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8 Wonderful Benefits Of Palm Oil You Should Know About

Benefits Of Palm Oil

Palm oil is rich in antioxidants and can help protect against neurodegeneration, high blood pressure, and cancer. It can also combat vitamin A deficiency and prevent stomach ulcers. Palm oil moisturizes and softens skin and conditions hair. It may also promote hair growth when consumed. Go for red palm oil which is rich in tocopherols, carotenes, and tocotrienols. Palm oil is rich in saturated fats so limit consumption to 6% of your daily calorie intake.

While coconut oil has been riding a wave of popularity, there’s another versatile cooking oil that’s been flying under the radar – palm oil! The red or orange fruits of palm trees are squashed and pulped to extract this beneficial oil. And though you might not have paid much attention to it, you’ve definitely come across the humble palm oil. It’s used in cereals, pizzas, chocolates, bread, chewing gum, shampoo, and even cleaning products! In fact, some estimates suggest that around 33% of products in your supermarket contain palm oil.1

The oil that’s initially extracted is called red palm oil since it has a high content of tocopherols, carotenes, and tocotrienols which give it a red color. And these beneficial compounds come with a range of health properties. Palm oil:

1. Counters Damage By Free Radicals

Research shows that palm oil tocotrienols, a kind of vitamin E, have antioxidant properties. Antioxidants can block the effects of free radicals which are present in everyday pollutants and are formed when your body turns food into energy. Free radicals can damage your DNA and cells and play a part in aging, as well as diseases like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.2 But palm oil may counter these effects – one animal study found that palm oil tocotrienols prevented the oxidative degradation of proteins and fats to a large extent and inhibited liver damage.3

2. Fights Cancer

Tocopherols from palm oil may also be able to fight cancer. According to a study, a tocotrienol-rich fraction from palm oil inhibited the spread of cancer cells and sped up the death of prostate cancer cells.4

Tocotrienol from palm oil may also work against the spread of breast cancer cells. In fact, some researchers have even suggested that they could be used in combination with medication to prevent and treat breast cancer.5

3. Protects Against Neurodegeneration

Palm oil may help keep your nervous system in good shape. In one study, researchers supplemented volunteers with cardiovascular risk factors with 200 mg of tocotrienols or a placebo for a period of 2 years. The group that took the placebo experienced an increase in white matter lesions in their brain while those that took tocotrienols stayed essentially unchanged.

Animal studies also show that tocotrienols in palm oil were able to fight damage to the brain’s white matter after an induced stroke. They increased blood circulation to the damaged part after the stroke as well. Over 50% of your brain is made of white matter and it is the area most affected by stroke. While human trials will be needed to establish this, the early research in the area is quite a promising result for stroke survivors.6

4. Reduces High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure increases the risk of serious problems such as heart failure and kidney failure. But palm oil may be able to help people with hypertension. One animal study found that when rats with high blood pressure were given palm oil, their arterial pressure dropped significantly. High blood pressure is linked to oxidative stress and dysfunction in the cells that line your blood vessels. Palm oil is thought to work by modulating these. The presence of the monounsaturated fatty acid known as oleic acid in palm oil may account for this favorable effect.7

5. Combats Vitamin A Deficiency

Vitamin A deficiency is a serious problem in many parts of the world – approximately 40% of the global population suffers from it. Being deficient in this vitamin increases the risk of diarrhea and death from infections and is also the leading cause of preventable blindness in children. But not only is red palm oil the richest plant source of provitamin A carotenoids, the vitamin present in it is also easily absorbed by the body. In fact, research indicates that when children were regularly given red palm oil in small amounts, it reduced vitamin A deficiency effectively. Just 4 ml of palm oil daily was able to improve vitamin A levels.8 9

6. Prevents Stomach Ulcers

Stomach ulcers cause that characteristic burning pain in your abdomen and hamper your quality of life. But vitamin E present in palm may be able to ward these off. One animal study found a significant reduction in gastric acid in subjects supplemented with palm vitamin E. It was even effective at preventing gastric lesions induced by aspirin in them.10

7. Moisturizes And Softens Skin

If dry skin is bothering you, look no further than palm oil. Red palm oil can moisturize your skin and make it smoother and softer. Rub in a little of this amazing oil to nourish your skin with a rich dose of vitamin E and antioxidants. Do keep in mind, though, that red palm oil can stain your skin and clothes.11

8. Conditions Hair And Fights Hair Loss

A nice head massage with palm oil will work as a conditioning treatment for your hair. But that’s not all. Consuming tocotrienol-rich palm oil may help hair growth. According to research, there’s a relationship between oxidative stress and hair loss. And one study found that supplementation with tocotrienol improved hair growth by 34.5% at the end of an 8-month period. The antioxidant activity of tocotrienols is thought to counter the damage to cells by free radicals and reduce oxidative stress in the scalp.12

