Red Palm Oil- What Is The Controversy Linked To It!
The consumption of red palm oil is increasing day by day, but red palm oil in cooking is still highly controversial. On the one hand, this oil is said to provide significant health benefits. On the other hand, it might have certain risks to the health of your heart.
Due to the increase in the production of red palm oil, there are some environmental concerns one should know before using it. Let’s take a detailed look at palm oil’s benefits and suitability and see how it affects the environment.
What is palm oil?
Fleshy fruits of oil palms are used to create palm oil. Palm oil, when not refined, comes into a red-orange color known as red palm oil. The principal origin of palm oil is the Elaeis guineensis tree; this tree is indigenous to West and Southwest Africa. Its application in this area dates back to over 5,000 years.
A comparable oil palm called Elaeis oleifera is discovered in South America, but it is infrequently grown for commercial purposes. Nevertheless, a hybrid of these two plants is used in the production of palm oil.
In current years, oil palm germination has extended to Southeast Asia, including Indonesia and Malaysia. These two places presently generate as much as 80% of the world’s total palm oil stocks.
Similar to coconut oil, palm oil at room temperature is semi-solid. But, pal oil’s melting point is 95°F or 35°C, which is comparatively more leading than 76°F or 24°C of coconut oil. This is because of the distinctive fatty acid structures of the oils.
Red palm oil is among the few least expensive yet most famous oils worldwide, estimating one-third of world plant oil production.
It is significant to note that red palm oil must not be confused with palm kernel oil. While these oils arise from the same tree, palm kernel oil is derived from the fruit’s seed. It presents different health benefits.
Uses of red palm oil
Palm oil is often sued in cooking and is mixed with various food at the grocery stores that are ready to be consumed anytime. The taste of this oil is earthy and savory. Some people often describe this oil’s flavor to be kind of similar to a pumpkin or carrot.
This oil is most frequently used in tropical and West African cuisines, and it is particularly suited for spicy dishes like curries. It is most often used for frying and sauteeing the food as it has a more excellent smoke pint and remains stable when in high heat conditions.
Palm oil sometimes is added to peanut butter and some other nut butter as a stabilizing agent to avoid this oil from settling and separating at the jar’s top. Not only nut kinds of butter, but red palm oil can also be present in several other food items like:
- Coffee creamers
- diet bars and protein bars
- baked foods like muffins, bread, and cookies
In the 1980s, people used trans fats to replace red palm oil in several food items because there was a concern about using this oil, and people assumed that it would damage heart health. However, research revealed that other oils still damaged heart health after using trans fat after a few studies were conducted. After the studies, manufactured again started using red palm oil.
This oil is also present in various non-food materials like soaps, cosmetics, and toothpaste. Alongside, it can be used as a biodiesel fuel producer, which works as an energy source.
Nutrient composition of red palm oil
Given below is the nutritional content of a tbsp or 14 grams of red palm oil.
- Calories- 114
- Fat- 14 grams
- Saturated fat- 7 grams
- Monounsaturated fat- 5 grams
- Polyunsaturated fat- 1.5 grams
- Vitamin E- 11% of the RDI
All the calories present in red palm oil arise from the fats. The fatty acid breakdown is 50% saturates fatty acids, 10% polyunsaturated fatty acids, and 40% monounsaturated fatty acids.
The primary type of saturated fat present in red palm oil is palmitic acid. This acid contributes to nearly 44% of the total calories it has. It also has high oleic acid contents and some amounts of stearic acid and linoleic acids.
Red palm oil’s red and orange pigments result from antioxidants inside of it called carotenoids. This includes beta carotene, which is converted later to form vitamin A by the body.
In divided red palm oil, the liquid part is separated by a filtering and crystallizing process. The residual solid portion is higher in several saturated fats and has a greater melting temperature.
Claimed health benefits of red palm oil
Red palm oil has been connected to numerous health benefits, some of which are defending brain function, decreasing heart disease risk, and promoting vitamin A status.
Let’s see each of these health benefits one by one:
1. It promotes brain health
Palm oil is an outstanding origin of tocotrienols, a class of vitamin E with powerful antioxidants that might promote brain health. A few animals and human studies propose that tocotrienols inside red palm oil might help shield fragile polyunsaturated fats in your brain. It helps delay dementia progress, decrease the chance of stroke, and limit the brain’s growth.
In two-year research, including 121 people with brain lesions, one group that took palm oil-derived tocotrienols two times a day prevailed to remain stable. In contrast, the other group that took a placebo encountered growth in the lesion.
2. Heart health
Red palm oil has been charged with giving protection facing heart disease. Although a few study outcomes have been jumbled, this oil usually seems to have beneficial effects on heart disease uncertainty factors; this involves lowering (bad) LDL cholesterol and raising (good) HDL cholesterol.
A general analysis involving 51 studies concluded that LDL and total cholesterol levels were more profound in people who obeyed palm oil-rich intakes than people who took diets high in trans fats diets lauric acid.
