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Palm oil’s emerging role in world health

People have been consuming palm oil for more than 5,000 years. Yet, it is only in the last few decades that international research began uncovering its significant health potential. After more than 80 reputable studies, it’s clear that the impact of this palm oil research could be huge.

Dietary fats and cholesterol

Most of us believe that we need to limit the amount of saturated fats in our diets if we want healthy cholesterol levels. Yet palm oil, which has a high saturated fatty acid content, appears to have a positive effect on cholesterol. Significant scientific evidence indicates that palm oil has a relatively neutral effect on blood cholesterol, compared to other fats and oils. Some studies have found that palm oil lowered cholesterol even when the study participants were eating their normal Western-style diets.

How can this be? Scientists are learning that not all saturated fatty acids act the same in the body, and that different combinations of fatty acids may have different impacts on our health. Palm oil contains 44 percent palmitic and five percent stearic, both of which are saturated fatty acids but they do not appear to elevate blood cholesterol in people with cholesterol levels within normal ranges. The Vitamin E tocotrienols present in palm oil also appear to help reduce serum cholesterol concentrations.

In the future, healthcare professionals may be advising us to include specific blends of fatty acids in our diets.

Can palm oil be used to target cancer?

After decades of test tube studies in the U.S., Canada and Malaysia showing that the Vitamin E tocotrienols found in palm oil may be effective at killing cancer cells, the research community has turned to all-important human clinical studies. While it may take years to establish clear connections, the early evidence is encouraging. The research community anxiously awaits results of studies being conducted on prostate and breast cancers.

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We will continue to monitor these studies, and will report on the results as soon as they are available.



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