Archive for June, 2009

Tocotrienols increasingly used in medicine

June 29, 2009 1 comment
WOULD YOU believe that palm oil vitamin E can help prevent death from stroke, heart attack and cancer?When Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok was presented with a set of questions on palm oil vitamin E, he did not think too much of it until he received feedback from scientists at the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB).

He was pleasantly surprised by the far-reaching potentials of palm oil vitamins, particularly tocotrienols, in preventing stroke, heart ailments and cancer.

In a recent interview with Business Times at his office in Putrajaya, he said he was impressed that palm oil is now increasingly used in medical studies to treat diseases of aging. “I’m encouraged that more international scientists are tapping into the medical potentials of palm tocotrienols to prevent and eventually treat degenerative diseases like heart attacks, cancer and stroke,” he said.

Prior to taking office at the Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry 10 weeks ago, Dompok said he had always associated palm oil use only to cooking oil, oleochemicals and biodiesel.

Now that he is briefed on the promising medical benefits of palm oil vitamins, the minister eagerly awaits the results of the clinical trial being carried out at Hospital Kepala Batas by Hovid Bhd, Universiti Sains Malaysia and MPOB.

The clinical trial, conducted by 10 scientists on 328 volunteers, started in January last year. “We’re now midway into this three-year research, it will conclude in January 2011,” he said. “This clinical trial is of significance because it is bringing us a step closer in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. “It is in the best interest of our nation to see this effort leading to more lives saved,” the minister added.

To gain a deeper insight on the significance of this clinical trial, one has to understand that vitamin E is actually made up of a family of tocopherols and tocotrienols.In the past 50 years, the bulk of cardiovascular studies carried out in developed countries only focused on the effects of tocophe-rols because of the limited supply of tocotrienols.

Tocopherols is usually found in softoils like soya, canola and sunflower which are grown in cold climate countries while tocotrienols is only found abundantly in palm oil.

So far, preliminary scientific studies already suggest tocotrienols are 60 times more potent than tocopherols. It is also able to reduce bad cholesterols, induce cancer cells to commit suicide and slow down aging.

The Hospital Kepala Batas clinical trial is seeking to confirm if palm tocotrienols help protect against stroke and cardiovascular diseases. “If the findings at Hospital Kepala Batas amount to a medical breakthrough and the scientists need more funding to carry out bigger trials, we shall seek the allocation from the Finance Ministry,” Dompok said.

Tocotrienols also demonstrate anti-cancer properties far superior than most other antioxidants. It not only prevents cancer from taking hold but actively blocks its growth and initiates apoptosis – a process where cancerous cells commit suicide.

Tocopherols, the more well-known but lame siblings in the vitamin E family, are not able to induce programmed death in cancer cells. Only the potent tocotrienols have this effect.

Dompok said MPOB scientists pointed out that tocotrienols are increasingly used to treat cancer. Second only to heart disease, breast cancer is the leading killer desease in women today.

Preliminary research by the University of Louisiana and University of Wisconsin in the US, University of Reading in the UK and the University of Western Ontario in Canada, showed tocotrienols can inhibit the growth of both estrogen-positive and estrogen-negative breast cancer cells while protecting healthy cells.

Another set of Canadian scientists at the University of Western Ontario proved tocotrienols are three times more potent than tamoxifen (standard treatment of breast cancer) in inhibiting growth of human breast cancer cells. The inhibitory effect is 45 times more potent when tocotrienol and tamoxifen are used together, suggesting a synergistic mechanism.

A five-year clinical trial at Hospital Kuala Lumpur which completed in 2006, sponsored by MPOB, involving 240 women with early breast cancer, showed a combination treatment of Tamoxifen and Tocovid SupraBio (bio-enhanced tocotrienol capsules provided by Hovid Bhd) resulted in higher survival rate and lower recurrence of breast cancer compared to Tamoxifen alone. “Since the 2006 clinical trial results, I’m told palm tocotrienols are increasingly being used by doctors to treat breast cancer patients,” Dompok said.

Crabtree to offer more super vitamin E sunscreens

KUALA LUMPUR: A well-dressed 30-something-year-old man walks into a Crabtree & Evelyn outlet and picks up a set of moisturiser and sunscreen.After attending to his purchase, Crabtree & Evelyn (M) Sdn Bhd regional manager of Asia affiliates Leong Mei Yuen says the men’s range was selling fast among middle-to-high-income earners.

Crabtree & Evelyn is a Malaysian-owned retailer of luxury personal care items. It is part of the plantations and property conglomerate Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd.

Leong picks up an after-shave lotion and said: “Men find this helps razor-cut wounds heal faster. Golfers and fishing enthusiasts are also happy with our sunblocks because it is proven to be effective against sunburns.”

“The active ingredient in the product are tocotrienols,” she said in a recent interview. Extracted from palm oil, tocotrienols are part of the Vitamin E family that include tocopherols.

