Red Palm Oil and Your Health

Overview Information

Palm oil is obtained from the fruit of the oil palm tree.

Palm oil is used for preventing vitamin A deficiency, cancer, brain disease, and aging. It is also used to treat malaria, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, dementia, and cyanide poisoning. Palm oil is used for weight loss and for increasing the body’s metabolism.

As food, palm oil is used for frying. It is also an ingredient in many processed foods.

Industrially, palm oil is used for manufacturing cosmetics, soaps, toothpaste, waxes, lubricants, and ink.

How does it work?

Palm oil contains saturated and unsaturated fats. Some types of palm oil contain vitamin E and beta-carotene. These types of palm oil might have antioxidant effects.

Uses & Effectiveness?

Likely Effective for

  • Preventing or treating a lack of vitamin A (vitamin A deficiency). Research shows that adding red palm oil to the diets of pregnant women and children in developing countries reduces the chance of having too little vitamin A. It also seems to help increase vitamin A levels in those who have too little. Red palm oil seems to be as effective as taking a vitamin A supplement for preventing or treating low levels of vitamin A. Doses of about 8 grams or less per day seem to work best. Higher doses don’t seem to have more benefit.

Insufficient Evidence for

  • Malaria. Early research suggests that eating palm oil in the diet does not seem to decrease symptoms of malaria in children under 5 years of age in developing countries.
  • Anti-aging.
  • Brain disease.
  • Cancer.
  • Cyanide poisoning.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Weight loss agent.
  • Other conditions.

More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of palm oil for these uses.

Side Effects & Safety

Palm oil is LIKELY SAFE when taken by mouth in food amounts. But palm oil contains a type of fat that can increase cholesterol levels. So people should avoid eating palm oil in excess. Palm oil is POSSIBLY SAFE when used as a medicine, short-term. Taking 9-12 grams daily for up to 6 months seems to be safe.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Palm oil is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken as a medicine during the last 3 months of pregnancy. Not enough is known about the use of palm oil as medicine during breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and stick to food amounts.

Children: Palm oil is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth as a medicine. Palm oil has been used for up to 6 months in children under 5 years of age and for up to 12 months in children 5 years of age and older.

High cholesterol: Palm oil contains a type of fat that can increase cholesterol levels. Regularly eating meals containing palm oil can increase levels of “bad” low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. This might be a problem for people who already have high cholesterol.

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