‘Palm oil’ reverses crude oil-induced genotoxicity, slows ageing

•Daily supplementation potentiate anti-tumour immune responses against breast cancer cells
•Product recommended by NHF, others as alternative to replace vegetable oils that contain trans fat

Recent studies have found that oral administration of palm oil tree extracts could be used to reverse damage caused by crude oil contamination of food products and water, and help to slow ageing and raise anti-tumour immune responses against breast cancer cells.

Scientists have also demonstrated that palm oil could be used as the best alternative oil to reduce trans fat in foods. A variety of global researches have concluded that the consumption of industrially produced trans fatty acids can trigger various diseases such as cardiovascular, atherosclerosis, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and infertility.

Researchers have in the first study concluded: “…The oral administration of Elaeis guineensis (palm oil tree) leaves extracts significantly decreased the observed micronuclei erythrocyte (red blood cell) and fragmented Deoxyribose nucleic Acid (DNA)/ genetic material in liver relative to rats fed crude oil contaminated feed (COCF) but with no treatment. The study has established that pre-treatment, post-treatment and co-treatment of rats with E. guineensis extracts reversed the genotoxic effect induced by consumption of COCF in rats.”

The study titled “Effect of Elaeis guineensis (Jacq) leaf extracts on crude oil-induced genotoxicity in Wistar albino rats” was published in the journal Scientific African.

In genetics, genotoxicity describes the property of chemical agents that damages the genetic information within a cell causing mutations, which may lead to cancer.

Elaeis guineensis is a species of palm commonly just called oil palm but also sometimes African oil palm or macaw-fat. It is the principal source of palm oil.

The objective of the study was to determine the ameliorative effect of extracts of Elaeis guineensis leaves on crude oil induced genotoxicity. One hundred and twenty mature male albino Wistar rats were mobilised for this investigation. The rats were acclimatized for 14 days on grower’s mash. The experiment was divided into three categories: Pre-treatment, co-treatment, post-treatment. In each category, rats were indiscriminately allotted to eight groups. Five rats made a group. Rats fed grower’s mash only constitute Group 1. Rats in Group 2 were fed with COCF. Groups 3 to Group 8 were fed with COCF and then administered aqueous, methanol, ethanol acetone, petroleum ether and blended mixture of E. guineensis leaves extract, respectively.

The rats in all groups had water ad libitum and were exposed to each diet for a period of 56 days. Biochemical analyses were carried out. In the various stages of contamination, significant increases were observed in micronuclei erythrocyte and fragmented DNA in the liver of Group 2 when compared with the control…”

Also, another study published in journal Vaccines and titled “Palm Tocotrienol-Adjuvanted Dendritic Cells Decrease Expression of the SATB1 Gene in Murine Breast Cancer Cells and Tissues” evaluated the effectiveness of immunotherapy using dendritic cells (DC) pulsed with tumour lysate (a DC vaccine) in combination with daily supplementation of tocotrienol-rich fraction (TRF) to potentiate anti-tumour immune responses.

The researchers had previously reported that DC-vaccine immunotherapy together with TRF supplementation induced protective immunity to tumour challenge. Breast cancer was induced in female BALB/c mice. The mice were randomly assigned into the treatment groups. At autopsy, peripheral blood was collected in heparinized tube and the expression of cell surface molecules (CD40, CD80, CD83, and CD86) that are crucial for T-cell activation and survival were analyzed by flow cytometry. Tumor was excised from each animal and snap-frozen. Total RNA was extracted from each tumor tissue for microarray and gene expression analysis. Total protein was extracted from tumor tissue for protein expression studies using Western blotting.

The results show that systemic administration of 1 mg TRF daily in combination with DC-vaccine immunotherapy (DC + TL + TRF) caused a marked reduction of tumour size and increased the survival rates of the tumour-inoculated mice. The expression of CD40, CD80, CD83, and CD86 were upregulated in peripheral blood from the DC + TL + TRF group compared to other groups. In addition, there was higher expression of FasL in tumour-excised mice from the DC + TL + TRF group compared to other groups. FasL plays an important role in maintaining immune privilege and is required for cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) activity.

Microarray analysis identified several genes involved in the regulation of cancer. In this study, the researchers focused on the special AT rich binding protein 1 (SATB1) gene, which was reported to have dual functions, one of which was to induce aggressive growth in breast cancer cells. Tumours from DC + TL + TRF mice showed lower expression of SATB1 gene.

The researchers said further study would be conducted to investigate the molecular functions of and the role of SATB1 in 4T1 mammary cancer cells and DC. “In conclusion, TRF supplementation can potentiate the effectiveness of DC-vaccine immunotherapy,” they said.

