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Palm oil: health risks and benefits

corresponding

BENVENUTO CESTARO, MATTEO DELLA PORTA, ROBERTA CAZZOLA*
*Corresponding author
Dept. Biomedical and Clinical Sciences “L. Sacco” University of Milan,  Italy

Abstract

Recently, there has been growing discussion on the use of palm oil in the preparation of food products. In this review, we first examine the criticism of palm oil, in particular the supposed contribution to increase cardiovascular disease risk factors because of the high content in saturated fatty acid and the content of potential toxic compound formed during the refining processes, such as glycidols and chloropropanediols. The results of the main publications on these topics demonstrate that the massive attack against palm oil is largely unjustified if palm oil is assumed within the limits of a balanced diet. Finally, we discuss the possible benefits on health of the minor components of palm oil, such as tocopherols, tocotrienols and carotenoids.


INTRODUCTION

Recently, there has been growing discussion on the use of palm oil in the preparation of food products. The purpose of this review is to examine the criticism of palm oil and to discuss its possible benefits on health.

Palm oil accounts for one-third of global plant oil production because of its very high versatility as food ingredient free of trans fatty acids (t-FA) and its low cost. It is obtained mainly from Elaeis guineesis, a palm native of West and Southwest Africa; however, in recent years its cultivation has intensely spread in Southeast Asia, especially in Malaysia and Indonesia.  The enhancement of palm tree cultivation has prompted a number of concerns because of its contribution to deforestation. Although the impact of palm oil production on deforestation is beyond the scope of this review, we wish to point out that the yield of oil per hectare of palm crops is 3-8-fold higher than that of the alternative cultivations for oil production, such as sunflower, soybean, rapeseed and corn (1).

Crude palm oil (CPO) derives from the fibrous mesocarp of the fruit, is reddish in colour because of a high content ...




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