Palm oil producers angry over NUS finding on cholesterol link

Palm oil fruits on a wheelbarrow at a farm in Klang, Malaysia.
Palm oil fruits on a wheelbarrow at a farm in Klang, Malaysia. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUCHING • Malaysian palm oil producers are upset over a finding by National University of Singapore (NUS) researchers that links palm oil consumption with higher levels of "bad" cholesterol in the body.

Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Amar Douglas Uggah Embas is expected to raise the issue with the Republic's authorities, The Star reported on Wednesday.

"I plan to visit the relevant minister in Singapore. It is very sad that it (the research) comes from our neighbour," Datuk Uggah was quoted as saying during a dialogue on Tuesday with the Malaysian Estate Owners Association.

Association president Joseph Tek was cited by The Star as saying NUS should be taken to task for saying palm oil - of which Malaysia is a major world producer and exporter - is bad for health.

According to NUS' analysis of 30 past studies on palm oil consumption, eating palm oil leads to elevated levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which in turn translate to a 6 per cent higher risk of coronary heart disease incidence and death.

The study was published last May in The Journal Of Nutrition by the American Society for Nutrition, and was reported by The Straits Times on Jan 12 .

According to The Star, Mr Tek said at the palm oil producers' meeting on Tuesday: "What is the truth? Is the above bad science? There are a number of studies with favourable conclusions about the health aspect of palm oil consumption but unfortunately these findings did not find traction in the public media and mindsets.

"How will MPOB (Malaysian Palm Oil Board), MPOC (Malaysian Palm Oil Council), the government and other stakeholders address such persistent misperception? Can the above research be refuted, with the ultimate aim of reversing and correcting the misperception it has caused?"

Mr Uggah noted that palm oil production has continued to be seen as a contributor to deforestation, reported the daily.

He said the "onslaught" against palm oil was based on "malicious allegations" about its cultivation practices, health and nutritional values and impact on the environment and biodiversity.

"These allegations, while not substantiated, must be consistently and professionally addressed. The cooperation of the industry players in addressing these issues is vital to support and augment efforts by the ministry, MPOB and MPOC," he added.

According to him, Malaysia accounted for 31.7 per cent of global palm oil production and 36.4 per cent of global exports last year, down from 36.7 per cent and 45.6 per cent respectively in 2010.

The decline was due partly to the emergence of new producers in Asia, including Indonesia, Thailand and Papua New Guinea, the minister said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 05, 2016, with the headline 'Palm oil producers angry over NUS finding on cholesterol link'. Print Edition | Subscribe