One of the biggest misconceptions people have is that saturated fats increase the amount of bad cholesterol in blood. Cholesterol, however, forms part of the outer membrane that surrounds every cell. Cholesterol is used to insulate nerve fibres (and so make nerve signals travel properly) and make hormones, which carry chemical signals around the body. Without cholesterol, your body wouldn’t work – it’s vital to ensure the body’s normal function.
There are three main types:
Triglycerides and cholesterol are both fatty substances known as lipids. But triglycerides are fats; cholesterol is not. Cholesterol is a waxy, odorless substance made by the liver that is an essential part of cell walls and nerves. Carbohydrate intake increases triglycerides, the form in which the body stores energy for when we need it, not saturated fat intake.
Saturated fats are not as bad as trans-fats. Trans-fats are found in margarine, fast food, deep-fried foods—including French fries and potato chips, baked goods, processed convenience foods, candies, cured and aged foods such as sausages, luncheon meats, and some cheeses. Stay away from these kinds of foods. In spite of its level of saturated fatty acid content (50%), red palm oil has not been found to promote atherosclerosis and/or arterial thrombosis. Studies show that adding red palm oil into the diet can remove plaque buildup in arteries and therefore, reverse the process of atherosclerosis. Removing plaque is not the only way red palm oil protects against strokes and heart attacks. Red palm oil can also improve cholesterol values. This has been demonstrated in both animal and human studies. Red palm oil does not raise health concerns typically associated with saturated fats
Saturated fats, however, in meat/dairy products are less desirable. They are not medium chain triglycerides. We also have to consider the monumental and disastrous effects of feeding ruminants corn and how that has impacted the fat they carry and the impact on those of us who eat beef. Grass-fed beef doesn’t have the sort of dangerous fat that corn-fed does. Saturated fats mostly come from animal sources and at room temperature are solid. Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature. Saturated fatty acids (SFAs) are referred to as saturated because all available carbon bonds are tied up with a hydrogen atom. That is, there are no openings for rancidity or spoilage, whereas a polyunsaturated fatty acid containing two or more pairs of double bonds without hydrogen atoms occupying the open space is wide open for oxidation. SFAs are shelf-stable, resistant to heat damage, and essential to many bodily functions. SFAs, such as palmitate, have long been shown to induce toxicity and cell death in various types of cells.
There appears to be a positive correlation between the quantity and quality of fat consumed and incidence of cancers such as breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer. For example, polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially those rich in omega-6 fatty acids derived from vegetable seed oils, have tumor promoting effects. Saturated fats such as palmitic acid (meat, butter, palm oil) and lauric acid (coconut oil, palm kernel oil) and unsaturated fats such as oleic acid (olive oil) and DHA (fish oil) play opposing roles in immune activation. Saturated fats activate the immune system while unsaturated fats inhibit it. It is possible that the ingestion of saturated fats such as palm oil, palm kernel oil or coconut oil could activate immune responses against cancer, to a more appropriate cell mediated immune responses. Unsaturated fatty acids would block this important cell mediated immune responses. Omega-6 fatty acids indeed fuel cancer growth.
Roughly half of our cell membrane structure is composed of saturated fats. The membrane lipid ceramide is the backbone of all complex sphingolipids and acts as a second messenger in many biological events (ceramide is stored in an inactive form as a sphingolipid). In addition, ceramide regulates several biochemical and genetic events. Ceramide is a product of palmitic acid and the amino acid serine. Palmitic acid is a well known cytotoxic agent against cancer cells. Ceramide is involved in the induction of apoptosis (programmed cell death). Considering the central role of ceramide in mediating physiological as well as pharmacologically stimulated apoptosis, ceramide can be considered a tumor-suppressor lipid. In contrast, sphingosine-1-phosphate, which is generated from ceramide by the consecutive actions of ceramidase and sphingosine kinase, can be considered a tumor-promoting lipid, and the enzyme responsible for its synthesis functions as an oncogene.
Palm oil is the beautiful stuff. Palm oil, particularly virgin or red palm oil, is a traditional fat that has been a part of the human diet for over 5000 years. For generations red palm oil has been revered as both a nutritious food and a valuable medicine. Palm oil and palm kernel oil have different chemical and physical properties, different nutritional and metabolic properties, and come from different parts of the oil palm. The main fatty acids of palm oil are palmitic, oleic, linoleic and stearic. Palmitic acid accounts for 44% of the total fatty acid composition of palm oil. In no other commerical vegetable oil does palmitic acid accumulate to this extent. In the oil palm, the pertinent question to be answered is why palmitic acid accumulates in the mesocarp.
In contrast the main fatty acids of palm kernel oil are lauric, myristic, oleic and palmitic. Note that amongst these fatty acids, lauric, myristic, palmitic and stearic are saturated fatty acids (12, 14, 16 and 18 carbons, respectively). Palm oil is also at times confused with coconut oil. Actually, coconut oil has a fatty acid profile that is almost identical to that of palm kernel oil. Since palm kernel oil and coconut oil have very high contents of lauric acid, they are referred to as lauric oils. Lauric acids block the conversion of testosterone to 5alpha-dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and then inhibit the proliferation of prostate cancer cells. Oleic acid is monunsaturated (18 carbons, 1 double bond) while linoleic acid is polyunsaturated (18 carbons, 2 double bonds).
Sitosterol, campesterol, stigmasterol and cholesterol largely constitute the phytosterols in palm oil. Some of the minor components in palm oil include the carotenoids, tocopherols, tocotrienols, sterols, phosphatides, triterpenic and aliphatic alcohols. Of these, the carotenoids and tocotrienols are of interest. Red palm oil is one of the richest natural sources of carotenoids (beta-carotene and alpha-carotene). It has 15 times more provitamin A carotenes than carrots and 300 times more than tomatoes. Red palm oil gets its name from its characteristic dark red color. The color comes from carotenes such as beta-carotene and lycopene—the same nutrients that give tomatoes and carrots and other fruits and vegetables their rich red and orange colors. Beta carotene, a precursor of vitamin A, is the most widely studied carotenoid. Beta carotene has long been postulated to be beneficial as an anticancer agent.
Palm tocotrienols also have powerful anti-cancer properties. Palm tocotrienols inhibit proliferation of cancer cells whereas alpha-tocopherol has no effect. The anti-proliferative effect of palm tocotrienols is attributed to an increase in apoptosis by increased DNA fragmentation. Tocotrienol targets multiple cell signaling pathways and deliver multiple punches to treat cancer.
Red palm oil can be used as a dietary supplement to provide a natural source of mixed vitamin E, mixed carotenoids, vitamin K, CoQ10, squalene, phytosterols, and other nutrients. The easiest way to take palm oil for its nutritional value is with foods. Use the oil in food preparation. You can also take the oil by the spoonful. One Tablespoon (15ml) of red palm oil provides the equivalent of the adult RDA of vitamin E and Vitamin A (as provitamin A carotenes). Red palm oil is non-toxic even in large amounts. It is a food, so it doesn’t have any harmful side effects often associated with drugs. You could safely eat several tablespoons. The only potential drawback you might experience if you consume large amounts of red palm oil every single day is a slight yellowing of the skin. This is caused by the accumulation of carotenes in the skin.