable cases of non-fatal coronary heart disease will be even larger”.
Other studies also confirmed that trans fatty acids are worse than butter by raising the ‘bad’ LDL-cholesterol, lowering the ‘good’ HDL-cholesterol and increasing the Lp(a), a very powerful risk factor for ischaemic heart disease (Mensink and Katan, 1990; Nestle et al., 1992; Zock and Katan, 1992; Mensink et al., 1992; Wood et al., 1993; Judd, et al., 1994; Aro et al., 1997).
There are findings showing that trans fatty acids may be related with human fetal development. Two European studies showed significant associations between low birth weights and the content of trans-fatty acids in the blood (Koletzko, 1992a; 1992b; Jendryczko et al., 1993). The uptake of essential fatty acids (EFA) by the fetus may be impaired by trans-fatty acids. Trans-fatty acids may also affect the metabolism of EFA of the fetus which could result in poor development of the fetal organs and tissues. A recent five-center Euramic study (Sylvester, 1986; Kohlmejer et al., 1997) suggested that trans-fatty acids were associated with increasing breast cancer risk in post-menopausal women. A high trans fatty acid content was found to be associated with a 40% increase in breast cancer risk.
What Do Epidemiological Studies Say?
A number of human feeding studies reported that palm oil diets showed a reduction of blood cholesterol values ranging from 7% to 38% (Ahrens et al., 1957; Anderson et al., 1976; Baudet et al., 1984; Mattson and Grundy, 1985; Bonanome and Grundy, 1988)
Recent studies, specifically designed to evaluate palm oil, confirm that palm oil’s impact on blood cholesterol and lipoprotein profiles are beneficial. The following are the salient studies:
• A comparative study in young Australian adults showed that the total blood cholesterol, triglycerides and HDL-cholesterol levels of those fed on palm oil (palm olein) and olive oil were lower than those fed on the usual Australian diet (Choudhury, Tan and Truswell, 1995). They showed that young Australian adults fed on palm oil diets had the same total blood cholesterol, triglycerides and ‘good’ HDL-cholesterol levels as those fed on olive oil.
• A double-blind cross-over study (Sundram 1997) showed that palm olein-rich diet is identical to oleic-acid rich diet. Trans fatty acid rich diet performed the worst by elevated total cholesterol, ‘bad’ LDL-cholesterol, lipoprotein (a) and depressed ‘good’ HDL-cholesterol relative to oleic acid, stearic acid, lauric and myristic acids rich diets.
• A study on fifty-one Pakistani adults showed that those given palm oil rich diets performed better than sunflower oil. Palm oil increased HDL-cholesterol and Apo A-1 levels. Hydrogenated cottonseed oil behaved the worst by raising serum triglycerides and lipoprotein levels. (Farooq et al., 1996).
• A study by a group of researchers from the Institute of Nutrition and Food Hygiene, Beijing, China compared the effects of palm oil, soybean oil, peanut oil and lard (Zhang et al., 1997a; Zhang et al., 1997b; Zhang et al., 1995). They showed that palm oil has the effect of decreasing total blood cholesterol and ‘bad’ LDL-cholesterol and increasing the level of ‘good’ HDL-cholesterol. Soya bean oil and peanut oil had no effect on the blood cholesterol but lard increased the cholesterol levels. Among those hypercholesterolemic subjects, palm oil diets lower the cholesterol levels.
• Study conducted on healthy Indian subjects (Ghafoorunissa et al., 1995) showed that palm olein and groundnut oil have comparable effects. Both of the oil do not induce hypercholesterolemia.
• Sundram et al., (1992) performed a dietary intervention study on a free-living Dutch population which normally consumes diets high in fats. Using a double blind cross-over study design consisting of two periods of six weeks of feeding, the normal fat intake of a group of 40 male volunteers was replaced with 70% of palm oil. The palm oil diet did not raise serum total cholesterol and ‘bad’ LDL-cholesterol, and caused a significant increase in the ‘good’ HDL-cholesterol and a significant reduction in ‘bad’ LDL-triglycerides.
• The effect of palm olein and of canola oil on plasma lipids was examined in double blind experiments in healthy Australian adults. Palm oil performed better than canola oil in raising the ‘good’ HDL-cholesterol (Truswell et al., 1992).
• A cross-over feeding study showed that the blood cholesterol, triglycerides, HDL-cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol levels of palm olein and olive oil diets were comparable (Ng et al., 1992).
• A Malaysian study (Ng et al., 1991) was conducted to compare the effects of diets containing palm oil (olein), corn oil and coconut oil on serum cholesterol. Coconut oil raised serum total cholesterol by > 10% whereas both corn and palm oil diet reduced the total cholesterol; corn oil diet reduced the total cholesterol by 36% and palm oil diet by 19%.
