Influence of palm oil ( Elaesis guineensis) on health


In recent times there has been a growing research interest in palm oil, one of the major edible plant oils in the tropical countries, because of the link between dietary fats and coronary heart disease. Obtained from a tropical plant, Elaesis guineensis, it has a polyunsaturated fatty acid/saturated fatty acid ratio close to unity and a high amount of antioxidant vitamin A precursors and vitamin E. Palm oil is consumed in the fresh state and/or at various levels of oxidation. Feeding experiments in various animal species and humans have highlighted the beneficial role of fresh palm oil to health. These benefits include reduction in the risk of arterial thrombosis and atherosclerosis, inhibition of cholesterol biosynthesis and platelet aggregation, and reduction in blood pressure. However, a considerable amount of the commonly used palm oil is in the oxidized state which possesses potential dangers to the physiological and biochemical functions of the body. Oxidation is as a result of processing the oil for various culinary purposes. Studies have revealed that relative to fresh palm oil, oxidized palm oil induces an adverse plasma lipid profile, free fatty acids, phospholipids and cerebrosides. Additionally, oxidized palm oil induces reproductive toxicity and organotoxicity particularly of the kidneys, lungs, liver and heart. Available evidence suggests that at least part of the oxidized oil impact on health reflects generation of toxicants due to oxidation. The reduction of the dietary level of oxidized oil and/or the level of oxidation may reduce the health risk associated with consumption of oxidized fats.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. 1.

    Keys A, Anderson JT, Grande F (1965) Serum cholesterol response to changes in the diet IV: Particular saturated fatty acids in the diet. Metabolism 14: 766–787.

    Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Tan BK (1989) Novel fractions and fats from palm and palm kernel oils. Palm Oil Development, II September 1989, PORIM.

  3. 3.

    Gapor AB, Ong ASH, Kato A, Watanabe H, Kawada T (1989) Antioxidant activities of palm vitamin E with special reference to tocotrienols. Elaies, The Int J Oil Palm Res Dev 1: 63–67.

    Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Clerc M (1992) Bulletin de Academic Nationale de Medicine 176: 1393–1410.

    Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Jones JM (1989) Tropical Oils: Truth and Consequences. Cereal Foods World 34: 866–871.

    Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Chong YH, Ng TKW(1991) Effects of palm oil on cardiovascular risk. Med J Malaysia 46: 41–50.

    Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Hassan AH (1988) Palm oil and health. The Planter 505–519.

  8. 8.

    Sundram K (1994) Dietary palmitic acid results in lower serum cholesterol than does a lauric-myristic acid combination in normolipidemic humans. Am J Clin Nutr 54: 841–846.

    Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Small DM (1991) The effect of glyceride structure on absorption and metabolism. Ann Rev Nutr 11: 413–434.

    Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Ng TKW (1997) What food for the heart? World Health Forum 18: 196–198.

    Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Kritchevsky A (1988) Effect of tryglyceride structure on lipid metabolism. Nutr Rev 46: 177–181.

    Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Elson CE (1992) Tropical oil: nutritional and scientific issues. Critical Rev Food Sci Nutr 31: 79–102.

    Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Khosla P, Hayes KC (1996) Dietary trans-monounsaturated fatty acids negative impact on plasma lipids in humans: critical review of the evidence. J Am Coll Nutr 15: 321–322.

    Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Voet D, Voet JG (1990) Lipids and membranes. In: Biochemistry (1st ed.) New York: John Wiley and Sons.

    Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Anosike EO (1994) Structure and chemical properties of lipids. In: Anosike EO (ed.), An Introduction to Principles of Biochemistry, pp 78–80. Port Harcourt, Nigeria: Sunray Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Etuk EUI (1998) Steroidogenesis. In: Lipid Biochemistry (A revision text for undergraduate students), pp 23. Ani-Mbuk (Nig) Graphic Press, Uyo, Nigeria.

    Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Wentworth BC, Qureshi N, Wright K, et al. (1990) Suppression of apolipoprotein B, thromboxane B2 and platelet factor four by palm oil and its tocotrienol in genetically hypercholesterolemic quail. INFORM 1: 331.

    Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Qureshi AA, Qureshi N, Hasler-Rapacz JO, Weber FE, Chaudhary V, Crenshaw TD, Gapor A, Ong AS, Chong YH, Peterson D, et al. (1991) Dietary tocotrienols reduce concentrations of plasma cholesterol, apolipoprotein B, thromboxane B2 and platelet factor 4 in pigs with inherited hyperlipidemias. Am J Clin Nutr 53: 10425–10465.

    Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Qureshi AA, Bradlow BA, Brace L, Maganello J, Peterson DM, Pearce BC, Wright JJ, Gapor A, Elson CE (1995) Response of hypercholesterolemic subjects to administration of tocotrienols. Lipids 30: 1171–1177.

    Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Alfin-Slater RB, Aftergood L (1980) Suppliers of energy: fats. In: Alfin-Slater RB, Kritchevsky D (eds), Human nutrition V3A, pp 118–140. New York: Plenum Press.

    Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Burskirk ER, Mendez J (1980) Energy: caloric requirement. In Alfin-Slater RB, Kritchevsky D (eds), Human nutrition V3A, pp 49–95. New York: Plenum Press.

    Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Anderson RL, Boggs RW (1975) Gluconeogenic and ketogenic capacities of lard, safflower oil and triundecanion in fasting rats. J Nutr 105: 185–189.

    Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Osim EE, Owu DU, Isong EU, Umoh IB (1994) Influence of chronic consumption of thermoxidized and fresh palm oil diets on basal metabolic rate, body weight and morphology of tissues in rats. Discov Innov 6: 389–396.

    Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Abaelu AM, Okochi VI, Oyesile OO, Akinyele JO, Akinrimisi EO (1991) Nigerian dietary oils and transport of amino acids in rat intestine. Nig J Physiol Sci 7: 32–37.

    Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Baudet MF, Dachet C, Lassere M, Estera D, Jacotot B (1984) Modification in the composition and metabolic properties of human low-density lipoproteins by different fats. J Lipid Res 25: 456–465.

    Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Bonanome A, Grundy SM (1988) Effect of dietary stearic acid on plasma cholesterol and lipoprotein levels. N Engl J Med 318: 1244–1248.

    Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Hornstra G, Sundram K (1989) The effect of dietary palm oil on cardiovascular risk in man. Abstracts 1989 PORIM International Development Conference 5–9 September, Kuala Lumpur N3.

  28. 28.

    Lindsey S, Benattar J, Pronczuk A, Hayes KC (1990) Dietary palmitic acid enhances HDL-cholesterol and LDL receptor mRNA abundance in hamsters. Proc Exp Biol and Med 195: 261–269.

    Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Osim EE, Owu DU, Etta KM (1996) Mean arterial pressure and lipid profile in rats following chronic ingestion of palm oil diets. Afr J Med Med Sci 25: 335–340.

    Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Isong EU (1988) Biochemical and nutritional studies on rat of thermally oxidized palm oil (Elaesis guineensis). Ph.D. Thesis, University of Calabar, Nigeria.

    Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Osim EE, Owu D, Isong E, Umoh IB (1992) Influence of chronic consumption of thermoxidized palm oil diet on platelet aggregation in the rat. Discov Innov 4: 83–87.

    Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Shimamoto T (1963) The relationship of edematous reaction in arteries to athersclerosis and thrombosis. J Atheroscler Res 3: 87–102.

    Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Hornstra G (1988) Dietary lipids and cardiovascular disease: effects of palm oil. Oleagineux 43: 75–81.

    Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Harker LA, Kelly AB, Hanson SR, Krupski W, Bass A, Osterud B, Fitzgerald GA, Goodnight SH, Connor WW (1993) Interruption of vascular thrombus formation and vascular lesion formation by dietary n-3 fatty acids in fish oil in non human primates. Circulation 87: 1017–1029.

    Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Lowe GD, Johnson RV, Drummond MM, Forbes CD, Prentice OR (1979) Induction of circulating platelet aggregation in healthy subjects by a saturated fat meal. Thromb Res 16: 565–568.

    Google Scholar 

  36. 36.

    Rand ML, Hennissen AHM, Hornstra G (1988) Effects of dietary palm oil on arterial thrombosis, platelet response and platelet membrane fluidity in rats. Lipids 23: 1019–1023.

    Google Scholar 

  37. 37.

    Abeywardena MY, McLennan PL, Charnock JS (1989) Increase in myocardial PGI/TXA balance following long-term palm oil feeding in the rat. J Molec Cell Cardiol (Supp II) 21: 599.

    Google Scholar 

  38. 38.

    Deferne JL, Leeds AR (1992) The antihypertensive effect of dietary supplementation with a 6-desaturate essential fatty acid concentrate as compared with sunflower seed oil. J Hum Hypertens 6: 113–119.

    Google Scholar 

  39. 39.

    Bairati I, Roy L, Meyer F (1992) Effect of a fish oil supplement on blood pressure and serum lipids in patients treated for coronary artery disease. Can J Cardiol 8: 41–46.

    Google Scholar 

  40. 40.

    Engler MM (1993) Comparative study of diets enriched with evening primrose, black currant, borage or fungal oils on blood pressure and pressor responses in spontaneously hypertensive rats. Prostaglandins Leukot. Essential Fatty Acids 49: 809–814.

    Google Scholar 

  41. 41.

    Foley M, Ball M, Chisholm A, Duncan A, Spears G, Mann J (1992) Should mono or poly-unsaturated fat replace saturated fat in the diet? Eur J Clin Nutr 46: 429–436.

    Google Scholar 

  42. 42.

    Mutanen M, Kleemola P, Valsta LM, Mensink RP, Rasanen L (1992) Lack of effect on blood pressure by polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat diets. Eur J Clin Nutr 46: 1–6.

    Google Scholar 

  43. 43.

    Yin K, Chu ZM, Beilin LJ (1991) Blood pressure and vascular reactivity changes in spontaneously hypertensive rats fed fish oil. Br J Pharmacol 102: 991–997.

    Google Scholar 

  44. 44.

    Kitagawa S, Yamaguchi Y, Kunitomo M, Imaizumi N, Fujiwara M (1992) Impairment of endothelium dependent relaxation in aorta from rats with arteriosclerosis induced by excess vitamin D and a high cholesterol diet. Jpn J Pharmacol 59: 339–347.

    Google Scholar 

  45. 45.

    Owu DU, Osim EE, Orie NN (1997) Altered responses of isolated aortic smooth muscle following chronic ingestion of palm oil diets in rats. Afr J Med Med Sci 26: 83–86.

    Google Scholar 

  46. 46.

    Hui R, St-Louis J, Falardeau P (1989) Antihypertensive properties of linoleic acid and fish oil omega-3 fatty acids independent of the prostaglandin system. Am J Hypertens 2: 610.

    Google Scholar 

  47. 47.

    Engler MB (1992) Vascular relaxation to omega-3 fatty acids; comparison to sodium nitroprosside, nitroglycerin, papaverine and D600. Cardiovasc Drugs Ther 6: 605–610.

    Google Scholar 

  48. 48.

    Engler MB (1992) Effects of omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids on vascular smooth muscle tone. Eur J Pharmacol 215: 325–328.

    Google Scholar 

  49. 49.

    Engler MB (1992) Effect of omega-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic and eicosapentaenoic on norepinephrine-induced contractions. Can J Physiol Pharmacol 70: 675–679.

    Google Scholar 

  50. 50.

