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OILS AND FATS

ICMR-NIN’s 2024 updated dietary guidelines, sees palm oil scoring high
Friday, 17 May, 2024, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Our Bureau, Bengaluru
Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), has unveiled the ‘Dietary Guidelines for Indians-2024’. Among the notable highlights is the affirmation of palm oil's nutritional value, thanks to its balanced fatty acid composition and rich nutrient profile.
 
Central to the guidelines is the recognition of dietary fat as a vital component of nutrition, providing concentrated energy, facilitating nutrient absorption, and enhancing dietary satisfaction. Palm oil, alongside edible oils such as groundnut, cottonseed, sesame and olive, is ‘rich in monounsaturated fatty acids’, offering a spectrum of health benefits, according to the NIN.
 
“Dietary fats also contain minor components such as tocopherols, tocotrienols, sterols. Tocotrienols in palm oil, for instance, reduce blood cholesterol,” the guidelines noted. The natural flavour of fats/oils is largely due to these minor components. Since most of the minor components are antioxidants, they prevent fats from going rancid.
 
While oils from sources such as palm, groundnut, cottonseed, sesame and olive are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids as compared to other oils, “linoleic (n-6) and -linolenic (n-3) acids are the simple PUFA, present only in plant foods. All vegetable oils (except coconut) are good sources of linoleic(n-6) acid”, the report stated. Incorporating a variety of oils and foods rich in essential fatty acids ensures a well-rounded nutritional profile, it added.
 
"Fats play a crucial role in our diet, but it's essential to strike a balance to optimise health outcomes," it said. "By making mindful choices and incorporating a diverse array of food sources, individuals can bolster their well-being and mitigate the risk of chronic diseases."
 
When it comes to cholesterol, palm oil does not contain cholesterol, like all other edible oils. As pointed out in the report, “Cholesterol is present only in foods of animal origin such as milk, meat, shrimp and prawn, but not in plant foods. Vegetable oils do not contain cholesterol.”
 
The report added, “The plant oils in addition contain certain useful substances such as lignans, sterols, tocopherols (vitamin E) oryzanol, carotenoids - all of which reduce cholesterol and reduce oxidant damage due to ageing, inflammation which occur in chronic diseases.”
 
Understanding the chemistry of fats, particularly in palm oil, whose unique benefits have been so far overlooked, provides valuable insights into making informed dietary choices for optimal health. By incorporating a diverse range of sources and maintaining a balanced intake, individuals can harness the nutritional benefits of fats while mitigating potential health risks. "Use fats and oils in moderation and consume varieties of foods to get good proportion of all fatty acids for optimal health benefits," the report mentioned.
 
Moreover, the NIN's findings are reinforced by numerous previous studies, demonstrating that palm oil's distinctive balance of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fatty acids renders it a valuable inclusion in a healthy diet. The concentration of polyunsaturated fats in palm oil is low, reducing its pro-inflammatory properties. The balanced fatty acid composition of palm oil, when consumed in moderation, can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels by increasing high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and reducing low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.
 
In addition to addressing dietary fat, the guidelines provide recommendations on various aspects of nutrition, including the consumption of essential nutrients, the prevalence of nutritional disorders, and the promotion of healthy eating habits.
 
“At the heart of our updated dietary guidelines is a commitment to empowering individuals to make informed choices that support their health and longevity,” the NIN stated.
 
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