Palm oil, a fruit-oil, since over 5,000 years has been used in food preparations. Today it is consumed worldwide as a cooking oil, margarine and shortening. It is also used as an ingredient in many fat blends and in a vast array of food products. Nature has been generous in endowing palm oil with a balanced fat composition, between its saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. Even while nature programmed such higher level of saturates in the oil, it also optimized its saturated fat content be in the form of palmitic acid (C16:0), the same saturated fatty acid that is most abundant and distributed throughout our body, in human breast milk and in most of nature’s creations. 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 unsaturated oils, which often have higher market prices and require additional processing such as hydrogenation for the same characteristics.
Our modern daily diets often fall short of current perceptions of optimum nutrition. We dwell on highly processed foods enriched by sugary carbohydrates that are emerging as the real threat to human health and well-being. Under such an umbrella, palm oil functions to provide much needed calories for the needy billions around the world who may otherwise fall on borders of malnutrition. The palm oil calories are provided in a nutritionally safe and quality assured environment, that most do not even take a moment to reflect. Given this functional scenario, palm oil’s overall rating could have been much higher among the nutrition gurus of this world. Unfortunately, the “fat-world” is overwhelmed by a predominance of opinions on how unhealthy saturated fats are and how saturates are implicated in a number of degenerative diseases. Over the past five decades, dietary recommendations have thus targeted lower levels of saturated fat intake in order to help reduce total and LDL-cholesterol, which is suggested or associated with increased coronary heart disease (CHD) risk.
Health and Benefits of Palm oil
In several human studies liquid palm oil, the most common cooking oil used throughout Asia, was comparable to the much touted gold standard olive oil for its effects on blood cholesterol. For consumers, this is very promising, since the consumer has the right of choice to pay a hefty price for olive oil or get similar health benefits from the premium liquid palm oil (palm olein).
In humans, palm oil consumption is relatively neutral to blood total cholesterol and shown to increase the beneficial HDL-cholesterol. Indeed this was similarly highlighted in the NUS study. As a result, the ratio of LDL/HDL cholesterol is maintained or even improved, thereby not contributing to increased CHD risk.
Palm oil we consume is endowed with natural vitamin E, mainly the tocotrienols. Recently, a major human clinical trial has described the ability of palm tocotrienols to reduce stroke risk through its unique ability to reduce the expansion of white matter lesions (associated with increased stoke risk) in the human brain.
Palm Oil – Essential for Food Security
In recent years in Europe, a strong smear campaign relayed by the media has tried to discredit palm oil. Among the main arguments raised was that oil palm should be substituted with other, different, crops.
The question of food security is, however, a critical one for the developing world, and for generations as yet unborn.
With high population growth expected for decades to come, the world is running out of land to produce food. Those who will be hit hardest, are the poorest.
Already, palm oil is a lifeline for the developing world: 3 billion people globally consume palm oil as a major source of energy and vitamins – including in India, sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia. As land pressure increases, the ability of oil palm to produce more food, using less land, will become even more vital.
Oil palm is so far ahead in terms of productivity. The 150 million hectares between oil palm, and rapeseed, represents an area the size of Mongolia.
A lesson for those who call for replacing palm oil…remember food security and land use. Oil palm is the best option, by far.
Palm oil Land Use Efficiency
In the debate over the sustainability of palm oil, an important parameter to consider is the yield of the plantations – in effect, the efficiency by which each oil is produced, and the amount of land it takes up. Oil palm’s great advantage is that it can meet both the economic and environmental criteria at once: the maximum production level, and maximum returns for the farmers, using the minimum surface area (meaning that more land can be preserved for conservation).
Now the world average yield of oil palm is 3.9 tons of oil per hectare per year. This corresponds to 5 or 10 times the per hectare production of other oilseeds (such as sunflower, rapeseed, ….) This means a land-area saving of 90%. That is worth repeating: in comparison to other oilseeds, oil palm saves 90% more land, because of its superior yield.
Some oil palm plantations – at the higher end of the industry – have an exceptional yield of 8 tonnes per hectare per year and further enhance the attractiveness of this crop. It is beyond anything the competing oils can hope for.
Rapeseed, has a production of 0.7 tonnes of oil / ha / year;
Sunflower, oil of 0.6 tonnes / ha / year;
Soybean oil 0.4 tonnes / ha / year.
It is therefore clear that the production of palm oil is more environmentally friendly in terms of land use, by a very large margin. Oil palm has the highest yield per hectare of all oilseed crops.
Palm oil and it’s many uses
Preventing or treating a lack of vitamin A (vitamin A deficiency). Research shows that adding palm oil to the diets of pregnant women and children in developing countries reduces the chance of having too little vitamin A. It also seems to help increase vitamin A levels in those who have too little. palm oil seems to be as effective as taking a vitamin A supplement for preventing or treating low levels of vitamin A. Doses of about 8 grams or less per day seem to work best. Higher doses don’t seem to have more benefit.
Malaria. Early research suggests that eating palm oil in the diet does not seem to decrease symptoms of malaria in children under 5 years of age in developing countries.
It also helps to reduce Anti-aging, Brain disease,
Cancer, Cyanide poisoning, High blood pressure, Weight loss agent.
Palm oil is used for weight loss and for increasing the body’s metabolism. As food, palm oil is used for frying. It is also an ingredient in many processed foods. Industrially, palm oil is used for manufacturing cosmetics, soaps, toothpaste, waxes, lubricants, and ink.
Is Palm’s success it’s greartest enemy
When it comes to cooking oils, palm oil is typically considered the most controversial of the options – for both health and environmental reasons.
Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil that comes from the fruit grown on the African oil palm tree.
The trees, which were previously found only in Africa, are now grown in Asia, North America and South America – coinciding with the increasing demand for the versatile oil.
The oil is often found in products such as bread, ice cream, and other processed foods, as it is trans-fat free, as well as some cosmetics such as makeup and soap.
However, there is a debate over whether consumption of palm oil is associated with health risks or benefits, despite it being free of trans-fat.
Palm oil has a high saturated fat content, which can be harmful to cardiovascular health. However, one study found that, when consumed as part of a balanced diet, “Palm oil does not have incremental risk for cardiovascular disease.”
The vegetable oil is also a great source of tocotrienols, a form of vitamin E – an “antioxidant that provides protection to your cells and that can reduce your risk of certain health problems such as heart disease and cancer,” according to Livestrong.