    Beilin LJ (1993) Dietary fats, fish and blood pressure. Ann NY Acad Sci 683: 35–45.

    Google Scholar 

  51. 51.

    Jenkins DK, Mitchell JC, Manku MS, Horrobin DF (1988) Effects of different souces of gamma-linolenic acid on the formation of essential fatty acid and prostanoid metabolites. Med Sci Res 16: 525–526.

    Google Scholar 

  52. 52.

    Gabriel HG, Alexander JC, Valli VE (1977) Biochemical and histological effects of feeding thermally oxidized rapeseed oil and lard to rats. Can J Comp Med 41: 98–106.

    Google Scholar 

  53. 53.

    Causeret J, Potteau B, Grandgirare A (1978) Physiopathological effects of feeding heated oils to rats. Ann Nutr Aliment 32: 483–479.

    Google Scholar 

  54. 54.

    Crawford L, Wheeler FL (1983) Microsomal P.450 induction by some secondary products from thermal oxidation of dietary lipids: epidermal hyperplasia, mutagenicity and cytochrome P.450 activities. Cancer Lett 21: 211–217.

    Google Scholar 

  55. 55.

    Mouni EJ, Faye B, Magdalou J, Goudonnet H, Truchot R, Snest G (1986) Modulation of UDP-glucoronosyltransferase activity in rats by dietary lipids. J Nutr 166: 2034–2043.

    Google Scholar 

  56. 56.

    Eder K, Kirchgessner M (1995) Zinc deficiency and activities of lipogenic and glycolytic enzymes in liver of rats fed coconut oils or linseed oil. Lipids 30: 63–69.

    Google Scholar 

  57. 57.

    Manorama R, Chinnasamy N, Rukmini C (1993) Effect of red palm oil on some hepatic drug-metabolising enzymes in rats. Food Chem Toxicol 31: 583–588.

    Google Scholar 

  58. 58.

    Nesaretem K, Devasagayam TP, Sing BB, Basiron Y (1993) Influence of palm oil or its tocotrienol-rich fraction on the lipid peroxidation of rat liver mitochondria and microsomes. Biochem Mol Biol Int 30: 159–167.

    Google Scholar 

  59. 59.

    Owu DU, Osim EE, Ebong PE (1998) Serum liver enzymes profile of Wistar rats following chronic consumption of fresh or oxidized palm oil diets. Acta Tropica 69: 65–73.

    Google Scholar 

  60. 60.

    Umoh IB, Ayalogu EO, Oke OL (1983) Effects of different levels of palm oil and sulfur in cassava-based diets. Food Chem 10: 83–95.

    Google Scholar 

  61. 61.

    Cartwright-Shamoon JM, Dodge JA, McMaster C (1995) A complex biochemical modulation of intestinal ion transport in rats fed on high-fat diets. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 20: 36–43.

    Google Scholar 

  62. 62.

    Krivenkova EM, Treschuk LI (1978) Morphological and functional investigation of testes of albino rats after long term inclusion in their ration of thermally oxidized fats. Veprosy Pitaniya 6: 59–64.

    Google Scholar 

  63. 63.

    Giassudin ASM(1985) The role and mode of action of vitamin E and selenium: a review. Nig J Biochemistry 2: 14–22.

  64. 64.

    Isong EU, Ebong PE, Ifon ET, Umoh IB, Eka OU (1997) Thermoxidized palm oil induces reproductive toxicity in healthy and malnourished rats. Plant Foods Hum Nutr 51: 159–166.

    Google Scholar 

  65. 65.

    Frankel EN (1980) Lipid oxidation. Prog Lipid Res 19: 1–22.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Ebong, P., Owu, D. & Isong, E. Influence of palm oil ( Elaesis guineensis) on health. Plant Foods Hum Nutr 53, 209–222 (1999).

Download citation

  • Fatty acids
  • Health hazards
  • Lipids
  • Oxidation
  • Palm oil