Palm Oil Developments No.54 (June 2011) p14-17

Saturated Fats and Health: Current Thinking

BALASUNDRAM, Nagendran, TENG Kim-Tiu

The saturated fats issue is not a new challenge to palm oil, as it was some three decades ago that the matter was first raised. The anti-tropical oil campaign, which labelled palm oil as saturated artery-clogging fat was first raised in the 1980s in the United States. As a response to this allegation, the then Palm Oil Research Institute of Malaysia (PORIM) had embarked on several nutrition studies which had revealed that palm oil did not elicit elevated coronary heart disease (CHD)-risk responses, but rather it was the trans fatty acids resulting from partial hydrogenation of soft oils that were deleterious to health. Nevertheless, the current dietary recommendations for reducing dietary saturated fats have had some implications on palm oil applications in some sectors, and as such on palm oil trade. As food manufacturers continue to look for lower saturated fat alternatives to palm oil, the share of palm oil in food products continues to decline. For example, total imports of oils and fats into the United Kingdom had decreased about 16.8%, from 1.67 million tonnes in 2005 to 1.39 million tonnes in 2010, while imports of palm oil had declined even further by 37.6%, from 0.939 million tonnes to 0.602 million tonnes. Besides, the percentage share of palm oil in the total oils and fats imports basket also declined, from 56.2% in 2005 to 43.3% in 2010. During this period, a significant increase was seen in the imports of sunflower oil, which had increased from 0.126 million tonnes to 0.275 million tonnes. The share of sunflower oil in the imports basket had also increased from 7.5% to 14.8%.

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