Present three-month research looked at the cholesterol-lowering results of red palm oil obtained from a hybrid of Elaeis oleifera and Elaeis guineensis trees.
In the study mentioned above, people took either 25 ml or two tablespoons of olive oil or a crossed palm oil every day. seeing a 15% reduction in LDL cholesterol in groups involved, researchers recommended this palm oil may be called “the tropical resemblance of olive oil.”
However, it is significant to notice that an expansion or reduction in LDL cholesterol might not predict heart disease risk. There are several other factors associated too.
However, one controlled research in 1995 recommended that red palm oil may help delay disease progression in people with heart disease.
In the aforementioned 18-month investigation, seven out of 25 people who handled the oil recorded improvements, and 16 remained stable. In opposition,10 out of 25 people in the placebo group encountered disease progression, and none of the participants were noted to show improvement.
3. Vitamin A Status
Red palm oil may help increase vitamin A status in a few people who were deficient or at risk of scarcity of vitamin A. Research in pregnant women in a few developing countries has confirmed that intaking red palm oil improves vitamin A levels in the blood and breastfed infants.
One more study revealed people suffering from cystic fibrosis, who had trouble grasping fat-soluble vitamins, noticed vitamin A improvement in blood levels. Improvement occurred following consuming two to three tbsp of red palm oil every day for at least eight weeks.
Red palm oil is also noted to boost vitamin A levels in young as well as adult children. One study from India informed that preschool-aged kids who took 5 ml or one teaspoon of red palm oil every day had more exceptional improvements in vitamin A levels than kids who took vitamin A supplements.
Health risks of red palm oil
Although most of the studies we have seen till now have revealed that red palm oil has a protective effect on the health of our heart, other studies have also reported some conflicting events that you should note.
One study was performed on women having higher levels of cholesterol to see the effects. The study showed that dense and small cholesterol (types of cholesterol associated with heart disease) elevated with pal oil but lowered with other oils.
Another study showed that small dense LDL cholesterol did not change in the people who took palm oil, while LDL particles increased. Large LDL particles were less likely to lead to heart attacks compared to small dense LDL.
One more study has revealed rises in levels of LDL cholesterol in answer to consuming red palm oil. Nevertheless, in these studies, researchers did not measure LDL particles.
It is significant to note that these are simply some possible risk factors and have not shown that red palm oil can result in heart disease.
However, an animal study mentions that intaking red palm oil that has been regularly reheated might lead to plaque accumulation in the arteries because of a reduction in the oil’s antioxidant action.
When rats consumed palm oil that researchers had heated ten times again, they developed extensive arterial plaques. Some other indications of heart disease over six months were observed. Whereas rats supplied with fresh red palm oil did not.
Controversies Linked To Red Palm Oil
There are a few ethical concerns concerning red palm oil production’s impacts on ecosystems, wildlife, and populations. In the earlier decades, growing demand has commenced an abnormal expansion of red palm oil production in several places, including Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia.
These places have humid and tropical climates that are perfectly well suited for expanding oil palm trees. But, to support oil palm plantations or growth, peatland and tropical forests are being demolished.
A recent report observed that 45% of land in Southeast Asia is presently used for palm oil generation and had been forest in 1990, involving more than half of all palm oil growth in Indonesia and Malaysia.
Deforestation is expected to have disastrous consequences on global warming, as the forests perform a crucial role in decreasing greenhouse gases by receiving carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
In addition, the destruction of indigenous landscapes leads to fluctuations in the ecosystem that endangers the health and heterogeneity of wildlife. Particularly concerning is its influence on threatened species, for example, Bornean orangutans, which are suffering extinction due to loss of habitat.
There have also been records of human rights infringements by red palm oil businesses, for instance, clearing forests and farmlands without seeking permission, Providing meager wages, giving unsafe workspace conditions, and significantly decreasing the quality of life.
Luckily, experts state that there are more humane and sustainable ways. For example, a 2015 study found that restricting the development of new palm oil plantations to regions without forests and establishing only in places with low carbon dioxide stocks may overcome greenhouse gas discharges by as much as 60%.
The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil or RSPO is an association authorized to make oil generation as culturally sensitive, environmentally friendly, and sustainable as possible.
They only grant RSPO certification to generators who stick firmly to their criteria by following specific guidelines given below:
- No deforestation or clearing forests or fields have endangered species, delicate ecosystems, or areas chronic to meeting traditional or basic community requirements.
- Significantly degraded use of fires and pesticides.
- Proper operation of workers, as per local and global labor rights standards.
- Notifying and consulting with all the local communities before advancing the latest oil palm plantations on nearby land.
The Bottom Line
Red palm oil is one of the most extensively used oils currently in the world. However, the impacts of palm oil generation on the environment, wild animals’ well-being, and the endurance of indigenous people are profoundly concerning.
If you wish to use red palm oil, buy ethical, RSPO-certified marks. In addition to this, since you can obtain similar health effects from other oils and food items, it is best to use different fat sources for your daily necessities.
Also, find out the differences between refined vs. unrefined coconut oil and which one you should consume more often!