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Red Palm Oil as a source of beta-carotene

Red Palm Oil is the partially refined oil of the fruit of the oil palm tree. (The palm kernel oil is a different product, from the same tree.)

“It is well known that palm oil contains a high concentration of natural carotenoids of 500-700 ppm (1-3). The major carotenoids of palm oil are alpha- and beta- carotene; together they constitute more than 80% of the total carotenoids in palm oil (3, 4). Carotenes, in particular beta-carotene and, to a lesser extent, alpha-carotene are known for their provitamin A activities, as they are transformed into vitamin A in vivo. Compared with other sources of natural carotenoids, palm oil has 15 times more retinol equivalents than carrots and 300 times more than tomatoes (5).”

palm-oil-carotenoids2

Choo, et al., Recovery of Carotenoids from Palm Oil

1. Goh, S.H., Y.M. Choo and A.S.H. Ong, J. Am. Oil Chem. Soc.
62:237 (1985).
2. Tan, B., IbicL 66:770 (1989).
3. Tan, B., C.M. Grady and A.M. Gawienowski, Ibi& 6&1175 (1986).
4. Ng, J., and B. Tan, J. Chromatogr. Sci. 26:463 (1988).
5. Tan, B., Proceedings of International Oil Palm~Palm Oil Conference,
held June 23-26, 1987, Palm Oil Institute of Malaysia,
Kuala Lumpur, 1987, pp. 370-376.

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500 ppm (parts per million) is 500 micrograms per gram of oil, which is 50,000 micrograms per 100 grams of oil. 47.4% of the red palm oil carotenoids is beta-carotene, which is 23700 micrograms of beta-carotene per 100 g oil. By comparison, 100 g of carrots has 8285 micrograms of beta-carotene.

For beta-carotene in most foods, divide by 12 to obtain RAE. But for beta-carotene in supplements or in oil, we only divide by 2 to obtain RAE, because the beta-carotene is more easily absorbed by the body.

red palm oil: 11850 RAE from beta-carotene (per 100 g oil)
carrots: 690 RAE from beta-carotene (per 100 g food)

Red palm oil has more than 17 times as much beta-carotene as carrots, in terms of retinol equivalents. Only 5 grams of red palm oil provides approximately 600 RAE of beta-carotene. One teaspoon of red palm oil per day provides about 530 RAE of beta-carotene — which is enough to prevent childhood blindness from vitamin A deficiency.

Fortification of cooking oil could take the form of simply combining a small amount of red palm oil with any other vegetable oil used in cooking.

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