• A similar cholesterol-lowering effect of palm oil was observed in 110 students in a study conducted in Malaysia (Marzuki et al., 1991). The study compared the effect of palm oil with that of soybean oil. Volunteers fed on palm oil (olein) and soy oil for five weeks, with a six-week wash-out period, had comparable blood cholesterol levels. However, the blood triglycerides were increased by 28% on the soybean oil diet.
Thus the impact of palm oil on serum lipids is more like that of a mo-nounsaturated rather than saturated oil.
There appear to be several explanations:
1. Palm oil is made up of 50% unsaturated fats. It is not totally saturated and the saturated fatty acids present are palmitic (90%) and stearic (10%). Stearic acid does not elevate blood cholesterol, and palmitic acid does not raise blood cholesterol level in people whose blood cholesterol level is in normal range (Hayes, 1993; Hayes et al., 1995; Hayes et al., 1991; Khosla and Hayes, 1994; Khosla and Hayes, 1992).
2. The vitamin E, particularly the tocotrienols present in palm oil can suppress the synthesis of cholesterol in the liver (Qureshi et al., 1986). As a consequence, tocotrienols lower blood cholesterol levels (Qureshi et al., 1995; Qureshi et al., 1991a; Qureshi et al., 1991b; Qureshi et al., 1980; McIntosh et al., 1991).
3. The position of the saturated and unsaturated fatty acid chains in a triglyceride backbone of the fat molecule determines whether the fat will elevate cholesterol level in the blood (Kritchevsky, 1996; Kritchevsky, 1995; Kritchevsky, 1988 and Innis et al., 1993). In palm oil, 75% of the unsaturated fatty acid chains are found in position 2 of the carbon atom of the triglyceride backbone molecule (Padley et al., 1986; Ng, 1985; Berger, 1983). This could explain why palm oil is not cholesterol-elevating.
4. It has an anti-clotting effect and prevents the formation of thrombus in the blood vessels. Blood clotting can be induced by injury to the blood vessel wall and the alteration in the aggregating properties of blood platelets. Hornstra (1988) in the Netherlands first demonstrated the palm oil has anti-clotting effect, and is as anti-thrombotic as the highly unsaturated sunflowerseed oil. A human study (Kooyenga et al., 1997 and Tomeo et al., 1995) showed that tocotrienols (from palm oil) supplementation can reduce restenosis of patients with carotid atherosclerosis.
Holub et al. (1989) reported that the vitamin E in palm oil inhibits human platelets from “sticking” to each other. Other supporting evidence showed that a palm oil diet either increases the production of a hormone that prevents blood-clotting (prostacyclin) or decreases the formation of a blood-clotting hormone (thromboxane) (Sugano and Imaizumi, 1991; Sundram et al., 1990; Rand et al. 1988; Abeywardena et al., 1989; Charnock et al. 1989; Ng et al., 1992). Thus scientific evidence indicates that the palm oil diet is as anti-thrombotic as one based on polyunsaturated oil.
It does not promote the formation of plaques in the arteries. Atherosclerosis is the thickening and hardening of the walls of the arteries. Fatty deposits or plaques are made up of mainly fats and cholesterol. Atherosclerosis results in the narrowing of the lumen of the arteries, thus inhibiting the flow of blood. By feeding diets high in cholesterol along with certain saturated fats such milk fat, tallow and coconut oil, atherosclerosis can be produced in animals such as rabbits, quail, pigs and monkeys. A Netherlands study was conducted on rabbits to test the effect of palm oil on atherosclerosis (Hornstra, 1988). After feeding the rabbits for 11/2 years, palm oil and sunflower oil diets caused the lowest degree of atherosclerosis in comparison with fish oil, linseed oil and olive oil. Similarly Kurfeld et al. (1990) in the United States, also using the rabbit model, compared the effects of palm oil with hydrogenated coconut oil, cottonseed oil, hydrogenated cottonseed oil, and an American fat blend containing a mixture of butterfat, tallow, lard, shortening, salad oil, peanut oil and corn oil. At the end of the 14-month feeding period, coconut oil fed rabbits had the most atherosclerotic lesions, while in palm oil-fed rabbits the number of lesions was no different from that with the other oils.
Palm oil has been used in food preparation since the last 5,000 years. Today, it is consumed worldwide as a cooking oil, margarines, shortening and as an ingredient in fat blends and a vast array of food products. Food manufacturers choose palm oil because it has a distinctive quality, nutrition attributes (tocotrienols and carotenoids), requires no hydrogenation (trans-fatty acid free) and non-GMO status.
