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The positive side of palm oil.

The positive side of palm oil

Tropical oils, including palm oil, have taken a lot of heat in recent years. Because of their high saturated fat content, these inexpensive oils -- used in a wide range of commercially prepared foods, including crackers and cookies -- have been suspected of contributing to the high serum cholesterol levels plaguing many Americans. But palm oil also contains some potent cholesterol-lowering agents, according to a small, double-blind pilot study led by Basil A. Bradlow at the University of Illinois in Chicago.

Every day for four weeks, 15 men and women with high serum cholesterol consumed four capsules containing a total of 200-milligrams of either corn oil or a mix of palm oil-derived tocotrienols -- oily chemicals related to vitamin E (SN: 5/26/90, p.330). Then, for another four weeks, each person switched to the opposite type of capsules.

The corn oil supplement, used as a placebo, did not alter the volunteers' cholesterol levels, which initially ranged from 240 to 310 milligrams per deciliter of blood. However, those who spent the first four weeks on the tocotrienol supplements showed dramatic improvements in several important blood factors, including an average 20 percent decline in total serum cholesterol, a 28 percent decline in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and a 16 percent decline in platelet factor 4, a risk factor in atherosclerosis.

Moreover, these beneficial blood changes did not bounce back to baseline levels when the volunteers switched to corn oil, the researchers report. "Their serum cholesterol levels continued to be lower [than at the start of the study], even after six weeks," Bradlow reports. The researchers suspect the residual benefit resulted from a continuing elevation in blood levels of tocotrienol.

In a separate four-week study of seven people with very high serum cholesterol levels, 200-mg supplements of gamma-tocotrienol lowered total cholesterol an average of 31 percent -- from about 300 milligrams per deciliter to 210. This suggests that gamma-tocotrienol may be the most potent cholesterol inhibitor in the capsules of palm-oil-derived tocotrienols, Bradlow says.
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Title Annotation:has cholesterol-lowering agents
Author:Raloff, Janet
Publication:Science News
Date:Apr 27, 1991
Words:335
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