RED PALM OIL
A Daily Dose of Vitamins
from A Cooking Oil
Bruce Fife, ND
particularly virgin or “red” palm oil, is a traditional fat that has
been a part of the human diet for at least 5000 years. For generations
red palm oil has been revered as both a nutritious food and a valuable
medicine. It was prized by the pharaohs of ancient Egypt as a sacred
food. The oil was so highly valued that it was entombed with the
pharaohs so that they would have access to it in the afterlife.
comes from the fruit of the oil palm (Elaesis guineensis).Originating
in tropical Africa, it has now spread throughout much of world. Today it
is an important crop in Southeast Asia, West Africa, and South America.
history palm oil has served as the primary source of dietary fat for
countless numbers of people. Its nutritional and healing properties have
been recognized for generations. Until modern medicine arrived, red palm
oil was the remedy of choice for nearly every illness in many parts of
Africa. When someone was sick, downing a cup full of palm oil was
common. Even today many people in the villages rely on this age old
method of treatment. Palm oil is regarded among many as essential in the
diet for pregnant and nursing women in order to assure good health for
the mother and child.
medical doctors are recognizing the value of red palm oil in the
treatment and prevention of malnutrition and vitamin deficiency
diseases. Governments around the world are incorporating it into
programs to wipe out deficiency diseases which are still rampant in many
oil not only supplies fatty acids essential for proper growth and
development, but it is packed with an assortment of vitamins,
antioxidants, and other phytonutrients important for good health. Red
palm oil gets its name from its characteristic dark red color. The color
comes from carotenes such as beta-carotene and lycopene—the same
nutrients that give tomatoes and carrots and other fruits and vegetables
their rich red and orange colors.
are valuable nutrients and powerful antioxidants. They are also
important because our body can convert them into vitamin A, an essential
nutrient. Vitamin A deficiency can cause blindness, weaken bones, lower
immunity, and adversely affect learning ability and mental function.
Vitamin A is only found in animal foods. Such foods, are too expensive
for many people. Carotenes in fruits and vegetables can supply the
needed vitamin A if an adequate amount of fat is also consumed.
Carotenes require fat for conversion into vitamin A. Unfortunately,
those who can’t afford animal products often do not eat much fat either.
Populations with ample carotene-rich foods available often suffer from
vitamin A deficiency because they don’t get enough fat in their diet.
oil provides a perfect solution. It supplies the needed fat and vitamin
A precursors. Red palm oil is the richest dietary source of provitamin A
carotenes (beta-carotene and alpha-carotene). It has 15 times more
provitamin A carotenes than carrots and 300 times more than tomatoes.
This has made it a valued resource in the treatment of vitamin A
deficiency. Just one teaspoon a day of red palm oil supplies children
with the daily recommend amount of vitamin A. Nursing mothers are
encouraged to supplement their diet with palm oil to enrich their milk
with the vitamin. Studies show that adding red palm oil into the diet
can double or triple the amount of vitamin A in mother’s milk.
children are not only getting the vitamin A they need but other
important nutrients as well. Red palm oil is a virtual powerhouse of
nutrition. It contains by far, more nutrients than any other dietary
oil. In addition to beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and lycopene it
contains at least 20 other carotenes along with vitamin E, vitamin K,
CoQ10, squalene, phytosterols, flavonoids, phenolic acids, and
glycolipids. Palm oil is one of the richest natural sources of vitamin
E. In addition to ordinary vitamin E, it also contains the highest
amount of a super potent form of vitamin E known as tocotrienol. There
are four tocotrienols. Palm oil contains all of them. These tocotrienols
have up to 60 times the antioxidant activity of ordinary vitamin E. The
combination of vitamin E, tocotrienols, carotenes, and other
antioxidants makes palm oil a super antioxidant food.
oil is loaded with so many nutrients and antioxidants it’s like a
natural dietary supplement. In fact, it is currently being encapsulated
and sold as a vitamin supplement. The oil is also available in bottles
like other vegetable oils for kitchen use.
government programs for the treatment of nutritional deficiencies, palm
oil is simply incorporated into the food. It’s easy for a child to get a
teaspoon of red palm oil when it is used to cook vegetables or bread.
