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Monday, 16 February 2015

PALM OIL

Human use of oil palms may date as far back as 5,000 years; in the late 1800s, archaeologists discovered a substance that they concluded was originally palm oil in a tomb at Abydos dating back to 3,000 BCE.[14] It is believed that Arab traders brought the oil palm to Egypt.[15]
Palm oil from Elaeis guineensis has long been recognized in West and Central African countries, and is widely used as a cooking oil. European merchants trading with West Africa occasionally purchased palm oil for use as a cooking oil in Europe.
Palm oil became a highly sought-after commodity by British traders, for use as an industrial lubricant for machinery during Britain's Industrial Revolution.[16]
Palm oil formed the basis of soap products, such as Lever Brothers' (now Unilever) "Sunlight" soap, and the American Palmolive brand.[17]
By around 1870, palm oil constituted the primary export of some West African countries such as Ghana and Nigeria although this was overtaken by cocoa in the 1880s.[citation needed]

Composition

Fatty acids

Main article: Fatty acid
Palm oil like all fats, is composed of fatty acids, esterified with glycerol. Palm oil has an especially high concentration of saturated fat, specifically, of the 16-carbon saturated fatty acid palmitic acid, to which it gives its name. Monounsaturated oleic acid is also a major constituent of palm oil. Unrefined palm oil is a large natural source of tocotrienol, part of the vitamin E family.[18]
The approximate concentration of fatty acids in palm oil is:[19]
Fatty acid content of palm oil
Type of fatty acid

pct
Myristic saturated C14
  
1.0%
Palmitic saturated C16
  
43.5%
Stearic saturated C18
  
4.3%
Oleic monounsaturated C18
  
36.6%
Linoleic polyunsaturated C18
  
9.1%
Other/Unknown
  
5.5%
black: Saturated; grey: Monounsaturated; blue: Polyunsaturated

Carotenes

When unrefined or when processed into red palm oil, it is naturally rich in carotenes, which give it its characteristic dark red color. Like tomatoes, carrots and many other fruits and vegetables but unlike most oils, palm oil naturally contains the nutrients alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and lycopene. Palm oil contains other carotenes including tocopherols and tocotrienols (members of the vitamin E family), CoQ10, phytosterols, and glycolipids.[20]

Processing and use

Many processed foods either contain palm oil or various ingredients derived from it.[21]

Refining

See: Cooking oil refinement
After milling, various palm oil products are made using refining processes. First is fractionation, with crystallization and separation processes to obtain solid (stearin), and liquid (olein) fractions.[22] Then melting and degumming removes impurities. Then the oil is filtered and bleached. Physical refining[clarification needed] removes smells and coloration to produce "refined, bleached and deodorized palm oil" (RBDPO) and free sheer fatty acids,[clarification needed] which are used in the manufacture of soaps, washing powder and other products. RBDPO is the basic palm oil product sold on the world's commodity markets. Many companies fractionate it further to produce palm olein for cooking oil, or process it into other products.[22]

Red palm oil

Since the mid-1990s, red palm oil has been cold-pressed and bottled for use as cooking oil, and blended into mayonnaise and salad oil.[23]

Antioxidants

Red palm oil antioxidants like tocotrienols and carotenes are added to foods and cosmetics because of their purported health benefits.[24][25][26]

Butter and trans fat substitute

The highly saturated nature of palm oil renders it solid at room temperature in temperate regions, making it a cheap substitute for butter or trans fats in uses where solid fat is desirable, such as the making of pastry dough and baked goods. A recent rise in the use of palm oil in the food industry has partly come from changed labelling requirements that have caused a switch away from using trans fats.[27] Palm oil has been found to be a reasonable replacement for trans fats;[28] however, a small study conducted in 2009 found that palm oil may not be a good substitute for trans fats for individuals with already elevated LDL levels.[29] The USDA agricultural research service states that palm oil is not a healthy substitute for trans fats.[30]

Biomass and bioenergy

Palm oil can be used to produce biodiesel, which is also known as palm oil methyl ester.[31] Palm oil methyl ester is created through a process called transesterification. Palm oil biodiesel is often blended with other fuels to create palm oil biodiesel blends.[32] Palm oil biodiesel meets the European EN 14214 standard for biodiesels.[31] The world's largest palm oil biodiesel plant is the Finnish operated Neste Oil biodiesel plant in Singapore, which opened in 2011.[33]
The organic waste matter that is produced when processing oil palm, including oil palm shells and oil palm fruit bunches, can also be used to produce energy. This waste material can be converted into pellets that can be used as a biofuel.[34] Additionally, palm oil that has been used to fry foods can be converted into methyl esters for biodiesel. The used cooking oil is chemically treated to create a biodiesel similar to petroleum diesel.[35]

In wound care

Although palm oil is applied to wounds for its supposed antimicrobial effects, research does not confirm its effectiveness.[36]

Production

As of 2012, the annual revenue received by Indonesia and Malaysia together, the top two producers of palm oil, is US$40 billion.[37] Between 1962 and 1982 global exports of palm oil increased from around half a million to 2.4 million tonnes annually and in 2008 world production of palm oil and palm kernel oil amounted to 48 million tonnes. According to FAO forecasts by 2020 the global demand for palm oil will double, and triple by 2050.[38]

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