Leong says tocotrienol-fortified products are gaining popularity because medical studies show tocotrienols are 60 times more effective than tocopherols at protecting the skin from the damaging effects of over-exposure to ultraviolet (UV) sunrays, pollution, stress and smoking.

When we walk out into the sun, skin cells exposed to UV-rays generate huge amount of superoxide radicals in our body, causing serious damage to surrounding cells. Pro-longed and extensive cell damage surface as wrinkles on the skin.

Will a regular vitamin E-enriched moisturiser help? Leong shakes her head and says it is not effective.

“Currently, what most face cream, body butter and moisturiser in the market offer is tocopheryl acetate, a derivative of the common vitamin E tocopherols,” Leong says. “There is not much benefit, given its ester form. The only advantage is tocopherols being a preservative for the product, thus increasing the shelf life while allowing a claim to ‘contain vitamin E’,” she adds.

Citing a string of scientific studies carried out in the US, Malaysia and Hong Kong, she explains tocotrienols or ‘super vitamin E’ remain in the skin at greater concentrations and even help preserve tocopherol levels in the skin.

As society progress, discerning consumers seek anti-aging solutions backed by medical evidence.

Crabtree & Evelyn has incorporated this super vitamin E in its men’s range since 2007. Leong says, “by October, we plan to launch a new moisturiser and sunscreen range for women that will incorporate the superb healing and protective powers of tocotrienols.”

Founded in 1973, Crabtree & Evelyn, now, has 350 outlets throughout the world. To a query if Crabtree & Evelyn is a British brand, Leong replies, “we’re of American origin, fashioned after nature-inspired traditional English apothecary and proudly owned by Malaysians.”

Medical studies on tocotrienols carried out throughout the world…

Tocotrienols can be consumed orally or/and topically used in skin care products due to its healing properties — Packer, U. Stefan Weber, G. Rimbach (2001) Molecular Aspects of á-tocotrienol Antioxidant Action and Cell Signalling J. Nutr. 131:369S–373S.

Although alpha-tocopherols are used in the majority of face creams and nutritional supplements on the market, tocotrienols are actually far more potent as an antioxidant: up to 60 times more effective compare to tocopherols — E. Serbinova, V. Kagan, D Han & L Packer (1991) Free radical recycling and intramembrane mobility in the antioxidant properties of á-tocopherol and á-tocotrienol Free Radic Biol Med; 10: 263–275.

Topical application of tocotrienol-enriched moisturiser will help retain tocopherols in the skin — D. P. Steenvoorden & G. Beijersbergen van Henegouwen (1999) Protection against UV-induced systemic immunosuppression in mice by a single topical application of the antioxidant vitamins C and E. Int J Radiat Biol. 75: 747-755.

If one were to consume tocotrienol rich fraction softgels [beauty from within regime], tocotrienols are 15 times more likely to accumulate in the skin layers than tocopherols — Ikeda, T, Niwa & K, Yamashita (2000) Selective uptake of dietary tocotrienols into rat skin. J Nutr Sci-Vitaminol. 46: 141-143.

Well-oiled with NoveLin

June 21, 2009 2 comments

Here are reviews of premium-priced cooking oil NoveLin by my colleagues at New Sunday Times.

A brand new palm cooking oil variant that looks and feels like olive oil but it’s not. THERESA MANAVALAN is thrilled to discover that it has absolutely no smell or taste.

Let’s begin with a confession of my fondness for complications. Ismail, the friendly fishmonger at Petaling Jaya’s Old Town Market, tells me I’m only the only customer who has ever asked him to butterfly fresh sardines. He starts with an “Oh Kak…” kind of whine but does a great job of it anyway. His bright eyes are darting about the busy market but he’s heard every word about my plan to serve Bay of Bengal sardines. I know he’ll ask me about it too, next time I’m there.

On the phone, my Aunty Rita warns me that they might not be sardines, rather they may be scad, a similar-looking small fish with an entirely different flavour scope. Use a fleshier fish, she advises, if you’re going to grill it.I’ve chosen sardines simply because they’ve got a distinct flavour and an unmistakable aroma that charges the nose the moment they’re cooked.

You must, at this point, understand that sardines in tins bear absolutely no resemblance to fresh ones. I need an individualistic fish because I’m grilling them with NoveLin, a brand new palm oil variant that I’m testing.

It looks like olive oil, it feels like olive oil, but it’s not olive oil. It does everything that olive oil does except deliver that particular flavour of the Mediterranean. NoveLin is literally flavourless and odourless — qualities that would eventually send me to sardine heaven.