Palm oil is an excellent for cooking and baking. It consists of 50
percent saturated fatty acids, 40 percent monounsaturated fatty acids,
and 10 percent polyunsaturated fatty acids. The high saturated and
monounsaturated fatty acid content makes palm oil a very heat resistant
and stable oil. It has a high smoke point of 437 degrees F. The high
saturated fat and antioxidant content makes it extremely resistant to
oxidation and free-radical formation.
past two decades researchers have painstakingly studied palm oil’s
effect on cardiovascular health. The results have been surprising to
researchers. Although high in saturated fat, it protects against heart
show that adding palm oil into the diet can remove plaque build up in
arteries and therefore, reverse the process of atherosclerosis. This has
been demonstrated in both animal and human studies.
In one study, for instance, 50 subjects were
divided into two equal groups. All the participants had been diagnosed
with atherosclerosis and had suffered at least one stroke. At the
beginning of the study the degree of blockage of their carotid arteries
ranged from 15 to 79 percent. Without any other changes to their diets
or medications, half of the subjects began taking a daily palm oil
supplement. The other half received placebos and served as the control.
The degree of atherosclerosis was monitored using ultrasound scans over
an 18 month period. In the group receiving palm oil, atherosclerosis was
halted in 23 of the 25 subjects. In seven of these subjects
atherosclerosis was not only stopped but regressed. In comparison, none
of those in the control group showed any improvement, in fact, the
condition in 10 of them worsened (Tomeo, 1995).
This study demonstrated that palm oil can not only stop, but even
plaque is not the only way palm oil protects against strokes and heart
attacks. Palm oil can also improve cholesterol values. In a study at the
University of Illinois College of Medicine researchers demonstrated a 10
percent decrease in total cholesterol in 36 hypercholesterolemic (high
cholesterol) subjects given palm oil capsules for four weeks. A
follow-up study of 16 subjects resulted in a 13 percent lowering of
total cholesterol (Qureshi, 1995).
In another study 31 subjects took a palm oil
supplement every day for 30 days. No other changes were made to their
diets. They continued to eat whatever they desired. The results showed
that palm oil supplementation lowered both total cholesterol and LDL
(bad) cholesterol in all the volunteers. The magnitude of reduction of
total cholesterol ranged from 5 to 35.9 percent and the reduction of LDL
cholesterol ranged from 0.9 to 37 percent. What was even more important
was the effect the palm oil had on the cholesterol ratio. The
cholesterol ratio was reduced in 78 percent of the subjects,
demonstrating a highly significant and favorable response to
supplementation (Tan, 1991).
helps maintain proper blood pressure. The high antioxidant content of
the oil quenches free radicals and keeps inflammation under control. In
one study researchers induced inflammation in the arteries of test
animals. Inflammation causes swelling which narrows artery passageways,
restricting blood flow to vital organs such as the heart. Half of the
animals received palm oil in their diet while the other half served as
the control. In the control group artery passageways were severely
constricted and 42 percent of the animals died. However, those that
received the palm oil showed far less inflammation and constriction
resulting in a 100 percent survival rate.
Tocotrienols also strengthen the heart so that it can better withstand
stress. Researchers can purposely induce heart attacks in lab animals by
cutting off blood flow to the heart. This causes severe injury and
death. However, if the animals are fed palm oil the survival rate is
greatly increased, injury is minimized, and recovery quicker (Esterhuyse,
looking at studies like this it becomes obvious that palm oil protects
against heart disease. This is confirmed in populations where palm oil
consumption is particularly high. Heart disease in
Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Nigeria—where palm oil is a
major if not the sole source of visible fat in the daily diet—are among
the lowest in the world (Sron, 2005).