Tocotrienol-rich fraction (TRF) is the vitamin E fraction extracted from palm oil, which contains 70 per cent mixed tocotrienols and 30 per cent alpha-tocopherol. Tocotrienols and tocopherols are fat-soluble vitamins related to the vitamin E family. Tocopherols can be found in several vegetable oils such as soybean oil, cottonseed oil, and sunflower seed oil, whilst tocotrienols are primarily found in palm oil, rice-bran oil, and cereal grains such as wheat, barley, and rice. Tocotrienols have been the focus of increasing research interest in the last five–10 years as a unique nutritional compound. The scientific evidence to date has shown that in addition to being powerful biological antioxidants, tocotrienols can reduce cholesterol levels in people with hypercholesterolemia, may slow down the progression of atherosclerosis, and possess anti-cancer properties.

The researchers had previously reported that vaccinating mice with DC pulsed with tumour lysate from 4T1 cells (DC + TL) and daily supplementation with 1 mg TRF inhibited tumour growth and produced a tumour-specific immune response.

Also, another new study published in APCBEE Procedia and titled “Antioxidant Activity of Elaeis guineensis Leaf Extract: An Alternative Nutraceutical Approach in Impeding Ageing” concluded: “While it is too early to extrapolate the results to humans, the research does suggest the potential of E. guineensis as an anti-aging agent not forgetting also its high bio-accessibility and bioavailability throughout the country.”

Although scientists have endorsed palm oil as one of the healthiest oils, a study published in The Journal of the American College of Nutrition and titled “Replacing trans fat: the argument for palm oil with a cautionary note on interesterification” concluded: “To replace dietary trans fatty acids (TFA), two practical options exist: revert to a natural saturated fat without cholesterol (most likely palm oil or its fractions) or move to a newer model of modified fat hardened by interesterification (IE).”

Manufacturers are now required to state on food labels the amount of trans fatty acids, also called hydrogenated fats, in packaged foods. Both trans fatty acids and saturated fatty acids are associated with elevated heart disease risk factors. Now, new research questions whether palm oil, whose functional characteristics are similar to trans fats, would be a good substitute for partially hydrogenated fat.

Trans fatty acids (trans fats) are created during a hardening process called hydrogenation, which serves to make oils suitable for use in products that require solid fats, such as baked goods and breakfast bars.

Contrary to views propagated by the Western media that palm oil is not good for health, scientists have found that locally produced palm oil is better than imported vegetable oils, very rich in nutrients and has more vitamin A than carrots. In fact, palm oil has been shown to be the richest source of tocotrienol- a super antioxidant proven to reverse heart disease and fight cancer. However, palm oil is beneficial only when cooked or boiled not fried. Frying palm oil has been shown to produce dangerous chemicals that may lead to organ damage.

Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil derived from the mesocarp (reddish pulp) of the fruit of the oil palms.

Palm oil consumption and its effects on serum lipid levels and cardiovascular disease in humans is still a subject of debate. Advocacy groups with varying agenda fuel the controversy.

The main argument against the use of palm oil as an edible oil is the fact that it contains palmitic acid, which is a saturated fatty acid and by extrapolation should give rise to elevated total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL)/bad cholesterol levels.

Palmitic acid is a common saturated fatty acid found in fats and waxes including olive oil, palm oil, and body lipids.

However, there are many scientific studies, both in animals and humans that clearly show that palm oil consumption does not give rise to elevated serum cholesterol levels and that palm oil is not atherogenic (tending to promote the formation of fatty deposits in the arteries).

However, local and international studies are beginning to celebrate palm oil for its health benefits. In fact it is becoming a major article of trade in Europe, United Kingdom (UK) and United States (US).

Red palm oil, a deep orange fat pressed from the palm tree fruit, is a superfood- packed with healthy antioxidants and good for the heart, say companies who sell it.

Antioxidants are man-made or natural substances that may prevent or delay some types of cell damage. Antioxidants are found in many foods, including fruits and vegetables.

The Verdict: The colourful oil is rich in tocotrienols, nutrients in the vitamin E family, and carotenoids, which the body converts into vitamin A. Several studies suggest possible benefits in stroke and liver disease from vitamin extracts made from the oil.

Vice Chair of Alimentarius Codex Commission, Prof. Purwayitno Hariyadi, said that in several countries palm oil has been used as the alternative to replace the vegetable oils that are produced through the Partially Hydrogenated Oil (PHO) that contains trans fat. Hariyadi said large producers of palm oil such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Nigeria should be serious in taking the opportunity of palm oil as the alternative to meet the global demand for trans fat-free food along with the implementation of the WHO policy to eliminate trans fats in 2023.