Have Palm Oil In Moderation To Balance Saturated Fat Intake

Palm oil usually gets a bad rap because it’s high in saturated fat, which is linked to high LDL cholesterol levels and heart disease. But some research indicates that palm oil can actually raise levels of HDL cholesterol or “good” cholesterol. HDL cholesterol can help remove LDL cholesterol that clogs up your arteries and cause heart disease.13

Research also shows that refined palm oil is about 47% more likely to promote fatty deposits in your arteries than red palm oil, probably because red palm oil has a high content of antioxidants with anti-atherosclerotic properties.14 Moreover, only 50% of the fat present in palm oil is saturated while palm kernel oil (extracted from the palm seeds) and coconut oil have more than 85% saturated fat. Palm oil may thus have a more favorable composition than these oils.15

If you weigh all these up, it means you should continue to enjoy palm oil for its benefits – but remember to use in moderation. The American Heart Association recommends limiting your saturated fat intake to about 5–6% of your total calories. This translates to about 120 calories from saturated fat in an average daily intake of 2000 calories.16

References   [ + ]

1. Palm Oil. Young People’s Trust for the Environment.
2. Antioxidants: What You Need To Know. American Academy of Family Physicians.
3. Kamat, J. P., H. D. Sarma, T. P. A. Devasagayam, K. Nesaretnam, and Y. Basiron. “Tocotrienols from palm oil as effective inhibitors of protein oxidation and lipid peroxidation in rat liver microsomes.” Molecular and cellular biochemistry 170, no. 1 (1997): 131-138.
4. Srivastava, Janmejai K., and Sanjay Gupta. “Tocotrienol-rich fraction of palm oil induces cell cycle arrest and apoptosis selectively in human prostate cancer cells.” Biochemical and biophysical research communications 346, no. 2 (2006): 447-453.
5. Guthrie, Najla, Abdul Gapor, Ann F. Chambers, and Kenneth K. Carroll. “Inhibition of proliferation of estrogen receptor–negative MDA-MB-435 and–positive MCF-7 human breast cancer cells by palm oil tocotrienols and tamoxifen, alone and in combination.” The Journal of nutrition 127, no. 3 (1997): 544S-548S.
6. Gopalan, Yogheswaran, Ibrahim Lutfi Shuaib, Enrico Magosso, Mukhtar Alam Ansari, Mohd Rizal Abu Bakar, Jia Woei Wong, Nurzalina Abdul Karim Khan et al. “Clinical investigation of the protective effects of palm vitamin E tocotrienols on brain white matter.” Stroke 45, no. 5 (2014): 1422-1428.
7. Bayorh, Mohamed A., Imad K. Abukhalaf, and Agaba A. Ganafa. “Effect of palm oil on blood pressure, endothelial function and oxidative stress.” Asia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition 14, no. 4 (2005): 325.
8. Lian, Oey Khoen, LIEM TJAY TIE, CATHARINE S. ROSE, DRADJAT D. PRAWIRANEGARA, and PAUL GYÖRGY. “Red Palm Oil in the Prevention of Vitamin A Deficiency A Trial on Preschool Children in Indonesia.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 20, no. 12 (1967): 1267-1274.
9. Zeba, Augustin N., Yves Martin Prével, Issa T. Somé, and Hélène F. Delisle. “The positive impact of red palm oil in school meals on vitamin A status: study in Burkina Faso.” Nutrition Journal 5, no. 1 (2006): 17.
10. Jaarin, Kamsiah, M. T. Gapor, M. I. Nafeeza, and A. M. Fauzee. “Effect of various doses of palm vitamin E and tocopherol on aspirin‐induced gastric lesions in rats.” International journal of experimental pathology 83, no. 6 (2002): 295-302.
11. Fife, Bruce. The palm oil miracle. Piccadilly Books, Ltd., 2007.
12. Beoy, Lim Ai, Wong Jia Woei, and Yuen Kah Hay. “Effects of tocotrienol supplementation on hair growth in human volunteers.” Tropical life sciences research 21, no. 2 (2010): 91.
13. Karaji-Bani, M., F. Montazeri, and M. Hashemi. “Effect of palm oil on serum lipid profile in rats.” Pakistan Journal of Nutrition 5, no. 3 (2006): 234-236.
14. Kritchevsky, David, Shirley A. Tepper, Susanne K. Czarnecki, and Kalyana Sundram. “Red palm oil in experimental atherosclerosis.” Asia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition 11, no. s7 (2002).
15. By the way, doctor: Is palm oil good for you. Harvard Health Publications.
16. Saturated Fat. American Heart Association.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.