Contrary to popular believe and misconception, based on scientific studies and publications, palm oil has been proven to have no effect at all on serum cholesterol level. Its saturated fat – C16 Palmitic fatty acid does not increase total serum cholesterol level.
Q: I see palm oil, palm kernel oil, and fractionated palm kernel oil on ingredients lists. What are the differences, and are they all bad for me?
A: They aren’t all necessarily bad for you, but the vague naming differences does make it very confusing, and they do have different noteworthy characteristics.
When trans fats were removed from the market due to their aggressive negative health consequences, an inexpensive fat that had similar stability and melting properties was in high demand. Palm oil fit the bill, as it consists primarily of saturated fats, and it has become the fat of choice to replace trans fats.
You’ll most often see three different variations of palm oil:
Palm oil: This is the fat that is squeezed out of the fruit from oil palm trees, hence you'll also see it called "palm fruit oil." It is rich in vitamin E. If you find that your palm oil has a red coloring, this is good, as the coloring comes from the antioxidant beta-carotene. Thanks to the E and lower sat fat content, palm oil is definitely the best of this bunch of oils. [Tweet this fact!]
Palm kernel oil: As the name suggests, this oil is derived from the kernel or seed of the fruit in oil palms. It contains more saturated fats than palm oil and is very commonly used in commercial cooking since the higher saturated fat content allows for greater stability at higher temperatures and better shelf life.
Fractionated palm oil: This is the result of a process that allows for the extraction and concentration of specific types of fatty acids found in palm oil. Food companies use the fractionation process to create an oil that has a higher concentration of saturated fats for even better stability and shelf life.
It is commonly advised to control saturated fat levels in your diet as a means of controlling blood cholesterol levels. But not all saturated fats have the same cholesterol-raising effects on blood cholesterol levels (and not to complicate the story, but your level of carbohydrate intake play a role here too). For example stearic acid is a saturated fat found primarily in dairy fat and beef; it has no impact on cholesterol levels.
One study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that feeding coconut oil—another tropical oil rich in saturated fat—to individuals led to increases in blood cholesterol levels, while feeding individuals palm oil led to reductions in blood cholesterol levels. This suggests that the saturated fats found in palm oil provide a unique physiological effect not normally seen with saturated fats; however, this is a concept that needs to be further examined, especially considering an earlier study found the exact opposite effect.
As a general rule, I recommend healthy clients get the fat in their diet from a variety of sources, with a third coming from each type (saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated). [Tweet this tip!] In this context a little palm oil, of any variation, won’t have that much of an impact on your health. But if you have the choice, opt for palm oil over palm kernel or fractionated palm oil.
Red Palm Oil - Ancient Healing Power
For generations, red palm oil has been revered as both a nutritious food and a valuable medicine..
The Gaurdian | For generations, red palm oil has been revered as both a nutritious food and a valuable medicine. Even now, scientists are beginning to recognise the value of the prized plant in the treatment and prevention of several diseases. Ben Ukwuoma writes on the latest scientific work presented at the International Biomedical Science Congress held in Birminghan United Kingdom by a Nigerian scientist, based in Cape Town South Africa on the nutritional and healing properties inherent in the plant.
It was prized by the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt as a sacred food. The oil was so highly valued that it was entombed with the Pharaohs so that they would have access to it in the afterlife.
Indeed, throughout history, palm oil has served as the primary source of dietary fat for countless people. Its nutritional and healing properties have been recognised for generations.
Until modern medicine arrived, red palm oil was the remedy of choice for nearly every illness in many parts of Africa.
When someone was sick, downing a cup full of palm oil was common. Even today, many people in the villages rely on this age-old method of treatment. Palm oil is regarded among many as essential in the diet for pregnant and nursing women in order to assure good health for the mother and child.
Today, scientists are recognising the value of red palm oil in the treatment and prevention of many diseases. There is array of scientific presentation in this direction. For instance, recently at the International Conference Centre Birmingham at the Biomedical Science Congress, Dr. Oluwafemi O. Oguntibeju, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Health & Wellness Sciences, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Bellville Campus, South Africa further elucidated the potential of the red palm oil in the healing process.
Scientifically known as Elaeis Guineensis, palm oil is believed to originate from West Africa. However, archaeological evidence on palm oil consumption was found in Egypt over 5000 years ago.
Essentially, it contains rich, balanced mixture of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, providing a higher level of bioavaliable nutrients than any other vegetable source.
Like coconut oil, palm oil is also rich in medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), which mobilise body fat stores, increase the metabolic rate and are a great source of energy.