The Nigerian Heart Foundation (NHF), in a position paper on lipids and cardiovascular health, presented by its Executive Director, Dr. Kingsley Akinroye, noted: “…Not all saturated fats have equal cholesterolemic (excess of cholesterol in the blood) effect and studies have indicated that consumption of palm olein (a liquid form of palm oil used in cooking and baking), which is more saturated reduces blood LDL when compared to sources of saturated fats like coconut oil, dairy and animal fats. The beneficial effect of palm oil in increasing High Density Lipo-protein (HDL) that is good cholesterol should be noted…

“In Nigeria, a lot of carbohydrate is consumed, and therefore the cholesterolemic ability of palm oil may be considered minimal. Though it needs to be scientifically documented…”

According to a study published in World Journal of Cardiology, “apart from palmitic acid, palm oil consists of oleic and linoleic acids which are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated respectively. Palm oil also consists of vitamins A and E, which are powerful antioxidants. Palm oil has been scientifically shown to protect the heart and blood vessels from plaques and ischemic injuries.

Palm oil consumed as a dietary fat as a part of a healthy balanced diet does not have incremental risk for cardiovascular disease. Little or no additional benefit will be obtained by replacing it with other oils rich in mono or polyunsaturated fatty acids.”

A professor of Pharmacognosy and Chief Executive Officer of Bioresources Development Group (BDG), Prof. Maurice Iwu, told The Guardian: “Contrary to views propagated by the Western media that palm oil is not good for health, scientists have found that locally produced palm oil is better than imported vegetable oils, very rich in nutrients and has more vitamin A than carrots.”

Also, a recent study published in Journal of Applied Sciences and Environmental Management, concluded: “…It is reassuring to know that the consumption of palm oil as a source of dietary fat does not pose any additional risks for coronary artery disease when consumed in realistic amounts as part of a healthy diet. However, oxidized palm oil induces reproductive toxicity and organ toxicity particularly of the kidneys, lungs, liver and heart. Therefore, oxidized palm oil should be avoided.”

The study is titled “Palm oil, its nutritional and health implications.”

The study noted: “Diet for some time now in Nigeria has undergone many changes such as changes in dietary intake of fats and oils. There has been an increasing consumption of partially hydrogenated trans-vegetable oils and a decreasing intake of lauric acid-containing oils. Although popular literature and people generally, usually attribute an increased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) to elevated levels of serum cholesterol, which in turn are thought to derive from an increased dietary intake of saturated fats and cholesterol.

“The palm oil and palm kernel oil are high in saturated fatty acids, about 50 per cent and 80 per cent respectively and are esterified with glycerol. In developing countries, vegetable oils are replacing animal fats because of the cost and health concerns….”

A study claims that oxidised palm oil is not very healthy. Palm oil gets oxidized when fried. Oxidised oil is the processed oil that usually reaches us. Oxidised palm oil, when compared to fresh palm oil, has adverse effects on the lipid profile of the blood. It is also known to increase free fatty acids, phospholipids (a class of lipids that are a major component of all cell membranes) and cerebrosides (any of a group of complex lipids present in the sheaths of nerve fibres) in the blood. The study also claims that oxidised palm oil is toxic to the reproductive system and damages kidneys, lungs, liver and the heart.

Another multi-country study that analysed the link between palm oil consumption and mortality due to cardiovascular diseases claims that increased palm oil consumption is related to higher ischemic heart disease mortality rates in developing countries.

Adulteration of palm oil is a common practice in Nigeria, and adulterated palm oil has been linked to cancer, heart disease and kidney failure.

Also, a recent study concluded that with return to a yam-and-palm-based diet and the minimisation of wheat gluten and milk lactose, the epidemic of the metabolic syndrome that currently challenges Forest West Africa and her global diaspora would be significantly obviated or remediated.

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. These conditions include increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels.

Also, an expert panel on lipids and cardiovascular health in the Nigerian Population has alerted to the increase in prevalence of Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs), especially Cardiovascular Disease (CD) in Nigeria, and the documented evidence of deleterious effects of lipids (fats and oil). The experts from a range of relevant disciplines in a report published in July 2017 edition of the European Journal of Nutrition & Food Safety called for an urgent need to advocate for the general public and health professionals to make heart-friendly choices in food consumption even as they declared palm oil healthful. They said red palm oil should be used within the limits of allowed total daily calorie intake from fats, as there is as yet no scientific evidence that shows that consumption of red palm oil, as part of a healthy balanced diet is harmful.