According to the science of nutrition, the three essential fatty acids in the human body are oleic (C18 : 1), linoleic (C18 : 2) and linolenic (C18 : 3). The fatty acid in palm oil (Table) contains a sufficient and balanced amount of essential fatty acid. If breast milk is used as the benchmark for the standard biological value, the composition of essential fatty acid in palm oil is close to that of breast milk.
Table: The comparison of palm oil fatty acid composition and breast milk (percentage)
|Type of fatty acid||Palm oil||Breast milk|
|<C14 : 0||1.2||13.5|
|C16 : 0||49.3||32.2|
|C18 : 0||4.1||6.9|
|C18 : 1||36.3||36.5|
|C18 : 2||8.3||9.5|
|C18 : 3||0.5||1.4|
|C20 : 0||0.3||–|
Source: Muhilal (1998)
Palm oil contains 36.3 percent essential oleic fatty acid, while breast milk contains 36.5 percent. The essential linoleic fatty acid in palm oil amounted to 8.3 percent, a tad lower than the linoleic fatty acid content in breast milk of 9.5 percent. The small difference is also found for linolenic fatty acid in palm oil, which amounted to 0.5 percent, while it is 1.4 percent in breast milk. Research conducted by Marangoni et al. (2000) revealed that breast milk contains 25 percent palmitic fatty acid, which is essential for baby growth.
The data above show that palm oil contains essential fatty acid in a balanced amount and is even similar to the composition of essential fatty acid in breast milk.