Palm oil is a rich source of antioxidants, especially Vitamin E. While the health benefits of Vitamin E are widely known, less widely known is the fact that Vitamin E is a complex of many constituents broken into two groups: tocopherols (alpha, beta, gamma and delta) and tocotrienols (alpha, beta, gamma and delta). And while alpha tocopherol is the form most commonly marketed as Vitamin E, the full spectrum of both tocoperols and tocotrienols are required for optimal assimilation.
The super-antioxidant tocotrienols are particularly important for optimal health. These natural antioxidants act as free radical scavengers and are believed to play a protective role in cellular aging, atherosclerosis, cancer, arthritis and Alzheimer's disease.
Researchers now believe that the tocopherols and tocotrienols together provide constituents that help limit damage during a heart attack.
Red palm oil not only supplies fatty acids essential for proper growth and development, but it is packed with an assortment of vitamins, antioxidants and other phytonutrients important for good health.
For instance, the red colour comes from carotenes such as beta-carotene and lycopene - the same nutrients that give tomatoes and carrots and other fruits and vegetables their rich red and orange colours.
Carotenes are valuable nutrients and powerful antioxidants. They are also important because the body can convert them into Vitamin A, an essential nutrient.
Vitamin A deficiency can cause blindness, weaken bones, lower immunity and adversely affect learning ability and mental function.
"Vitamin A is only found in animal foods. Such foods are too expensive for many people. Carotenes in fruits and vegetables can supply the needed Vitamin A if an adequate amount of fat is also consumed. Carotenes require fat for conversion into Vitamin A. Unfortunately those who can not afford animal products often do not eat much fat either.
Populations with ample carotene-rich foods available often suffer from vitamin A deficiency because they don't get enough fat in their diet," Dr. Albert Egbuehi of the Department of Biochemistry, College of Medicine University of Lagos said: "Red palm oil is the richest dietary source of provitamin A carotenes (beta-carotene and alpha-carotene). It has 15 times more provitamin A carotenes than carrots and 300 times more than tomatoes. This has made it a valued resource in the treatment of Vitamin A deficiency." "Just one teaspoon a day of red palm oil supplies children with the daily recommend amount of Vitamin A. Nursing mothers are encouraged to supplement their diet with palm oil to enrich their milk with the vitamin," he stressed.
Studies, however, show that adding red palm oil into the diet can double or triple the amount of Vitamin A in mother's milk.
The children are not only getting the Vitamin A they need but other important nutrients as well. Red palm oil is a virtual powerhouse of nutrition. It contains by far, more nutrients than any other dietary oil. In addition to beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and lycopene it contains at least 20 other carotenes along with Vitamin E, Vitamin K, CoQ10, squalene, phytosterols, flavonoids, phenolic acids, and glycolipids.
Red palm oil is loaded with so many nutrients and antioxidants, it's like a natural dietary supplement. In fact, it is currently being encapsulated and sold as a vitamin supplement.
The depletion of antioxidants including antioxidant enzymes is known to increase the risk of complications in conditions such as CVD, diabetes and cancer.
"This study was performed to examine the influence of red palm oil (RPO) supplementation on antioxidant enzymes in a rodent model," Oguntibeju said.
"Results showed that RPO caused a significant increase in the activities of antioxidant enzymes: Superoxide dismutase (SOD), Glutathione reductase (GR) Catalase (CAT), but showed no observable effect on GSH.
He concluded that the oil could minimise oxidative damage through its potential ability to increase antioxidant enzymes.
"RPO may therefore play a role in the prevention and treatment of oxidative injuries to explore and support this hypothesis," he stated.
Antioxidant enzymes are the main defense components of the biological systems in both humans and animals. Endogenous antioxidants as intracellular defense systems protect cells from free radical damage and extensive lysis but are not 100 per cent.
"Therefore the intake of dietary-derived antioxidants (such as those present in RPO) could be of significant importance in curtailing the cumulative oxidative damage to macromolecules," he said.
Over the past two decades, researchers have painstakingly studied palm oil's effect on cardiovascular health. The results have been surprising to researchers. Although high in saturated fat, it protects against heart disease.
Studies show that adding palm oil into the diet can remove plaque build up in arteries and therefore, reverse the process of atherosclerosis. This has been demonstrated in both animal and human studies. In one study, for instance, 50 subjects were divided into two equal groups. All the participants had been diagnosed with atherosclerosis and had suffered at least one stroke.
