Written by Chioma Obinna
~Vanguard Nigeria. Sunday, September 18, 2016.
Mere mention of red oil, the first thing that comes to mind is an ingredient for food. But how well do people know palm oil?
For several years now, palm oil has been described as one of the factors that fuel risk for heart attack or stroke.
But recent studies have shown otherwise as it has been proven that red palm oil not only serves as primary source of dietary fat but also improves reproductive health of men and heart health.
Produced from the fruit of palm tree and originated from tropical Africa, its nutritional and healing properties have been recognised for generations. Until modern medicine arrived, palm oil was the remedy of choice for several illnesses in many parts of Africa. It was also regarded as the powerhouse of nutrition containing by far more nutrients than any other dietary oil.
Before now, it was among essential diets for pregnant and nursing mothers in order to ascertain good health of the mother and child.
Although palm oil in the past has been in the news for the wrong reason, today, experts say there many reasons to consume red oil.
Some of these reasons include the fact that it helps to improve your heart health and assures better reproductive health for men and women.
It is now common place to see baby factories springing up in every nook and cranny of the country, no thanks to the increase in the rate of infertility among Nigerian men and women. Also in recent times, cases of missing children are rampant. Findings show that these occur due to the inability of couples to have their own biological children.But experts say getting to the root of these problems can be possible through natural home remedies such as consumption of palm oil.
According to a Professor of Clinical Chemistry and Molecular Diagnosis, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, CMUL, Oluyemi Akinloye, Nigeria and other countries of the world have continued to witness a sharp rise in male infertility but, unfortunately, in some cases, the cause is not known. In Nigeria alone, the male factor contribution to infertility is estimated to be about 54 per cent, based on semen analysis and, globally, the male contribution to infertility among couples has been estimated to be about 33 per cent.
Akinloye, who maintained that several men could not achieve their desire to impregnate their female partners due to reasons beyond their control, said concentration of lead in blood is associated with a decrease in sperm count, sperm volume, sperm motility and morphological alterations.
Local remedies such as red palm oil, he explained, have showed promises in improving male infertility potential.
Describing red oil as the powerhouse of nutrition far more than nutrients in any dietary oil, he said studies have shown that palm oil improves reproductive capacity and vitamin A, which is known to play a part in reproduction through the synthesis of sex steroids.
Akinloye, who is also the Head, Department of Medical Laboratory Science, College of Medicine, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, in a study, reported that red oil improved the decreased sperm count and sperm motility observed in a seminal fluid of a lead treated rat.
The study on the protective effect of red palm oil on testicular damage induced by administration of lead acetate on male rats, he stated, discovered that co-administration with red oil has a protective effect against lead toxicity. The professor pointed out that the study shows that red palm oil has a potential to attenuate the toxic effect of lead on testicular cells preventing possible resultant male infertility.
"Palm oil is regarded among many as essential in the diet for the pregnant and nursing mothers in order to ascertain good health of the mother and child", Akinloye added.
"Studies show that adding palm oil into the diet can double or triple the amount of vitamin A in mother's milk.
"It contains carotenoids, phosphatides, sterols, tocopherols and trace metals shown to be effective against oxidative stress in vitro and in vivo.
"Palm oil is one of the richest natural sources of vitamin E which contains a super potent form of known as tocotrienol. It is the only vegetable oil with a balanced composition of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids in both processed and unprocessed forms.
"Palm oil helps maintain proper blood pressure. The high antioxidant content of the oil quenches free radicals and keeps inflammation under control."
Why red oil is heart friendly
Due to its antioxidants: beta-carotene, tocotrienols and tocopherols, among others in its crude red form, red palm oil has been endorsed as heart friendly.
In a report, Professor Osaretin Odia of the Department of Medicine, University of Port Harcourt, said red palm oil is a refined version of raw oil palm fruits, which retains a significant amount of carotenoids and vitamins that are heart friendly.
According to him, contrary to reports, red palm oil has about 40 per cent oleic acid, which has been demonstrated in several studies to have beneficial effects on serum lipids and cardiovascular disease, CVD.
To Odia, there has been strong evidence that replacement of unsaturated fats with saturated ones, particularly mono-unsaturated fats (MUFA), are effective in reducing the risk of CVD.
"Studies also show that diets containing palm oil significantly reduce the levels of cholesterol in the serum of subjects who had normal serum cholesterol levels at baseline compared to the effect of the mostly polyunsaturated soy-bean oil,"he said.
But Odia warned that when refined, palm oil is very versatile as compared to other vegetable oils, but when bleached, it becomes hydrogenated killing all its vitamins and components.
He explained that bleached palm oil develops trans-fat that has detrimental effects on lipid profiles and general health. Also in a telephone chat with Sunday Vanguard, a renown cardiologist, Dr. Kingsley Akinroye, dismissed the age long notion about palm oil, saying it does not contain cholesterol.
According to Akinroye, red palm oil contains some amount of plant sterol which are not involved in hardening of blood vessels (altherosclerosis) and do not promote heart diseases.
"There is no credible scientific evidence that palm oil contributes to the risk of development of heart disease; however, there are several studies that indicate that Palm oil is harmless, and may protect against heart diseases."
Akinroye, who is the Vice President, World Heart Federation, recommended that more scientific research needs to be conducted amongst the African population to demonstrate how palm oil influences the risk factors of heart diseases