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Palm oil from Ghana with its natural dark colour visible, 2 litres
Palm oil block showing the lighter colour that results from boiling.

Palm oil is an edible plant oil derived from the pulp[1] of the fruit of the oil palm Elaeis guineensis. It should not be confused with palm kernel oil, which is derived from the kernel (seed) of Elaeis guineensis,[2] or with Coconut oil, which is derived from the kernel of the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera). Palm oil is naturally reddish because it contains a high amount of beta-carotene (though boiling palm oil destroys the beta-carotene, rendering the oil colourless[citation needed]).

Palm oil is one of the few highly saturated vegetable fats; others include palm kernel oil and coconut oil. It is thus semi-solid at typical temperate climate room temperatures, though it will more often appear as liquid in warmer countries. Palm oil contains several saturated and unsaturated fats in the forms of glyceryl laurate (0.1%, saturated), myristate (0.1%, saturated), palmitate (44%, saturated), stearate (5%, saturated), oleate (39%, monounsaturated), linoleate (10%, polyunsaturated), and linolenate (0.3%, polyunsaturated).[3] Like every vegetable oil, palm oil is designated as cholesterol-free,[4][5] although saturated fat intake increases both LDL[6] and HDL[7] cholesterol.

Palm oil is a very common cooking ingredient in southeast Asia and the tropical belt of Africa. Its increasing use in the commercial food industry in other parts of the world is buoyed by its cheaper pricing[8] and the high oxidative stability of the refined product[9][10].

Contents

History

Oil palm tree (Elaeis guineensis

Palm oil (from the African oil palm, Elaeis guineensis) is long recognized in West African countries, and is widely use as a cooking oil. European merchants trading with West Africa occasionally purchased palm oil for use in Europe, but as the oil was bulky and cheap, palm oil remained rare outside West Africa.[citation needed] In the Asante Confederacy, state-owned slaves built large plantations of oil palm trees, while in the neighbouring Kingdom of Dahomey, King Ghezo passed a law in 1856 forbidding his subjects from cutting down oil palms.

Palm oil became a highly sought-after commodity by British traders, for use as an industrial lubricant for the machines of Britain's Industrial Revolution[citation needed]. Palm oil formed the basis of soap products, such as Lever Brothers' (now Unilever) "Sunlight Soap", and the American Palmolive brand.[11] By c. 1870, palm oil constituted the primary export of some West African countries such as Ghana and Nigeria, although this was overtaken by cocoa in the 1880s.[citation needed]

Oil palms were introduced to Java by the Dutch in 1848[12] and Malaysia (then the British colony of Malaya) in 1910 by Scotsman William Sime and English banker Henry Darby. The first few plantations were established and operated by British plantation owners, such as Sime Darby and Boustead. The large plantation companies remained listed in London until the Malaysian government engineered the "Malaysianisation" policy throughout the 1960s and 1970s.[13]

Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) was formed on 1 July 1956 when the Land Development Act came into force with the main aim of eradicating poverty. Settlers were each allocated 10 acres of land (about 4 hectares) planted either with oil palm or rubber, and given 20 years to pay off the debt for the land.[14] After Malaysia achieve independence in 1957, the government focused on value adding of rubber planting, boosting exports, and alleviating poverty through land schemes. In the 1960s and 1970s, the government encouraged planting of other crops, to cushion the economy when world prices of tin and rubber plunged. Rubber estates gave way to oil palm plantations. In 1961, Felda's first oil palm settlement opened, measuring only 375 hectares of land. As of 2000, 685,520 hectares of the land under Felda's programmes were devoted to oil palms.[14] By 2008, Felda's resettlement broadened to 112,635 families and they work on 853,313 hectares of agriculture land throughout Malaysia. Oil palm planting took up 84% of Felda's plantation landbank.[15]

In December 2006, the Malaysian government initiated merger of Sime Darby Berhad, Golden Hope Plantations Berhad and Kumpulan Guthrie Berhad to create the world’s largest listed oil palm plantation player.[16] In a landmark deal valued at RM31 billion, the merger involved the businesses of eight listed companies controlled by Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB) and the Employees Provident Fund (EPF). A special purpose vehicle, Synergy Drive Sdn Bhd, offered to acquire all the businesses including assets and liabilities of the eight listed companies. With 543,000 hectares of plantation landbank, the merger resulted in the new oil palm plantation entity that could produce 2.5 million tonnes of palm oil or 5% of global production in 2006. A year later, the merger completed and the entity was renamed Sime Darby Berhad.[17]

Research

In the 1960s, research and development (R&D) in oil palm breeding began to expand after Malaysia's Department of Agriculture established an exchange program with West African economies and four private plantations formed the Oil Palm Genetics Laboratory.[18] The government also established Kolej Serdang, which became the Universiti Pertanian Malaysia (UPM) in the 1970s to train agricultural and agro-industrial engineers and agro-business graduates to conduct research in the field.

