Palm oil: a healthy option for a healthy heart


The concept of dietary intake of fats and oils has undergone major changes in recent years. Lately, it has been observed that the consumption of partially hydrogenated trans vegetable oils is increasing while there is a decrease in the consumption of oils containing lauric acid. Published research has indicated an increased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) at high levels of serum cholesterol, which is the result of increased dietary intake of saturated fat.

Most developing countries, given the cost and health concerns, are trying to replace animal fats with vegetable oils. One of the more popular substitutes is palm oil, which not only contains 50% saturated fatty acids and 80% palm kernel oil, but is also esterified with glycerol. The reassuring fact about consuming palm oil as a source of dietary fat is that it poses no additional risk of coronary heart disease when consumed in moderate amounts as part of a healthy diet.

Global palm oil production was around 72.27 million metric tonnes in MY 2020-1, up from around 73.23 million metric tonnes in 2019-20. 90 percent of the world’s palm oil is produced in Indonesia and Malaysia, while the remaining 10 percent is found in Africa, India and China. It is the most productive vegetable oil crop, which makes it very efficient and highly regarded. Less than half of the land is needed for cultivation compared to other oil crops (eg sunflower, soybean or rapeseed) to produce the same amount of oil. This makes palm oil the most affordable vegetable oil in the world.

Palm oil has been used in food preparation for over 5,000 years. Currently, it also contributes significantly to the global oils and fats market. A carefully crafted research strategy by the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) has focused on multi-pronged nutritional trials in animals and humans to prove the nutritional value of palm oil and its products. Collaborative projects have been undertaken in biomedical centers of excellence abroad where palm oil has been compared to native oils used in different countries. The results showed that palm oil is as good as native oils, in some cases even better in its cholesterol response compared to other oils and fats studied. The studies have yielded results that demonstrate not only the nutritional adequacy of palm oil and its products, but also transitions in the science of edible oils and the effects of fatty acids on coronary heart disease.

A natural coenzyme found in palm oil, the widely prescribed coenzyme Q10 has antioxidant properties ten times greater than those of vitamin E.

The results of these studies have helped palm oil increase its market share and position it as a safe and nutritious oil. Global attention to the fact that trans fats are unhealthy has also opened the doors further to palm oil as a healthy natural substitute.

In the past, palm oil was referred to as “saturated” because it contains 44% palmitic acid and 5% stearic acid and, therefore, is said to increase blood cholesterol and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. However, a large and growing body of scientific evidence indicates that the effect of palm oil on blood cholesterol is relatively neutral compared to other fats and oils. Palm oil only increases plasma cholesterol when an excess of dietary cholesterol is present in the diet.

Palm oil is made up of different elements, which contain positive and healthy nutrients, but some lobbies have always projected a negative campaign against it. Here is the researched version of these elements to create a better understanding of palm oil.

A natural coenzyme found in palm oil, the widely prescribed Coenzyme Q10 has antioxidant properties ten times greater than those of vitamin E. In addition to being a powerful antioxidant and scavenger of free radicals, coenzyme Q10 also plays a vital role. in the mitochondrial electron transport chain and has been shown to exhibit membrane stabilizing properties. It has been used in the treatment of many cardiovascular diseases and studies have shown its anticancer effects as well. In addition, there is the presence of traces of squalene, an oxygen transmitter that can help with cardiovascular health.

Phytosterols are a natural substance found in all plants and are also a component of crude palm oil like ß-sitosterol, campesterol and stigmasterol. The main interest of palm phytosterols lies in their cholesterol-lowering properties. Research has also proven that they have anti-cancer properties and improve immune functions.

Phospholipids form the main building blocks and are essential components of lipoproteins and biological membranes and are essential for improving brain function, energy endurance, structural integrity of cells as well as for facilitating digestion and absorption of substances. nutrients.

Additionally, palm oil is not only rich in AGS, but also in carotenoids and tocotrienols which can counteract the potential negative effects of other components and provide several additional health benefits.

The concept of sustainability has evolved over the years. Initially, the Brundtland Report defined the concept of sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations”.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) extends the concept of sustainability to the field of food by defining sustainable diets as “those which generate a reduced environmental impact and contribute to food security and nutrition. and current and future generations to lead healthy lives. In addition, they protect and respect biodiversity and ecosystems, are culturally acceptable, accessible, economically equitable and affordable and nutritionally adequate, safe and healthy, and optimize natural and human resources.

In the same vein, the UN has established 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the period 2015-30. Goal 12 refers in particular to sustainable production and consumption, while goals 3 and 6 also have derivatives that affect food production and the relationship between food and health. The world’s population is expected to reach 8,600 million by 2030, and 9,800 million by 2050, which certainly poses a sustainability problem in itself. The palm oil debate is an example of the complexity of food production for a world population that has quadrupled over the past 100 years (1920-2019) and continues to grow, especially in developing countries like the Pakistan.

If there is any doubt about the use of palm oil or its variants in food production, further studies should be used to clarify the contribution of palm oils to human health. Indeed, within the limits of a balanced diet, the consumption of palm oil does not expose us to more health risks than the other fats usually used in the food industries.

Let’s break the myths around this healthy and affordable vegetable oil with the help of research and conducive studies and adopt it into our daily lives to take advantage of its nutrients.

Writer is correspondent, Daily Times and tweets at @maferozi).

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