At the beginning of the study the degree of blockage of their carotid arteries ranged from 15 to 79 per cent. Without any other changes to their diets or medications, half of the subjects began taking a daily palm oil supplement. The other half received placebos and served as the control. The degree of atherosclerosis was monitored using ultrasound scans over an 18-month period. In the group receiving palm oil, atherosclerosis was halted in 23 of the 25 subjects. In seven of these subjects atherosclerosis was not only stopped, but also regressed. In comparison, none of those in the control group showed any improvement, in fact, the condition in 10 of them worsened This study demonstrated that palm oil can not only stop, but even reverse atherosclerosis.
Removing plaque is not the only way, palm oil protects against strokes and heart attacks. Palm oil can also improve cholesterol values. In a study at the University of Illinois College of Medicine researchers demonstrated a 10 per cent decrease in total cholesterol in 36 hypercholesterolemic (high cholesterol) subjects given palm oil capsules for four weeks. A follow-up study of 16 subjects resulted in a 13 per cent lowering of total cholesterol.
Palm oil helps maintain proper blood pressure. The high antioxidant content of the oil quenches free radicals and keeps inflammation under control. Tocotrienols also strengthen the heart so that it can better withstand stress.
Researchers can purposely induce heart attacks in lab animals by cutting off blood flow to the heart. This causes severe injury and death. However, if the animals are fed palm oil the survival rate is greatly increased, injury is minimised, and recovery is quicker.
After looking at studies like this it becomes obvious that palm oil protects against heart disease. This is confirmed in populations where palm oil consumption is particularly high. Heart disease in Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Nigeria-where palm oil is a major if not the sole source of visible fat in the daily diet-are among the lowest in the world.
Studies show palm tocotrienols inhibit the growth of skin, stomach, pancreas, liver, lung, colon, prostate, breast and other cancers. Most of the research to date has been done with breast cancer where tocotrienols show great promise. They not only prevent cancer from taking hold, but also actively block its growth and initiate apoptosis- a process where diseased cells commit suicide. This is a normal process that is programmed into all of our cells in order to remove old and diseased cells. However, in cancer cells this process is blocked and affected cells continue to multiply and grow without restraint. Ordinary Vitamin E does not induce programmed cell death in cancer cells. Only tocotrienols have this effect.
The antioxidant power of red palm oil has also shown to be of benefit in protecting against neurological degeneration. Two of the most significant factors that affect brain function are oxidative stress and poor circulation.
Oxidative stress generates free radicals that damage brain and nerve tissue. Poor circulation affects the brain by restricting oxygen and glucose, which are vital for proper brain function. Researchers have found correlations between oxidative stress and reduced blood flow to the brain to senile dementia, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, and even schizophrenia. All of these conditions involve brain cell death. Tocotrienols aid the brain by reducing oxidative stress and improving blood flow.
Red palm oil is a traditional fat that is derived from the fruit of the Elaesis guineensis or oil palm tree native to tropical Africa. This vibrantly tinted oil has been harvested by local peoples for centuries and used for a dynamic range of culinary, cosmetic and medicinal applications. With a history that is believed to date back as far as 5,000 years, archeologists have even identified palm oil residue in earthenware jars from the tombs of esteemed Egyptian Pharaohs, suggesting its sweeping importance across the ages.
The expansion of international trading practices throughout the 16th century allowed the once geographically isolated palm oil to be introduced to new parts of the world, including South America and Southeast Asia. From this global dispersal onwards, palm oil has gained popularity in many nations as people recognize the nutritional prowess and versatility of this valuable commodity. In many countries, palm oil is highly coveted for its nutrient stability, long shelf life, high smoke point, unique flavor and the luscious quality it lends to grilled foods and baked goods. According to tropical oil expert Dr. Bruce Fife, palm oil has even recently surpassed soybean oil as the most widely used oil in the world.
Red Palm Oil Benefits
Science has confirmed the benefits that our ancestors intuitively knew about red palm oil. Analyses have revealed an impressive nutrient profile, and clinical studies have demonstrated its many advantages for modern health.
One study showed that palm oil halted atherosclerosis in patients with heart disease, while other researchers have suggested that certain components in red palm oil are strong anti-cancer agents. Put simply, red palm oil is brimming with so many nutrients and antioxidants it’s more like a natural dietary supplement than anything else.
In fact, some companies are now encapsulating it to be sold in vitamin shops and health food stores. The oil is also available in jars and bottles like other vegetable oils for regular kitchen use.
Benefits of red palm oil:
- Rich with medium chain fatty acids
- Full of antioxidant Carotenoids (beta-carotene and lycopene)
- Contains naturally occurring Vitamin-E (tocopherols and tocotrienols)
- One of the richest plant sources of heart protective CoQ10
- High levels of immune-strengthening squalene
- Easily digested and stable for high heat cooking
- Inflammation-reducing plant sterols
Traditional Red Palm Oil Harvesting
Despite a deep history and impressive nutrient profile, we tend to hear very little about palm oil from media sources in the United States. This devastating omission has been caused in part by the wrongful demonization of saturated fat that duped our nation from the mid-20th century and onwards. However, poor production practices by greedy palm oil industry leaders have also cast a negative shadow on this otherwise remarkable oil.
