The Trans Fat Attack

The Trans Fat Attack
A Traditional Fat
Palm oil comes from the fruit of the oil palm (Elaesis guineensis). It is believed that the oil palm originated in tropical Africa where it was used as far back as 5000 years ago. Archeologists in Egypt have found pal oil residue in earthenware jars in tombs dating back to 3000 BC. Its discovery in Egypt indicates it was a valuable commodity used in trade because the oil palm does not grow in that area.

The oil palm eventually migrated from tropical Africa to South America and Southeast Asia. Beginning in the 16th century, African slave ships coming to Brazil brought seeds with them. It is believed that the slaves were fed a mixture of palm oil and flour during their ocean voyage. Some of the seeds were either discarded or planted in the new land. The warm, moist climate of Brazil provided an ideal environment for the oil palm to flourish.

In the 1840s, oil palm was introduced as an ornamental plant in the Dutch West Indies (Indonesia). From there it spread too much of Southeast Asia. Most of the commercially produced palm oil today comes from Southeast Asia. The top nine palm oil producing countries in order of production are Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Colombia, Thailand, Papua New Guinea and Ecuador. Indonesia now is the world leader in palm oil production and produces more than all the other countries of the world combined. Indonesia and Malaysia together account for 80 percent of the world's production. Palm oil has recently surpassed soybean oil as the most widely used oil in the world.

The oil palm is a perennial tree that produces fruit year-round. On well-farmed plantations, its oil yield surpasses that of all other vegetable oil plants, yielding about three times the oil of coconuts and well over ten times that of soybeans per acre.

Palm fruit can be harvested three years after planting. The tree has an economic life of about 25 years. The fruit is about the size of a small plum and grows in large bunches weighing 20-50 pounds (10-25 kg). A tree produces 12 bunches per year, with 1,000 - 3,000 fruits per bunch. One bunch of fruit is harvested about every month, so production continues year round. Each fruit consists of a hard kernel (seed) inside of a thin hard shell which is surrounded by a fleshy husk (mesocarp). Palm oil is extracted from the mesocarp.

Natural palm oil is an integral part of a healthy tropical diet in Africa and Southeast Asia, just as olive oil is in the Mediterranean region. In West Africa, palm oil is still generally consumed in a crude state. The oil is obtained readily from the flesh surrounding the seed by cooking, mashing and pressing. The oil has been extracted in this manner for generations and locally every family makes their own. The oil is then used in traditional foods, where it contributes its characteristic color and flavor to the dishes.

Palm Oil production is an important industry in Indonesia, Malaysia and Nigeria. In these countries, it is the major source of fat in the diet. The Malaysian diet has about 27 percent fat, eighty percent of which comes from palm oil. Palm oil is used all over the world. Virgin or red palm oil is sold as a health product and sells at a higher price that refined palm oil.***

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