It greases the hotplate gracefully, with absolutely no aroma of its own to steal the thunder from the fish rubbed with chili and turmeric in its searing ikan bakar moment. The sardines, grilled crisp with no sign of oil, go out with cherry tomatoes and mesclun lightly dressed in old-fashioned balsamic vinegar, NoveLin and wave of sea salt. Oh, I like this — it’s as if there’s only the vinegar and salt. The oil hovers in the distant background of taste – and the shredded ginger flower sprinkled into this salad zooms straight to the foreground. This is interesting.

In search of drama, I boil potatoes, you know, those non-descript ones found in every Malaysian grocery that are born for chicken curry.

Cut into wedges and brushed in NoveLin, I stick them in the oven with roasting chicken pieces. They crisp efficiently in 200ºC, the edges browned and inviting. And that, it turns out, is the hottest item in the line-up at dinner. The potato, says the spouse, tastes like real potato. Oh.

So, NoveLin knows it’s the hired help? That its job is to provide cooking fat, not seize the entire taste spectrum. This makes it a great cooking oil because it will always allow the natural perfumes of herbs and spices dance through the true taste of food.

NoveLin, a blend of palm oil and other vegetable oils, is Malaysia’s newest oil, launched last Thursday. Developed by the Malaysian Palm Oil Board and now manufactured by Ace Edible Oils, NoveLin was designed specifically for export to cold countries.

Beating the cold weather has always been a challenge for the palm oil industry because classic palm oil congeals in the cold. We’ve all seen it happen in our fridges. NoveLin goes to Japan and Korea by Christmas, and next year, it will go to Europe, the US and possibly, be sold here too.

I LIKE olive oil but it isn’t any good for deepfrying.

With its smoke point hovering around 200ºC, all I get is a misty vision and a really oily residue I have to scrape off the walls. Because of this, I seldom ever deepfry food.

So I want to know if NoveLin can beat that. I marinate chicken wings in Worcestershire sauce with salt and pepper. An hour later, I’m ready to fry. The wok heated, I pour in NoveLin. Hey, no smoke. That’s wonderful. But I’m also missing the aroma of the usual brand of blended cooking oil I use for deepfrying.

I put the chicken in and about two minutes later, an appetising smell fills the kitchen. Littlest Princess runs in, distracted from her homework by the smell, and impatiently demands to know if dinner would be ready soon.

The chicken wings brown beautifully and I remove them onto a plate.

The odourless oil doesn’t seem to make the chicken any less tasty. In fact, it seems to allow the taste and flavour of Worcestershire sauce to shine through more acutely. Having wolfed down dinner, Littlest Princess licks her fingers clean and says, “Ma, can we have this again tomorrow?” — By TAN BEE HONG

Plugging the palm oil leak

June 11, 2009 3 comments
Malaysia plans to step up enforcement against oil palm seed scams and theft of palm fruits and oil, which are costing the country billions in lost revenues.

Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok has told the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) to buck up as these crimes have been going on for a long time.

“I want MPOB to step up enforcement immediately. All these oil palm seed scams and oil thefts must stop,” he told Business Times in a recent interview in Putrajaya.

For a start, Dompok gave the green light to MPOB to licence palm oil transporters. This is allowed under the Malaysian Palm Oil Board Act 1998. “I want to tighten up the loopholes. The transporters need to be licensed and we’ll put in place a whistle-blowing scheme. Once MPOB board of directors give their consensus, it will come back to me for my signature and then we’ll have it gazetted,” Dompok said.

The companies will also have to install global positioning systems on their tankers to keep tabs of their movements. “Transporters must take responsibility for the actions of their drivers and pay the price if their tankers are involved in illegal activities,” he said.

Under MPOB (Quality) Regulations 2005, whoever steals or contaminates crude palm oil can be fined up to RM250,000 or two years’ jail or both.

In a separate interview, Palm Oil Refiners Association of Malaysia (Poram) acting chairman Yong Chin Fatt said refiners have suffered much from oil pilferage. Refiners have no way of knowing whether the palm oil brought in by tankers are stolen or not.

“We’re all established and we only accept oil that come in tankers, not in drums. These tankers come with the necessary documentation from the millers,” he said. “In fact, we incur additional costs when we’re duped into buying contaminated cargo. We suspect such highly-organised crimes, that have spread to Sabah and Sarawak, are by syndicates. We appeal for more stringent enforcement,” he added.

Dompok has also told MPOB to be more vigilant in stamping out oil palm seed scams. “These scams have serious implications on the livelihood of thousands of smallholders and the country’s average oil palm yield,” he said.

It was recently reported that there are syndicates deceiving planters into buying low-yielding seeds that are not dura and psifera (DXP) crossbreds currently sold by the 19 genuine producers.

Last year, MPOB managed to seize 6.13 million fake DXP seeds and this amounted to RM11.35 million in opportunity loss for genuine producers. However, the potential revenue loss to oil palm planters runs into the billions in the long term as the fake seeds will not produce as much fruits.

