Red palm oil has attracted controversy in recent years — much like coconut oil , but for different reasons.
What Is Red Palm Oil?
Palm oil means any oil that comes from the fruit of oil palms. Elaeis guineensis, Also, due to its high smoke point and heat stability, red palm oil is a good choice for dishes that are fried or deep-fried according to Tarmizi et al 2008.
The key point to note: Composition of Palm Oil
Palm oil contains about 50 percent saturated fat (majority of which is oleic acid)- Oleic acid is a fatty acid that occurs naturally in various animal and vegetable fats and oils. It is an odorless, colorless oil, although commercial samples may be yellowish. In chemical terms, oleic acid is classified as a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid, abbreviated with a lipid number of 18:1 cis-9. It also contains 40 percent monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), and 10 percent polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFAs).
Palm oil gets its reddish color from the carotenes beta-carotene and lycopene , the same nutrients that give color to carrots and tomatoes. Its carotene levels are 15 times higher than carrots and 300 times higher than tomatoes .
This is why palm oil is hailed as the best source of beta-carotene and alpha-carotene, both of which are precursors to vitamin A. Palm oil also contains 20 other carotenes, as well as the following nutrients:
- Vitamin E, particularly tocotrienol
- Vitamin K
- Phenolic acids
The Scientific Studies:
1. Reduces Cholesterol Levels
One study conducted by Zhang et al 1997 found that palm oil caused a 13.1 percent decrease in bad LDL cholesterol and a 6.7 percent drop in triglyceride levels in those with normal cholesterol.
Another 2016 study by Lucci et al out of Colombia showed that palm oil had a similar effect on blood cholesterol levels as extra virgin olive oil and was able to lower both triglycerides and LDL cholesterol.
A more recent study by Zulkiply et al 2019 published in PLoS One had this to say: “We conclude that little or no additional benefit will be obtained by replacing palm oil with other oils rich in mono or polyunsaturated fatty acids for changes in glucose metabolism”
2. Slows the Progression of Heart Disease
One study by Tomeo et al 1995 looked at the effects of palm oil on heart disease. After 18 months, 28 percent of people with heart disease who were treated with palm oil showed improvement while 64 percent remained stable. Conversely, no one in the placebo group showed improvement, and 40 percent actually got worse.
A two year study by Kooyenga et al 1997 proved that Palm oil tocols appear to benefit the course of carotid atherosclerosis.
A more recent 2018 study review conducted by Ismail et al could not establish strong evidence for or against palm oil consumption relating to cardiovascular disease risk and cardiovascular disease-specific mortality.
3. Boosts Brain Health
Palm oil is jam-packed with tocotrienols, a form of vitamin E that has potent antioxidant properties and can support healthy brain function. This can have far-reaching benefits and may aid in everything from slowing dementia to enhancing cognition.
A recent 2017 animal study by Ibrahim et al found that tocotrienols were able to improve cognitive function in mice.
A 2015 study by Ahmad et al revealed that the palm oil tocotrienol mixture was better than pure alpha-tocopherol acetate in protecting bone against (free radical)-induced elevation of bone-resorbing cytokines.
Another study by Gopalan et al in 2011 composed of 121 people with brain lesions found that twice daily supplementation with tocotrienols helped block the growth of lesions.
A previous 2004 study by Sen et al titled point towards tocotrienol as a potent neuroprotective form of natural vitamin E.
A subsequent 2007 study by the same author warrants strategic investment into the lesser known forms of vitamin E.
4. Improves Skin and Hair Health
One randomized controlled trial study conducted by Jaffary et al 2016 reported that taking vitamin E by mouth for four months significantly improved symptoms of atopic dermatitis compared to a placebo. Other research has suggested that vitamin E may be useful in the treatment of wounds, pressure ulcers and psoriasis . Red palm oil for hair growth is also commonly used thanks to its rich tocotrienol content. A study in 2010 conducted by Beoy et al found that taking tocotrienol for eight months increased the number of hairs by 34.5 percent. Meanwhile, the placebo group actually saw a 0.1 percent decrease in the number of hairs by the end of the study.
Sunblock" — with its high levels of carotenes, red palm oil provides protection as a commercial sunblock with SPF15, but without the dangerous components according to The Palm Oil Miracle, Bruce Fife (2007)
First of all, consuming red palm oil may affect people differently. While several studies have shown that palm oil can decrease cholesterol levels, others have produced conflicting results and report that it may actually increase cholesterol concentrations for some individuals.
- Utarwuthipong et al 2009 study revealed increases in cholesterol following Palm oil consumption
- Tholstrup et al 2011 study revealed palm olein and lard increased total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol
- The third study by Bautista et al 2011 findings suggest that non-extreme short-term changes in Palm oil and dietary cholesterol consumption lead to significant elevations in plasma Total cholesterol
- Sun Y et al 2015 concluded that Palm oil consumption results in higher LDL cholesterol than do vegetable oils low in saturated fat and higher HDL cholesterol than do trans-fat-containing oils in humans. The effects of palm oil on blood lipids are as expected on the basis of its high saturated fat content, which supports the reduction in palm oil use by replacement with vegetable oils low in saturated and Trans fat
So from this review, it’s best to use palm oil in moderation and use it in combination with other healthy fats in your diet.
Disclaimer: As pertains to all my previous articles, they are for educational purposes and not to be use as substitute to medical advice.
The author, Dr. Raphael Nyarkotey Obu, PhD, Is an honorary Professor of Naturopathic Medicine with research interest in Naturopathic & Holistic Urology, Vinnytsia State Pedagogical University, Ukraine & currently an LLB Laws student. Formulator of FDA approved Men’s Formula for Prostate Health, 0241083423/0541234556...office: Nyarkotey College of Holistic Medicine, Tema Community 7, Post office.