The high antioxidant content of palm oil makes it a
potent anticancer food. Palm tocotrienols are especially benefical in
this respect. Antioxidants have long been known to offer
protection against various forms of cancer. Tocotrienols being highly
potent antioxidants have demonstrated remarkable anticancer properties
far superior to most other antioxidants.
Studies show palm tocotrienols inhibit the
growth of skin, stomach, pancreas, liver, lung, colon, prostate, breast
and other cancers. Most of the research to date has been done with
breast cancer where tocotrienols show great promise. They not only
prevent cancer from taking hold but actively block its growth and
initiate apoptosis—a process where diseased cells commit suicide. This
is a normal process that is programmed into all of our cells in order to
remove old and diseased cells. However, in cancer cells this process is
blocked and affected cells continue to multiply and grow without
restraint. Ordinary vitamin E, does not induce programmed cell death in
cancer cells. Only tocotrienols have this effect.
Initial research has been so impressive that
cancer researchers have called tocotrienols the most powerful natural
anticancer substances known to science (Yano, 2005). That’s quit a bold
statement, but illustrates the potential tocotrienols have in cancer
prevention and treatment.
The antioxidant power of palm oil has also
shown to be of benefit in protecting against neurological degeneration.
Two of the most significant factors that affect brain function are
oxidative stress and poor circulation. Oxidative stress generates free
radicals that damage brain and nerve tissue. Poor circulation affects
the brain by restricting oxygen and glucose which are vital for proper
brain function. Researchers have found correlations between oxidative
stress and reduced blood flow to the brain to senile dementia,
Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and even
schizophrenia. All of these conditions involve brain cell death.
Tocotrienols aid the brain by reducing oxidative stress and improving
Researchers can mimic much of the destruction
seen in the above neurological disorders by feeding test animals
glutamate—an amino acid that kills brain cells. The primary action of
cell death is caused by free radicals. Ordinary vitamin E is not strong
enough to prevent glutamate-induced cell death. But palm tocotrienols
can quench the destructive action of glutamate. In laboratory
studies tocotrienol-treated neurons maintain healthy growth and motility
even in the presences of excess glutamate (Khanna, 2003).
showing that the antioxidant power of red palm oil can be of help in
protecting against a variety of health problems including osteoporosis,
asthma, cataract, macular degeneration, arthritis, and liver disease. It
can even stunt the processes that promote premature aging. It’s no
wonder it was regarded as a sacred food by the ancient Egyptians. Red
palm oil is not just for pharaohs, it’s available to everyone. It is
sold as a cooking oil and as a dietary supplement at most good health
food stores and online.
information about the health aspects of red palm oil read
Oil Miracle by Dr. Bruce Fife, ND.
Esterhuyse, A.J., et al. Dietary red palm oil
supplementation protects against the consequences of global ischemia in
the isolated perfused rat heart.
Asia Pac J Clin Nutr
Khanna, S. et al. Molecular
basis of vitamin E action: tocotrienol modulates 12-lipoxygenase, a key
moderator of glutamate-induced neurodegeneration. J Biol Chem
Qureshi, A.A., et al. Response of Hypercholesterolemic subjects to
administration of tocotrienols. Lipids 1995;30:1171-1177.
Sron, B. Palm
oil’s track record. Global Oil and Fats 2005;2:24-25.
Tan, D.T.S., et al. Effect of
a palm-oil-vitamin E concentrate on the serum and lipoprotein lipids in
humans. Am J Clin Nutr 1991;53Suppl:1027S-1030S.
Tomeo, A.C., et al.
Antioxidant effects of tocotrienols in patients with hyperlipidemia and
carotid stenosis. Lipids 1995;30:1179-1183.
Yano, Y., et al. Induction of
cytotoxicity in human lung adenocarcinoma cells by
6-0-carboxypropyl-alpha-tocotrienol, a redox-silent derivative of alpha-tocotrienol.
Int J Cancer 2005;115:839-846.