Malaysia’s oil palms are the most productive in the world because of government policy to use high-yielding crossbred seeds of the mother palms of the DXP strains. Regular seeds from existing oil palm trees will only yield five to 10 tonnes of fresh fruit bunches in a year compared with 25 tonnes for DXP seeds. Cross breeding of high-yielding DXP seeds takes time and the seeds are sold for RM2 each.

Red palm oil keeps the doctor away

June 11, 2009 9 comments
We like to think that all fats are bad.But Carotino Sdn Bhd executive director U.R. Unnithan will tell you that a tablespoon of red palm oil a day helps keep the doctor away.

Highlighting several scientific studies which shows that red palm oil is packed with nutrients, he said that in the past 30 years, doctors had painstakingly studied red palm oil’s effect on cardiovascular health.

The results surprised researchers. Although high in saturated fat, red palm oil actually protects one against heart attack and stroke. In these studies, doctors found that adding red palm oil into a person’s diet can remove plaque build-up in arteries and, therefore, reverse the process of atherosclerosis.

“Red palm oil basically helps the consumer maintain proper blood pressure and improve on his cholesterol ratio. The high antioxidant content in red palm oil quenches free radicals and keeps inflammation under control,” said Unnithan.

He said essentially, red palm oil contained more nutrients than any other dietary oil. Apart from beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and lycopene, it contains at least the full spectrum of Vitamin E, Vitamin K, co-enzyme Q10, squalene, phytosterols, flavonoids, phenolic acids and glycolipids.

Red palm oil can also withstand extreme deep fry heat better than other vegetable oils like olive, soy, corn, canola and sunflower. When heated, red palm margarine and oil do not lose its valuable phytonutrients. “This is one of the reasons Kings Confectionery and Mamee snacks use our red palm margarine and oil.”

Red palm oil is considered healthier than ordinary cooking oil because it is packed with carotenes such as beta-carotene and lycopene — the same nutrients that give tomatoes, carrots and papaya their reddish-orange colour.

It is also the richest natural source of the potent form of Vitamin E called tocotrienols. “Olive oil does not contain any carotenes or tocotrienols, yet it is cleverly marketed as being healthy for the heart. It is time for Malaysia to step up marketing of red palm oil.”

Having just returned from a business trip to Tokyo, Unnithan said many health-conscious young adults in Japan chose to have more salad and fruits in their meals. Malaysia benefits from this trend because Carotino red palm oil is increasingly being offered as part of the range of salad dressing that is healthy and tasty.

“We hope this healthy trend in Japan influences restaurateurs in Malaysia to offer Carotino salad dressing, along with olive oil, sour cream and thousand island. You get your daily dose of essential nutrients from just one tablespoon of red palm oil.”

Medical studies carried out by international scientists ..
Dr. David Kritchevsky of the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, US demonstrated that red palm oil is the least atherogenic oil compared to refined, bleached, deodorized palm oil and randomized palm oil. The anti-atherogenic attributes of red palm oil is due to the presence of abundant amounts of antioxidants, particularly the carotenoids and tocotrienolsKritchevsky D, Tepper SA, Czarnecki SK, Sundram K, “Red palm oil in experimental atherosclerosis.” Asia Pac J Clin Nutr, 2002;11 Suppl 7:S433-7

Long term heating of red palm oil does not have adverse effect on serum triglyceride, HDL and TC/HDL ratiosKamsiah J., Aziz, Siew, Zahir, “Changes in serum lipid profile and malondialdehyde following consumption of fresh or heated red palm oil”, Medical Journal of Islamic Academy of Sciences 14:2, 79−86, 2001

Dr. Wilson at University of Massachusetts Lowell showed red palm oil is better at lowering cholesterol than palm oleinWilson TA, Nicolosi RJ, Kotyla T, Sundram K, Kritchevsky D, “Different palm oil preparations reduce plasma cholesterol concentrations and aortic cholesterol accumulation compared to coconut oil in hypercholesterolemic hamsters.” J Nutr Biochem, 2005 Oct;16(10):633-40

It is safe to orally ingest vitamin E because it is not mutagenic, carcinogenic, or teratogenic. In human studies with double-blind protocols and in large population studies, oral vitamin E supplementation resulted in few side effects even at doses as high as 3200 mg/d (3200 IU/d)A. Bendich and L.J. Machlin, Safety of oral intake of vitamin E, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol 48, 612-619.

Red palm oil decreased significantly tissue plasminogen activator antigen, an important independent risk factor for coronary heart disease, compared to palm oil and sunflower oil Scholtz SC, Pieters M, Oosthuizen W, Jerling JC, Bosman MJ, Vorster HH, (2004), “The effect of red palm olein and refined palm olein on lipids and haemostatic factors in hyperfibrinogenaemic subjects.” Thrombosis research 113(1):13-25