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degenerative conditions

By-products of healthy Malaysian palm fruit oil production may one day be used to fight degenerative conditions

Research published in the British Journal of Nutrition cites encouraging results that could impact several conditions including heart disease and cancer

Researchers have uncovered evidence that nutrients recovered as a by-product of palm fruit oil production may positively affect several degenerative conditions including atherosclerosis, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmia and cancer. This exciting news, published as two research papers in the June issue of the British Journal of Nutrition, could mean these nutrients may one day be used to help prevent disease onset or progression while reducing the environmental bioburden from palm oil mill waste.

A sustainable form of re-claimed, antioxidant-rich phytochemicals

The oil palm, a sustainable edible oil crop, contains the highest concentration of vitamin E tocotrienols and carotenoids, which have garnered significant attention for their possible health benefits including neuroprotective and heart-healthy outcomes.

Globally, in excess of 40 million tons of palm oil are produced annually. During the milling of palm fruits to extract palm oil, non-oil components are discharged in the aqueous waste stream. This waste stream has been identified as a rich source of water-soluble phenolic phytonutrients (akin to those present in red wine, cranberry and pomegranate extracts) now termed Oil Palm Phenolics (OPP). The patented technology by the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) for recovering water-soluble antioxidants from oil palm fruits has recently attracted attention.

Research to characterize OPP and document its biological outcomes has been ongoing for several years. Study results and careful documentation of outcomes indicate that OPP may have potential against several chronic diseases. If confirmed with further research, OPP could provide the world with a plentiful and inexpensive source of powerful antioxidants.

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Many positive research outcomes

The studies published in the British Journal of Nutrition describe the effects of OPP on several degenerative conditions. Using various animal, cell culture and ex vivo models, researchers found evidence that very small quantities of OPP may be useful for:

  • Reducing blood pressure
  • Protecting against cardiac arrhythmia
  • Reducing arterial plaque formation
  • Protecting against several aspects of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes
  • Protecting against cancer progression

More trials ahead

According to the MPOB team that pioneered the OPP research, “It’s well established that plant phenolics in general are beneficial to our wellbeing. The idea that OPP has such a diverse and beneficial potential against a range of chronic diseases is very exciting.” International partnerships with MIT, CSIRO Australia and Brandeis University have confirmed the positive effects of OPP for health. “Phenolics are structurally more complex than vitamins and other phytonutrients, and we are only beginning to understand their significance to human health.” The first human clinical studies using OPP are currently being designed and expected to start in the coming months.

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