The traditional production of palm oil is artisanal in quality. Palm fruit is carefully inspected and picked by hand to select for only the best quality specimens. Once picked, the fruit is left for a full 36 hours to soften, then plucked, washed, and steamed for only a few minutes to further break down the pulp. Next the fruit is poured into a large mortar or frapper and pounded until the flesh separates from the nut. The nut is set aside to dry. At this time, the brilliant oil of the palm fruit begins to appear. To remove any excess water, the red oil is heated slightly and then sits for 24 hours to allow for all impurities to be removed and sink to the bottom of the tank. To ensure that no additional impurities are intact, the red oil is filtered through a slowly working gravity system to leave only the most wholesome and nutrient rich oil.
Unsustainable Modern Palm Oil Processing
Unfortunately, the production of many modern palm oils is in stark contrast to this slow and careful process. Different varieties of palm oil have cropped up in recent years, including those derived from the kernel instead of the accustomed fruit and others that are purified to remove the characteristic red color (and with it the antioxidant pigments it contains.)
Commercial palm oil is often harshly and rapidly extracted using questionable chemical solvents, then further refined and deodorized. Although convenient for output- and dollar-focused companies these practices deplete nutrients and compromise the integrity of the incredible raw palm fruits. Some palm oils are even used as a base for hydrogenation, completely ruining the beautiful, healthy fat.
Additional controversy and stigmatization has been created by sustainability concerns with large-scale palm oil production efforts. Certain palm oils, primarily those from industrial suppliers in Malaysia & Indonesia, are irresponsibly harvested in a way that threatens orangutan habitats and disregards local culture. To address these issues and to protect the cultural significance of red palm oil extraction, an organization known as the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) was formed. RSPO certification verifies that palm oils are harvested in a manner that protects wildlife as according to the standards of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and also maintains the integrity of the local communities from which the red palm oil is acquired.
Take a Stand for Sustainable Red Palm Oil
As consumers we have the opportunity to protect precious red palm oil in its natural form by sourcing red palm oils that are RSPO certified and traditionally made, such as the sustainable red palm oil made by Jungle Products.
By seeking out companies that work with local communities to bring sustainable and pure red palm oil into our kitchens and homes, we are not only able to experience the many health benefits that red palm oil has to offer, but are also preserving the art of a cherished traditional food so that it too can be passed on for generations to come.
Red Palm Oil, the staple oil in the Africa and Asia continents, naturally contains unique phytonutrients that are proven to be beneficial to human health. The oil palm (Elaeis guineensis), from which red palm oil is derived contains the phytonutrients tocotrienols (vitamin E), mixed carotenoids, phytosterols, squalene and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). Of these, the tocotrienols and carotenoids in particular, are proven to confer health benefits such as potent cardioprotection, neuroprotection and skin nutrition; as mentioned by Dr. Mehmet Oz in his recent TV program, where he called it his most miraculous find in 2013 to address the aging process.
Scientific evidence (more than 700 published papers) have shown tocotrienols together with the phytonutrients from red palm oil contribute to these health benefits.
The two main phytonutrients concentrated from red palm oil and available as commercial extracts in the market are tocotrienols and carotenes complex. Both full-spectrum palm tocotrienol complex and carotenoids complex , are GRAS (generally recognized as safe) according to Title 21 Code of Federal Regulation for use in foods and drinks, with a “No Objection Letter" from FDA. In addition, these products are not genetically modified and are vegetarian, kosher and halal certified.
Tocotrienols are members of the vitamin E family. In the body, vitamin E acts as an antioxidant that protects lipid from peroxidation and help quench free radicals. However, there is a difference in antioxidant potency between tocotrienol and its sibling tocopherol. Tocotrienol has been shown to be 40 to 60 times more potent than tocopherol as an antioxidant. Similar to the tocopherols, tocotrienols consist of 4 members: alpha, beta, gamma, and delta isomers.1 Structurally, both tocotrienol and tocopherol possess a chromanol head attached to a carbon side chain. Tocotrienol has three double bonds in its side chain, but tocopherol has a saturated tail. Many studies have suggested that this polyunsaturation in tocotrienols contributes to more potent effects than tocopherols.
Learn more about the sustainability of red palm oil in this INSIDER article.