In 1979, following strong lobbying from oil palm planters and support from the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI) and UPM, the government set up the Palm Oil Research Institute of Malaysia (Porim).[19] B.C. Sekhar was instrumental in Porim's recruitment and training of scientists to undertake R&D in oil palm tree breeding, palm oil nutrition and potential oleochemical use. Sekhar, as founder and chairman, strategised Porim to be a public-and-private-coordinated institution. As a result, Porim (renamed Malaysian Palm Oil Board in 2000) became Malaysia's top research entity with the highest technology commercialisation rate of 20% compared to 5% among local universities.[citation needed] While MPOB has gained international prominence, its relevance is dependent on it churning out breakthrough findings in the world's fast-changing oil crop genetics, dietary fat nutrition and process engineering landscape.

Nutrition

Many processed foods contain palm oil as an ingredient.[20]

Palm oil and palm kernel oil are composed of fatty acids, esterified with glycerol just like any ordinary fat. Both are high in saturated fatty acids, about 50% and 80%, respectively. The oil palm gives its name to the 16-carbon saturated fatty acid palmitic acid found in palm oil; monounsaturated oleic acid is also a constituent of palm oil while palm kernel oil contains mainly lauric acid. Palm oil is a large natural source of tocotrienol, part of the vitamin E family.[21]

The approximate concentration of fatty acids (FAs) in palm oil is as follows:[22]

Fatty acid content of palm oil
Type of fatty acid pct
Palmitic C16
  
44.3%
Stearic C18
  
4.6%
Myristic C14
  
1.0%
Oleic C18
  
38.7%
Linoleic C18
  
10.5%
Other/Unknown
  
0.9%
green: Saturated; blue: Mono unsaturated; orange: Poly unsaturated
Fatty acid content of palm kernel oil
Type of fatty acid pct
Lauric C12
  
48.2%
Myristic C14
  
16.2%
Palmitic C16
  
8.4%
Capric C10
  
3.4%
Caprylic C8
  
3.3%
Stearic C18
  
2.5%
Oleic C18
  
15.3%
Linoleic C18
  
2.3%
Other/Unknown
  
0.4%
green: Saturated; blue: Mono unsaturated; orange: Poly unsaturated

Red Palm Oil

Red palm oil not only supplies fatty acids essential for proper growth and development, but also it contains an assortment of vitamins, antioxidants, and other phytonutrients important for good health. Red palm oil gets its name from its characteristic dark red color, which comes from carotenes such as alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and lycopene—the same nutrients that give tomatoes, carrots and other fruits and vegetables their rich red and orange colors.

Red palm oil is the richest dietary source of provitamin A carotenes (beta-carotene and alpha-carotene).[citation needed] It has 15 times more provitamin A carotenes than carrots and 300 times more than tomatoes.[citation needed] This has made it a valued resource in the treatment of vitamin A deficiency.[23] People who do not consume enough vitamin A in their diets suffer from blindness, weakened bones, lower immunity, and impaired learning ability and mental function.[citation needed] One teaspoon (about 20 ml) a day of red palm oil supplies children with the daily recommended amount of vitamin A.[24] Nursing mothers, by adding red palm oil into their diets, can double or triple the amount of vitamin A in breast milk.[25]

Red palm oil contains a greater number of nutrients than any other dietary oil.[citation needed] In addition to beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and lycopene, it contains at least 10 other carotenes, along with tocopherols and tocotrienols (members of the vitamin E family), CoQ10, phytosterols, and glycolipids.[26] In a 2007 animal study, South African scientists found consumption of red palm oil significantly decreased p38-MAPK phosphorylation in rat hearts subjected to a high-cholesterol diet.[27]

Since the mid-1990s, red palm oil is cold-pressed and bottled for use as cooking oil, and blended into mayonnaise and salad oil.[28] Red palm oil antioxidants like tocotrienols and carotenes are also fortified into foods for specific health use and anti-aging cosmetics.[29][30][31]

