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Review
. 2003;12(3):355-62.

Palm Fruit Chemistry and Nutrition

Affiliations
  • PMID: 14506001
Free article
Review

Palm Fruit Chemistry and Nutrition

Kalyana Sundram et al. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. .
Free article

Abstract

The palm fruit (Elaies guineensis) yields palm oil, a palmitic-oleic rich semi solid fat and the fat-soluble minor components, vitamin E (tocopherols, tocotrienols), carotenoids and phytosterols. A recent innovation has led to the recovery and concentration of water-soluble antioxidants from palm oil milling waste, characterized by its high content of phenolic acids and flavonoids. These natural ingredients pose both challenges and opportunities for the food and nutraceutical industries. Palm oil's rich content of saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids has actually been turned into an asset in view of current dietary recommendations aimed at zero trans content in solid fats such as margarine, shortenings and frying fats. Using palm oil in combination with other oils and fats facilitates the development of a new generation of fat products that can be tailored to meet most current dietary recommendations. The wide range of natural palm oil fractions, differing in their physico-chemical characteristics, the most notable of which is the carotenoid-rich red palm oil further assists this. Palm vitamin E (30% tocopherols, 70% tocotrienols) has been extensively researched for its nutritional and health properties, including antioxidant activities, cholesterol lowering, anti-cancer effects and protection against atherosclerosis. These are attributed largely to its tocotrienol content. A relatively new output from the oil palm fruit is the water-soluble phenolic-flavonoid-rich antioxidant complex. This has potent antioxidant properties coupled with beneficial effects against skin, breast and other cancers. Enabled by its water solubility, this is currently being tested for use as nutraceuticals and in cosmetics with potential benefits against skin aging. A further challenge would be to package all these palm ingredients into a single functional food for better nutrition and health.

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