Significant scientific findings about palm oil have arisen from painstaking research in many laboratories.
Twelve of the many scientific facts about the nutritional effects of palm oil are presented here. Each fact has been thoroughly examined and evaluated by scientists in some of the world’s most respected laboratories, using universally approved methods, to render them worthy of international acceptance.
This compilation of documented facts on the nutritional effects of palm oil has been published in full or in part in international scientific journals and is endorsed by committees of several of the most recognized and respected nutrition scientists in this field. (Refer : MPOPC Health, Nutrition and Palm Oil: A Compilation)
A Compilation of the Nutritional Effects of Palm Oil and Palm Olein FACT 1: Palm Oil is Not Palm Kernel Oil or Coconut Oil – Palm oil from the fruit of the palm is physically and chemically different from either palm kernel oil which is derived from the seed, and from coconut oil, both of which are highly saturated. FACT 2: Long Record of Safe Use – Palm oil has been a safe and nutritious source of edible oil for healthy humans for thousands of years. (1)
FACT 3: Consumed Worldwide – Palm oil and its liquid fraction, palm olein, are consumed worldwide as cooking oils and as constituents of margarines and shortenings; these oils are also incorporated into fat blends used in the manufacture of a variety of food products as well as in home food preparation.
FACT 4: Excellent Dietary Energy Source – Like other common edible fats and oils, palm oil is easily digested, absorbed and utilized in normal metabolic processes. It plays a useful role in meeting energy and essential fatty acid needs in many regions of the world. (2) FACT 5: Free of Cholesterol and Trans Unsaturated Fatty Acids – Palm oil, like other vegetable oils, is cholestrol free. Having a moderate level of saturation, it does not require hydrogenation for use as a fat component in foods and, as such, does not contain trans fatty acids. (3,4) FACT 6: Rich Carotenoids – Red (unprocessed) and red or golden (specially refined) palm oils, the major cooking oils in many parts of the world, are rich sources of beta-carotene, a precursor of Vitamin A, which some studies have found to have antioxidant properties.(5) FACT 7: Vitamin E Antioxidants – Palm oil and palm oil products are naturally occuring sources of the antioxidant vitamin E constituents, tocopherols and tocotrienols. These natural antioxidants may act as scavengers of damaging oxygen free radicals. Some studies have suggested that antioxidants may play a protective role in cellular aging, atherosclerosis and cancer. (6,7,8,9) . FACT 8: Balanced Fatty Acid Composition – Palm olein contains a mixture of polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and saturated fatty acids. The relative concentrations are 44% oleic acid, 10% linoleic acid, 40% palmitic acid and 5% stearic acid. The concentrations of palmitic and oleic acids are reversed in unfractionated palm oil i.e. 44% and 40% respectively. The fatty acid composition of palm oil is similar to that of the adipose tissue in most people on an ordinary diet. FACT 9: Provides Linoleic Acid: An Essential Fatty Acid – Palm oil triglycerides carry linoleic acid predominately in the 2-position, which favors absorption and availability for use in the body FACT 10: Favorable Nutritional Studies – Human feeding studies and epidemiologic data have found that palm oil and palm olein have effects on blood cholesterol levels that are similar to olive oils. (10,11) In several studies of normocholesterolemic men and women, a diet that included palm oil resulted in reduced blood cholesterol compared to entry level values, and palmitic acid (16:0) (which comprises 90% of palm oil) was found equivalent to oleic acid (18:1) insofar as it affected cholesterol metabolism. (11,12,13) There is evidence that a balance between linoleic (18:2) and palmitic (16:0) acids may be required to maximize HDL levels. (14) Substitution of palmitic acid (16:0) from palm oil or palm olein for the lauric acid (12:0) and myristic acid (14:0) combination from palm kernel or coconut oils leads to a decrease in plasma and LDL cholesterol. (15,16,17) Of several fats tested, including a fat blend approximating American intake, a palm oil-enriched diet fed to hamsters induced the highest level of protective HDL-chlolesterol and the greatest production of liver LDL receptors, key to removal of harmful LDL-cholesterol from the blood. (18) FACT 11: Thrombosis – Rats fed a palm oil-enriched diet were found to have a reduced tendency for blood clotting. (19) FACT 12: Cancer – Red palm olein is a source of carotenoids which some animal studies have found to inhibit some types of cancer. Animal studies have found that a diet containing palm oil, as compared to lard, beef tallow, corn oil and soybean oil, exerted an inhibitory effect on the development and incidence of experimentally -induced breast cancer in rats. (20,21) Animal and cellular studies have also found that tocotrienols inhibit the growth of cancer cells in vivo (22,23) as well as in vitro. (24,25)