Palm Oil & Heart Health
Since the 1980s, researchers have been studying the effect of palm oil on heart health. Bruce Fife, ND, author of The Palm Oil Miracle, discusses some of these studies—which have produced surprising results—in his article for the Price Pottenger Journal of Health and Healing, “Red Palm Oil: A Daily Dose of Vitamins From Cooking Oil.”
Fife describes several studies, both animal and human, that show palm oil’s ability to reduce atherosclerosis by removing plaque buildup in the arteries. In one study, people with cardiovascular disease (who had suffered at least one stroke and had blockage of their carotid arteries ranging from 15 to 79 percent) were divided into two groups. One group was given daily palm oil supplements and the other (control) group was given a placebo. Neither group changed their diet, medication, or exercise routines.
Over the next 18 months, the researchers monitored the degree of atherosclerosis in the two groups via ultrasound scans. In 92 percent of the subjects receiving palm oil, atherosclerosis was halted, and, in some cases, even reversed. With the control group, however, there was no improvement, and atherosclerosis worsened in 20 percent of the subjects (Tomeo, 1995).
Palm oil may have a beneficial effect on blood pressure, due to its high antioxidant content and anti-inflammatory nature. Blood pressure can rise when inflammation causes narrowed arteries and restricted blood flow. Fife describes a study in which researchers induced inflammation in test animals. Half the animals were fed palm oil as part of their diet, while the other half served as the control. The control group had a 42 percent death rate, while 100 percent of the group receiving palm oil survived, and had far less inflammation and constriction.
Scientists can learn about human heart health by studying cardiovascular events in lab animals. By cutting off blood flow to the heart, researchers can induce heart attacks. When the animals are fed palm oil, their survival rate is increased and injury and recovery time is decreased. This is likely due to the high level of tocotrienols found in palm oil, which strengthens the heart and makes it more resistant to stress (Esterhuyse, 2005).
In countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Nigeria, where palm oil is a major source of fat in the daily diet, rates of heart disease are among the lowest in the world (Sron, 2005). The results of these studies support Fife’s conclusion that palm oil protects against heart disease.
For more information, see “Red Palm Oil: A Daily Dose of Vitamins From Cooking Oil” by Bruce Fife, ND,in the Fall 2007 Price-Pottenger Journal of Health and Healing. Become a member today to receive access to this journal along with many other health and nutrition resources.
Esterhuyse, A.J., et al. Dietary red palm oil supplementation protects against the consequences of global ischedmia in the isolated perfused rat heart. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 2005; 14:340-347.
Qureshi, A.A., etal. Response of Hypercholesterolemic subjects to administration of tocotrienols. Lipids 1995;30:1171-1177.
Sron, B. Palm Oil’s track record. Global Oil and Fats 2005; 2:24-25.
Tomeo, A.C., et al. Antioxidant effects of tocotrienols in patients with hyperlipidemia and carotid stenosis. Lipids 1995;30:1179-1183.