In a 2004 joint-study between Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research and Malaysian Palm Oil Board, the scientists found cookies, being higher in fat content than bread, are a better vehicle for red palm oil phytonutrients.[32]

In a 2009 study, scientists in Spain tested the acrolein emission rates from red palm and olive oils, which were much lower than that of polyunsaturated oils like sunflower. The total carotenoid content of red palm oil, 480 mg/L, makes it perfect for developing functional foods round the world, and gives the oil a high oxidative stability and long shelf life. It gives an attractive colour to french fries:[33] sensory tests have shown that red palm oil french fries were scored positively by regular consumers; the color was initially considered unusual and got low scores, but when the flavor was evaluated red palm oil fries got higher scores than olive or sunflower fries. Red palm oil generated lower amounts of toxic volatiles, acrolein, than sunflower, and is an excellent source of carotenoids.[34]

Refined, Bleached, Deodorized Palm Oil

Palm oil products are made using milling and refining processes: first using fractionation, with crystallization and separation processes to obtain solid (stearin), and liquid (olein) fractions. Then by melting and degumming, impurities can be removed, and then the oil is filtered and bleached. Next, physical refining removes smells and coloration, to produce refined bleached deodorized palm oil, or RBDPO, and free sheer fatty acids, which are used as an important raw material in the manufacture of soaps, washing powder and other hygiene and personal care products. RBDPO is the basic oil product which can be sold on the world's commodity markets, although many companies fractionate it further into palm olein, for cooking oil or other products.[35]

Splitting of oils and fats by hydrolysis, or under basic conditions saponification, yields fatty acids, with glycerin (glycerol) as a byproduct. The split-off fatty acids are a mixture ranging from C4 to C18, depending on the type of oil/fat.[36][37]

Uses

Resembling coconut oil, palm kernel oil is packed with myristic and lauric fatty acids and therefore suitable for the manufacture of soaps, washing powders and personal care products. Lauric acid is very important in soap making. A good soap must contain at least 15 per cent laurate for quick lathering while soap made for use in sea water is based on virtually 100 per cent laurate.[38]

Napalm derives its name from naphthenic acid and palmitic acid.

Many processed foods contain palm oil as an ingredient.[39]

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Biodiesel, biomass and biogas

Palm oil, like other vegetable oils, can be used to create biodiesel for internal combustion engines. Biodiesel has been promoted as a renewable energy source to reduce net emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Therefore, biodiesel is seen as a way to decrease the impact of the greenhouse effect and as a way of diversifying energy supplies to assist national energy security plans.

Palm is also used to make biodiesel, as either a simply-processed palm oil mixed with petrodiesel, or processed through transesterification to create a palm oil methyl ester blend, which meets the international EN 14214 specification, with glycerin as a byproduct. The actual process used varies between countries, and the requirements of different export markets. Next-generation biofuel production processes are also being tested in relatively small trial quantities.

The IEA predicts that biofuels usage in Asian countries will remain modest. But as a major producer of palm oil, the Malaysian government is encouraging the production of biofuel feedstock and the building of biodiesel plants that use palm oil. Domestically, Malaysia is preparing to change from diesel to bio-fuels by 2008, including drafting legislation that will make the switch mandatory. From 2007, all diesel sold in Malaysia must contain 5% palm oil. Malaysia is emerging as one of the leading biofuel producers, with 91 plants approved and a handful now in operation, all based on palm oil.[40]

On 16 December 2007, Malaysia opened its first biodiesel plant in the state of Pahang, which has an annual capacity of 100,000 tonnes, and also produces by-products in the form of 4,000 tonnes of palm fatty acid distillate and 12,000 tonnes of pharmaceutical grade glycerine.[41] Neste Oil of Finland plans to produce 800,000 tonnes of biodiesel per year from Malaysian palm oil in a new Singapore refinery from 2010, which will make it the largest biofuel plant in the world,[42] and 170,000 tpa from its first second-generation plant in Finland from 2007-8, which can refine fuel from a variety of sources. Neste and the Finnish government are using this paraffinic fuel in some public buses in the Helsinki area as a small scale pilot.[43][44]

Some scientists and companies are going beyond using palm fruit oil, and are proposing to convert fronts, empty fruit bunches and palm kernel shells harvested from oil palm plantations into renewable electricity,[45] cellulosic ethanol,[46] biogas,[47] biohydrogen[48] and bioplastic.[49] Thus, by using both the biomass from the plantation as well as the processing residues from palm oil production (fibers, kernel shells, palm oil mill effluent), bioenergy from palm plantations can have an effect on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Examples of these production techniques have been registered as projects under the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism.

