Palm Oil fatty acids
June 20 2017 by
Ray Sahelian, M.D.

The oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) is native to many West African countries, where local populations have used its oil for culinary and other purposes. Large-scale plantations, established principally in tropical regions (Asia, Africa and Latin America), are mostly aimed at the production of oil, which is extracted from the fleshy mesocarp of the palm fruit, and endosperm or kernel oil. Palm oil is a fruit-coat fat that is low in sterols and rich in vitamins A and E. Up to 40 to 50% of its fatty acids are unsaturated, and linoleic acid constitutes up to 11% of the total acids. Its composition makes it an edible oil of nutritional importance and endows it with an inherent stability to oxidation, which has important organoleptic connotations.

Composition
Palm oil is different from other plant and animal oils in that it contains 40 to 50 percent saturated fatty acids, 40% to 50 percent unsaturated fatty acids, and 10% polyunsaturated fatty acids. The fruit also contains components that can endow the oil with nutritional and health beneficial properties. These phytonutrients include carotenoids (alpha-,beta-,and gamma-carotenes), vitamin E (tocopherols and tocotrienols), sterols (sitosterol, stigmasterol and campesterol), phospholipids, glycolipids and squalene. In addition, palm oil contains certain antioxidants, phenolic acids and flavonoids. However, palm oil and partially hydrogenated soybean oils, are not as healthy compared with certain other oils.

Pak J Pharm Sciences. 2014. Antioxidant and cardio protective effect of palm oil leaves extract (standardized ethanolic fraction) in rats' model of saturated fats induced metabolic disorders.

Benefit of Palm Fruit
Owing to its high content of phytonutrients with antioxidant properties, the possibility exists that palm fruit offers some health advantages by reducing lipid oxidation, oxidative stress and free radical damage. Accordingly, use of palm fruit or its phytonutrient-rich fractions, particularly water-soluble antioxidants, may confer some protection against a number of disorders or diseases including cardiovascular disease, cancers, cataracts and macular degeneration, cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease.

Summary
Palm fruit may have certain benefits, but palm oil should be used in moderation.