Research shows tocotrienols are beneficial to consumers who want to maintain healthy brain (neuroprotection), blood lipid levels, arterial compliance (by reducing arterial stiffness), liver health, skin nutrition and immune protection.
The deep orange red color of red palm oil is contributed by natural pigments called carotenoids. There are more than 600 different carotenoids known to exist in nature. Carotenoids have long been used as natural food colorants in food and drinks, as well as cosmetics. Red palm oil is a natural plant source of carotenes in terms of retinol (vitamin A) equivalents, providing 7,000 retinol equivalents (RE) per 100 grams. This is about 17 times as much beta-carotene as carrots, in terms of retinol equivalents. Some carotenoids, such as beta-carotene and alpha-carotene, act as precursor of vitamin A. Lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin are carotenoids that do not have vitamin A activity, but possess other health-promoting biological properties. The primary forms of carotenoids in red palm oil are beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, gamma-carotene and lycopene. Palm oil contains the highest alpha-carotene level among all the plant sources.
There are four main commercial sources of carotenoids, namely synthetic beta-carotene, algae’s beta-carotene, fermentative beta-carotene and palm carotenoids. Synthetic beta-carotene is an artificial colorant containing only a single form of isomer (all trans beta-carotene). Likewise, algae’s and fermentative beta-carotenes predominantly contain a single isomer (more than 96 percent as beta-carotene), which are not true mixed carotenoids complex.
In comparison, palm carotenoids complex is a fruit/food-based natural carotenoid. Natural palm carotenoids complex is extracted from palm fruits via a mild extraction process, which ensures maximum natural preservation of carotenoids. Apart from beta-carotene, palm carotenoids complex contains the highest level of alpha-carotene compared to carotenoids from other sources. It also contains appreciable amount of gamma-carotene and lycopene.
Commercial Sources of Carotenoids
Palm Carotenoid Complex
Crude palm oil
2% other carotenoids (mixed carotenoid complex)
beta-carotene (predominantly a single beta-carotene source)
beta-carotene (predominantly a single beta-carotene source)
beta-carotene (single beta-carotene source)
Highest level of alpha-carotene
(33 to 35%)
Negligible level of alpha-carotene
Negligible level of alpha-carotene
Cis and trans isomers
Cis and trans
Cis and trans
~ 100% trans
A series of NIH-funded research that spanned longer than a decade showed tocotrienols (as Tocomin SupraBio®, from Carotech Inc.) support brain health by triggering and increasing blood circulation through collateral arteries to the area of the brain that suffered ischemic stroke.2 In addition, oral supplementation with Tocomin SupraBio® in human subjects showed tocotrienols are well absorbed and distributed to organs and tissues, such as the brain, liver, heart muscle, adipose tissue, blood and skin; reaching levels that more than enough to confer neuroprotection.3
Based on these encouraging and significant results, a clinical trial named “NUTRITION," which is the acronym for “Natural Tocotrienol Against Ischemic Stroke Event," has been commissioned and is now been carried out at the Ohio State University Medical Center. NUTRITION will evaluate the effects of orally supplemented natural full spectrum palm tocotrienol complex (as Tocomin SupraBio) on platelet function and blood lipid profile including high-density lipoprotein (HDL), low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and total cholesterol. Dyslipidemia and hypercoagulable are established risk factors of stroke. This study aims to clarify the potential of full-spectrum palm tocotrienol complex to mitigate these important stroke risks.
Peer review journals have documented palm tocotrienol complex’s promising hypocholesterolemic properties.4,5
A recent double blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial shows that subjects with high blood cholesterol who received Tocomin SupraBio demonstrated significant reduction in total and LDL cholesterol levels within four month of supplementation. Continuous significant reduction was seen on the fifth and sixth month. In contrast, subjects in the placebo group had negligible changes in their total and LDL cholesterol levels compared to baseline.6
High blood pressure or hypertension is one of the major risk factors of cardiovascular diseases and strokes. In a human clinical trial, patients supplemented with palm tocotrienol complex for two months resulted in significant reduction in aortic systolic blood pressure.7
Decreased arterial compliance or increased arterial stiffness is a predictor of cardiovascular events in both normal and diseased human subjects. A randomized controlled clinical trial demonstrated that oral supplementation of Tocomin SupraBio for two months reduced arterial stiffness in healthy adults.8
In a prospective, cross-sectional, population-based study involving a randomly selected population sample of 392 men and women aged 45-65 (The BRUNECK study), the relationship between atherosclerosis (carotid and femoral artery) risk and plasma alpha- and beta-carotene level (mixed carotenoids) was evaluated.9 This study provided evidence that atherosclerosis risk was inversely related to plasma alpha- and beta-carotene levels, indicating a protective role of high levels of carotenes against atherogenesis.