By using palm biomass to generate renewable energy, fuels and biodegradable products, both the energy balance and the greenhouse gas emissions balance for palm biodiesel is improved. For every tonne of palm oil produced from fresh fruit bunches, a farmer harvests around 6 tonnes of waste palm fronds, 1 tonne of palm trunks, 5 tonnes of empty fruit bunches, 1 tonne of press fiber (from the mesocarp of the fruit), half a tonne of palm kernel endocarp, 250 kg of palm kernel press cake, and 100 tonnes of palm oil mill effluent. Oil palm plantations incinerate biomass to generate power for palm oil mills. Oil palm plantations yield large amount of biomass that can be recycled into medium density fibreboards and light furniture.[50] In efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, scientists treat palm oil mill effluent to extract biogas. After purification, biogas can substitute for natural gas for use at factories. Anaerobic treatment of palm oil mill effluent, practiced in Malaysia and Indonesia, results in domination of Methanosaeta concilii. It plays an important role in methane production from acetate and the optimum condition for its growth should be considered to harvest biogas as renewable fuel.[51]

However, regardless of these new innovations, first generation biodiesel production from palm oil is still in demand globally. Palm oil is also a primary substitute for rapeseed oil in Europe, which too is experiencing high levels of demand for biodiesel purposes. Palm oil producers are investing heavily in the refineries needed for biodiesel. In Malaysia companies have been merging, buying others out and forming alliances to obtain the economies of scale needed to handle the high costs caused by increased feedstock prices. New refineries are being built across Asia and Europe.[52]

As the food vs. fuel debate mounts, research direction is turning to biodiesel production from waste. In Malaysia, an estimated 50,000 tonnes of used frying oils, both vegetable oils and animal fats, are disposed of yearly without treatment as wastes. In a 2006 study[53] researchers found used frying oil (mainly palm olein), after pre-treatment with silica gel, is a suitable feedstock for conversion to methyl esters by catalytic reaction using sodium hydroxide. The methyl esters produced have fuel properties comparable to those of petroleum diesel, and can be used in unmodified diesel engines.

A 2009 study by scientists at Universiti Sains Malaysia concluded that palm oil, compared to other vegetable oils, is a healthy source of edible oil and at the same time, available in quantities that can satisfy global demand for biodiesel. Oil palm planting and palm oil consumption circumvents the food vs. fuel debate because it has the capacity to fulfill both demands simultaneously.[54] By 2050, a British scientist estimates global demand for edible oils will probably be around 240 million tonnes, nearly twice of 2008's consumption. Most of the additional oil may be palm oil, which has the lowest production cost of the major oils, but soybean oil production will probably also increase. An additional 12 million hectares of oil palms may be required, if average yields continue to rise as in the past. This need not be at the expense of forest; oil palm planted on anthropogenic grassland could supply all the oil required for edible purposes in 2050.[55]

Market

According to 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 make up close to 60%; Malaysia, with 45% of the market share, dominates the palm oil trade.[56]

Regional production

Palm oil output in 2006

Malaysia

In 2008, Malaysia produced 17.7 million tonnes of palm oil on 4.5 million hectares of land,[56] and was the second largest producer of palm oil, employing more than 570,000 people.[57] Malaysia is the largest exporter of palm oil in the world. About 60% of palm oil exports from Malaysia are shipped to China, the European Union, Pakistan, United States and India. They are mostly made into cooking oil, margarine, specialty fats and oleochemicals.

