How palm oil reverses heart disease, fights cancer
Contrary to views propagated by the Western media that palm oil is not good for health, scientists have found that locally produced palm oil is better than imported vegetable oils, very rich in nutrients and has more vitamin A than carrots. In fact, palm oil has been shown to be the richest source of tocotrienol- a super antioxidant proven to reverse heart disease and fight cancer. However, palm oil is beneficial only when cooked or boiled not fried. Frying palm oil has been shown to produce dangerous chemicals that may lead to organ damage. CHUKWUMA MUANYA writes.
Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil derived from the mesocarp (reddish pulp) of the fruit of the oil palms, primarily the African oil palm Elaeis guineensis, and to a lesser extent from the American oil palm Elaeis oleifera and the maripa palm Attalea maripa.
Palm oil consumption and its effects on serum lipid levels and cardiovascular disease in humans is still a subject of debate. Advocacy groups with varying agenda fuel the controversy.
The main argument against the use of palm oil as an edible oil is the fact that it contains palmitic acid, which is a saturated fatty acid and by extrapolation should give rise to elevated total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL)/bad cholesterol levels.
Palmitic acid is a common saturated fatty acid found in fats and waxes including olive oil, palm oil, and body lipids.
However, there are many scientific studies, both in animals and humans that clearly show that palm oil consumption does not give rise to elevated serum cholesterol levels and that palm oil is not atherogenic (tending to promote the formation of fatty deposits in the arteries).
However, local and international studies are beginning to celebrate palm oil for its health benefits. In fact it is becoming a major article of trade in Europe, United Kingdom (UK) and United States (US).
Red palm oil, a deep orange fat pressed from the palm tree fruit, is a superfood- packed with healthy antioxidants and good for the heart, say companies who sell it.
Antioxidants are man-made or natural substances that may prevent or delay some types of cell damage. Antioxidants are found in many foods, including fruits and vegetables.
The Verdict: The colourful oil is rich in tocotrienols, nutrients in the vitamin E family, and carotenoids, which the body converts into vitamin A. Several studies suggest possible benefits in stroke and liver disease from vitamin extracts made from the oil.
The Nigerian Heart Foundation (NHF), in a position paper on lipids and cardiovascular health, presented by its Executive Director, Dr. Kingsley Akinroye, noted: “…Not all saturated fats have equal cholesterolemic (excess of cholesterol in the blood) effect and studies have indicated that consumption of palm olein (a liquid form of palm oil used in cooking and baking), which is more saturated reduces blood LDL when compared to sources of saturated fats like coconut oil, dairy and animal fats. The beneficial effect of palm oil in increasing High Density Lipo-protein (HDL) that is good cholesterol should be noted…
“In Nigeria, a lot of carbohydrate is consumed, and therefore the cholesterolemic ability of palm oil may be considered minimal. Though it needs to be scientifically documented…”
According to a study published in World Journal of Cardiology, “apart from palmitic acid, palm oil consists of oleic and linoleic acids which are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated respectively. Palm oil also consists of vitamins A and E, which are powerful antioxidants. Palm oil has been scientifically shown to protect the heart and blood vessels from plaques and ischemic injuries. Palm oil consumed as a dietary fat as a part of a healthy balanced diet does not have incremental risk for cardiovascular disease. Little or no additional benefit will be obtained by replacing it with other oils rich in mono or polyunsaturated fatty acids.”
Dr. Bruce Fife in his new book, The Palm Oil Miracle, noted: “Palm oil is the richest natural source of tocotriel- a super antioxidant proven to reverse heart disease and fight cancer.
“Palm oil possesses excellent cooking properties. It is more heat stable than other vegetable oils and imparts in foods and baked goods superior taste, texture, and quality.
“Palm oil is one of the world’s healthiest oils. As a natural vegetable oil, it contains no trans fatty acids or cholesterol. It is currently being used by doctors and government agencies to treat specific illnesses and improve nutritional status. Recent medical studies have shown that palm oil, particularly virgin (red) palm oil, can protect against many common health problems….”
Fife is a certified nutritionist and naturopathic physician. He is the author of more than 20 books including The Coconut Oil Miracle, The New Arthritis Cure, and Stop Alzheimer’s Now: How to Prevent and Reverse Dementia, Parkinson’s, ALS, Multiple Sclerosis, and Other Neurodegenerative Disorders. He serves as the director of the Coconut Research Center.
A professor of Pharmacognosy and Chief Executive Officer of Bioresources Development Group (BDG), Prof. Maurice Iwu, told The Guardian: “Contrary to views propagated by the Western media that palm oil is not good for health, scientists have found that locally produced palm oil is better than imported vegetable oils, very rich in nutrients and has more vitamin A than carrots.”
Also, a recent study published in Journal of Applied Sciences and Environmental Management, concluded: “…It is reassuring to know that the consumption of palm oil as a source of dietary fat does not pose any additional risks for coronary artery disease when consumed in realistic amounts as part of a healthy diet. However, oxidized palm oil induces reproductive toxicity and organ toxicity particularly of the kidneys, lungs, liver and heart. Therefore, oxidized palm oil should be avoided.”
The study is titled “Palm oil, its nutritional and health implications.”
The study noted: “Diet for some time now in Nigeria has undergone many changes such as changes in dietary intake of fats and oils. There has been an increasing consumption of partially hydrogenated trans-vegetable oils and a decreasing intake of lauric acid-containing oils. Although popular literature and people generally, usually attribute an increased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) to elevated levels of serum cholesterol, which in turn are thought to derive from an increased dietary intake of saturated fats and cholesterol.
“The palm oil and palm kernel oil are high in saturated fatty acids, about 50 per cent and 80 per cent respectively and are esterified with glycerol. In developing countries, vegetable oils are replacing animal fats because of the cost and health concerns….”
In a two-year, 121-person study published in 2014 in the journal Stroke, a tocotrienol-rich dietary supplement made from red palm oil reduced “white matter lesions,” or small areas of damage to the brain that can be caused by strokes so minor a person might not be aware they happened; such small strokes can lead to cognitive impairment. Co-author and a professor at the School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Dr. Kah Hay Yuen, said: “The tocotrienols appear to have had a ‘protective effect’ resulting in less damage to brain tissues from the strokes.”
The downside of palm oil
A study claims that oxidised palm oil is not very healthy. Palm oil gets oxidized when fried. Oxidised oil is the processed oil that usually reaches us. Oxidised palm oil, when compared to fresh palm oil, has adverse effects on the lipid profile of the blood. It is also known to increase free fatty acids, phospholipids (a class of lipids that are a major component of all cell membranes) and cerebrosides (any of a group of complex lipids present in the sheaths of nerve fibres) in the blood. The study also claims that oxidised palm oil is toxic to the reproductive system and damages kidneys, lungs, liver and the heart.
Another multi-country study that analysed the link between palm oil consumption and mortality due to cardiovascular diseases claims that increased palm oil consumption is related to higher ischemic heart disease mortality rates in developing countries.
Adulteration of palm oil is a common practice in Nigeria, and adulterated palm oil has been linked to cancer, heart disease and kidney failure.