Vitamin E, synthetic or natural, is widely used in the cosmetic/personal care industry. The main reason for the use of vitamin E was for its antioxidant properties in the protection of skin against the onslaught of free radicals or oxidative stress caused by chemical insult and UV rays in our daily atmosphere. Most of the vitamin E used in cosmetic is mainly of the tocopherol form (synthetic and natural forms).
Fueled by the many recent scientific publications on the benefits of tocotrienols in cosmetic application and women's health, the use of tocotrienols has been gaining tremendous attention in the oral and topical cosmetic and personal care industry. Exciting science and research are being conducted on tocotrienol for its superior protection of skin and skin aging compared to tocopherol as well as the skin’s first line of defense against free radicals.
Dr. Nicholas Perricone, dermatologist at the Yale Medical Center, in his New York Times' best-selling book, "The Wrinkle Cure," advocated the use of tocotrienols in cream to promote skin health and prevent skin aging.
The research on tocotrienols in the protection of skin has been fairly new, i.e., less than 15 years. More research is currently being conducted either by companies or universities to understand and evaluate the efficacy of tocotrienols in skin protection and skin nourishment. Scientists believe tocotrienols play a major and important role in the protection of the skin, especially in the prevention of oxidative stress and skin anti-aging and wound-healing.
A recent human clinical study completed at The Ohio State Universtiy Medical Center also reported that end-stage liver patients (those waiting for liver transplantation) supplemented with Tocomin SupraBio resulted in statistically significant protective effects.10 Another group of researcher in Malaysia also reported that taking 200 mg of Tocomin SupraBio twice a day was significantly effective in addressing fatty liver. This study was presented at the Liver Meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (ASSLD) in Boston in 2010.
Source of Vitamin A
Research has shown consumption of red palm oil significantly enhanced vitamin A levels in humans, and it is beneficial in preventing vitamin A deficiency.11 Vitamin A deficiency may lead to blindness, skin disease and weakened immune function.
The human body is able to convert provitamin-A carotenoids (alpha- and beta-carotene) when there is a deficiency, hence it is safer to supplement with carotenes than consuming vitamin A (retinoids) directly. Excessive consumption of retinoids may lead to toxicity with symptoms ranging from mild, such as headache, nausea and dry, itchy skin to severe, such as liver damage.
Natural Food Color
Palm fruit carotenoids are widely used in the fat- and dairy-processing industry to standardize the color of margarine, butter and ghee. They are also widely used as a natural colorant in confectionery and convenience foods; and to replace synthetic colorants in the beverage industry. The trend, especially in Europe, the United States and Japan, is moving toward replacing synthetic with natural colorants.
Carotenoids are potent antioxidants. Professor Lester Packer of the University California Berkeley showed alpha-carotene is a more potent antioxidant than beta-carotene .12
Red palm oil is rich in natural phytonutrients that are important for health. These phytonutrients (ie : tocotrienols and carotenes) are also powerful antioxidants that help maintain the stability of the oil during cooking process and may extend the shelf life of food prepared with red palm oil.
Numerous scientific studies have shown how tocotrienols and carotenoids work in supporting important health conditions, especially in supporting brain and heart health, liver health as well as skin nutrition. However, in all these research, a common and important thread for positive effects has been the naturally-attained full spectrum tocotrienols or carotenoids complex. There have been negative studies for both vitamin E (ie : alpha-tocopherol) and beta-carotene in the past, due to the fact that those studies only used a single form (isomer) of the nutrient. The market is moving towards taking what nature produces – as a wholesome complex of ingredients, naturally found in our diet as opposed to a single ingredient formulation. Therefore, it is important to use what nature produces – as the combination of nutrients naturally found in red palm oil work synergistically to confer the optimum functionality and health benefits.
Bryan See is the product manager of Carotech . He has a bachelor’s degree of science in food technology from the University Science Malaysia. He has been working at Carotech for the past seven years, as product manager for the Asia Market and more recently as a product manager for the U.S. market. His knowledge and experience on tocotrienols (Tocomin®) and carotenoids (Caromin®) as well as palm oil are gained from Carotech, a GMP (good manufacturing practice)-certified palm tocotrienols and carotenoids.
References are listed on the next page.
Palm oil is a saturated fat made from the oil palm tree (not to be confused with palm kernel oil, which comes from the seeds of the same plant). It’s semi-solid at room temperature, and has made recent appearances as a substitute for trans fats in commercial baking. However, it is a very efficient frying oil with a smoke point of just under 450˚. No one would be mad, for example, if you made these spaghetti squash fritters fried in palm oil.