Indonesia

Growers in Indonesia are also increasing production of palm oil to meet the global demand spurred by biofuels, with the government looking for it to become the world's top producer of palm oil. FAO data show production increased by over 400% between 1994–2004, to over 8.66 million tonnes (metric). In 2007, Indonesia became the top producer of palm oil, surpassing Malaysia.[58]

In addition to servicing its traditional markets, it is looking to produce biodiesel. There are new mills and refineries being built by major local companies, such as PT. Astra Agro Lestari terbuka (150,000 tpa biodiesel refinery), PT. Bakrie Group (a biodiesel factory and new plantations), Surya Dumai Group (biodiesel refinery) and global companies such as Cargill (sometimes operating through CTP Holdings of Singapore, building new refineries and mills in Malaysia and Indonesia, expanding its Rotterdam refinery to handle 300,000 tpa of palm oil, acquiring plantations in Sumatra, Kalimantan, Indonesian Peninsula and Papua New Guinea) and Robert Kuok's Wilmar International Limited (with plantations and 25 refineries across Indonesia, to supply feedstock to new biodiesel refineries in Singapore, Riau, Indonesia, and Rotterdam).[52]

However, fresh land clearances, especially in Borneo, are contentious for their environmental impact.[59][60] NGOs and many international bodies are now warning that, despite thousands of square kilometres of land standing unplanted in Indonesia, tropical hardwood forests are being cleared for palm oil plantations. Furthermore, as the remaining unprotected lowland forest dwindles, developers are looking to plant peat swamp land, using drainage that unlocks the carbon held in their trees, and begins an oxidation process of the peat which can release 5,000 to 10,000 years worth of stored carbon. Drained peat is also at very high risk of forest fire, and there is a clear record of fire being used to clear vegetation for palm oil development in Indonesia. Drought and man-made clearances have led to massive uncontrolled forest fires over recent years, covering parts of Southeast Asia in haze and leading to an international crisis with Malaysia. These fires have been variously blamed on a government with little ability to enforce its own laws while impoverished small farmers and large plantation owners illegally burn and clear forests and peat lands to reap the developmental benefits of environmentally-valuable land.[61][62]

Colombia

In the 1960s, about 18,000 hectares were planted with palm. Colombia has now become the largest palm oil producer in the Americas, and 35% of its product is exported as biofuel. In 2006, the Colombian plantation owners' association, Fedepalma, reported that oil palm cultivation was expanding to a million hectares. This expansion is being funded, in part, by the United States Agency for International Development to resettle disarmed paramilitary members on arable land, and by the Colombian government, which proposes to expand land use for exportable cash crops to 7m hectares by 2020, including oil palms. However, while Fedepalma states that its members are following sustainable guidelines,[63] there have been claims that some of these new plantations have been appropriated on land owned by Afro-Colombians driven away through poverty and civil war, while armed guards intimidate the remaining people to depopulate the land, while coca production and trafficking follows in their wake.[64]

Other producers

Benin

Palm is native to the wetlands of Western Africa and south Benin already hosts many palm plantations. Its government's 'Agricultural Revival Programme' has identified many thousands of hectares of land as suitable for new oil palm plantations to be grown as an export crop. In spite of the economic benefits, NGOs such as Nature Tropicale claim this policy is flawed as biofuels will be competing with domestic food production in some existing prime agricultural sites. Other areas comprise peat land, whose drainage would have a deleterious environmental impact. They are also concerned that genetically-modified plants will be introduced for the first time into the region, jeopardizing the current premium paid for their non-GM crops.[65]

Kenya

Kenya's domestic production of edible oils covers about a third of its annual demand, estimated at around 380,000 metric tonnes. The rest is imported at a cost of around US$140 million a year, making edible oil the country's second most important import after petroleum. Since 1993 a new hybrid variety of cold-tolerant, high-yielding oil palm has been promoted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in western Kenya. As well as alleviating the country's deficit of edible oils while providing an important cash crop, it is claimed to have environmental benefits in the region, as it does not compete against food crops or native vegetation and it provides stabilisation for the soil.[66]

Ghana

Ghana has a lot of palnuts vegetation which can be build a sector of its own within the agricultural sector of the Black star region. Although Ghana has palm tree of different species ranging from local palm nuts to other species locally called agric. It is only maketised within the nation locally and other neighbouring countries. Because of low funds and other economic constraints the local farmers and traders are finding hard to cope but it is lucrative.

Impacts

Social

Not only does the palm represent a pillar of these nations' economies but it is a catalyst for rural development and political stability. Many social initiatives use profits from palm oil to finance poverty alleviation strategies. Examples include the direct financing of Magbenteh hospital in Makeni, Sierra Leone, through profits made from palm oil grown by small local farmers,[67] the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance's Food Security Program, which draws on a women-run cooperative to grow palm oil, the profits of which are reinvested in food security,[68] or the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation's hybrid oil palm project in Western Kenya, which improves incomes and diets of local populations,[69] to name just a few.

Environmental

Palm oil production has been documented as a cause of substantial and often irreversible damage to the natural environment.[70] Its impacts include: deforestation, habitat loss of critically endangered species[71][72][73], and a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions[74].

The pollution is exacerbated because many rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia lie atop peat bogs that store great quantities of carbon that are released when the forests are cut down and the bogs drained to make way for the palm oil plantations.

Environmental groups such as Greenpeace claim that the deforestation caused by making way for oil palm plantations is far more damaging for the climate than the benefits gained by switching to biofuel.[75].[76]

Many of the major companies in the vegetable oil economy participate in the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, which is trying to address this problem. In 2008 Unilever, a member of the group, committed to use only palm oil which is certified as sustainable, by ensuring that the large companies and smallholders that supply it convert to sustainable production by 2015.[77]

Meanwhile, much of the recent investment in new palm plantations for biofuel has been part-funded through carbon credit projects through the Clean Development Mechanism; however the reputational risk associated with unsustainable palm plantations in Indonesia has now made many funds wary of investing there.[78]

Medical

Palm oil is applied to wounds, just like iodine tincture, to aid the healing process. This is not just done for its oily qualities; like coconut oil, unrefined palm oil is supposed to have additional antimicrobial effects, but research does not confirm this.[79]

Blood cholesterol controversy

The United States' Center for Science in the Public Interest said palm oil which is high in saturated and low in polyunsaturated fat, promotes heart disease.[80] CSPI report cited research that go back to 1970[81] and metastudies.[82][83] CSPI also said The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute,[84] World Health Organization (WHO), and other health authorities have urged reduced consumption of palm oil. WHO states there is convincing evidence that palmitic acid consumption contributes to an increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.[85] A 2005 research in Costa Rica suggests consumption of non-hydrogenated unsaturated oils over palm oil.[86]

In a response to the WHO's 2002 draft report, Dr. David Kritchevsky[87] of The Wistar Institute, Philadelphia denied that there are any data showing palm oil consumption causing atherosclerosis. When palm oil was charged in public advertisements as being an underlying cause of heart disease in the United States, the FDA said that there was so little palm oil in the American diet that its putative effects were not worth pursuing. Atherosclerosis is a disease of multi-factorial etiology. While saturated fats contribute to atherosclerosis risks, palm oil is not the sole dietary source of saturated fat, even in Asia. Dietary palm oil raises cholesterol levels only if dietary cholesterol intake exceeds 250–300 mg/day.

Similarly, Malaysia's Institute for Medical Research's head of Cardiovascular Disease Unit Cardiovascular, Diabetes and Nutrition Centre Dr Tony Ng Kock Wai[88] highlighted the cholesterol impact of saturated fats is affected by its amount at the sn-2 position. Despite the high palmitic acid content (41%) of palm oil, only 13-14% is present at the sn-2 position.[89] He expressed surprise that WHO/FAO Expert Group concerned has chosen to ignore this.

Comparison with animal saturated fat

Not all saturated fats are equally cholesterolemic.[90] 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.[91]

Diets incorporating palm oil do not raise plasma total and LDL cholesterol levels to the extent expected from its fatty acid composition.[92] According to an unreferenced statement in a review article prepared by an employee of a palm nutraceutical company, palm oil, although high in saturated fats, behaves as healthful as olive oil in being cholesterol neutral because the high concentrate of oleic fatty acid at sn-2 position expresses monosaturates character.[93]

In 1996, Dr Becker of University of Massachusetts stressed that saturated fats in the sn–1 and -3 position of triacylglycerols exhibit different metabolic patterns due to 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.[94]

Dr German and Dr Dillard of University of California and Nestle Research Center in Switzerland, in their 2004 review, highlighted research on how specific saturated fats contribute to coronary artery disease and on the role each specific saturated faty acid plays in other health outcomes is not sufficient to make global recommendations for all persons to remove saturated fats from their diet. No randomized clinical trials of low-fat diets or low-saturated fat diets of sufficient duration have been carried out. There is a lack of knowledge of how low saturated fat intake can be without the risk of potentially deleterious health outcomes. The influence of varying saturated fatty acid intakes against a background of different individual lifestyles and genetic backgrounds should be the focus in future studies.[95]

See also

References

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