Palm O’corner at University of Indonesia: Palm Oil Proven to be A Vitamin and Micronutrient Factory, but……
Last Saturday (20/3/21), Palm Oil Agribusiness Strategic Policy Institute (PASPI) in collaboration with the Student Executive Board (BEM) of the Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Indonesia, held an online seminar, namely Palm O’Corner. The topic of this online seminar was “Palm Oil in Nutrition and Health Issues”. This is very relevant to the current situation and conditions amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Especially along with the increase in health awareness during the pandemic, making the public pretty concerned about maintaining food and nutrition intake to avoid the Covid-19 virus.
The Palm O’Corner presented three speakers, namely Dr. Tungkot Sipayung (Executive Director of PASPI), Dr. apt Mahdi Jufri, M.Si (Dean of the Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Indonesia), and Dr. Arif Havas Oegroseno (Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia for the Federal Republic of Germany). They have different backgrounds and they are also experts in their fields so that the topic of health and nutrition issues in palm oil can be comprehensively explored from various perspectives.
Dr. Tungkot Sipayung sparked the discussion by explaining the role of palm oil for health in broad aspects, namely environmental health and the health of the human body. The role of oil palm plants to maintain environmental health through its role as the “lungs of the ecosystem“, which in the end also plays a role in improving human health.
Related to this role, the ability of oil palm plants to absorb carbon dioxide from the earth’s atmosphere and produce oxygen is quite large, respectively 64.5 tons CO2/ha/year and 18.7 tons O2/ha/year. The ability of oil palm plantations is greater than the ability of tropical forests to absorb carbon which is only 42.4 tons CO2/ha/year and forest oxygen production of 7.09 tons O2/ha/year.
The contribution of oil palm in maintaining environmental health can also be seen from its role in producing clean energy with low emissions, one of them is palm biodiesel. This role is also expected to greater, along with the development of palm green fuel production (green diesel, green gasoline, and green avtur) which can substitute the use of fossil fuels which are a contributor to carbon emissions. Other palm oil derivative products also contribute to maintaining environmental health, such as oleochemical products such as soap and shampoo, and bioplastics, which more environmentally friendly because they are biodegradable or easily decomposed in nature.
The Economist and Palm Oil Industry Expert who also serves as the Executive Director of PASPI also described the advantages of palm oil in terms of health, such as factory of vitamins A and E, a balanced content of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, free of trans fatty acids, and contains essential fatty acids. Even during the Covid-19 pandemic, palm oil is increasingly proving its existence which has benefit for human health through its vitamin and phytonutrient content and hygiene products.
From the academic perspective of pharmacy, Dr. apt Mahdi Jufri, M.Si explained that palm oil is very rich in various vitamins and micronutrients which are beneficial to health and reduce the risk of various chronic diseases. Palm oil contains lots of betacarotene (vitamin A) as well as tocopherols and tocotrienols (vitamin E) which are rich in antioxidants so that they can increase the immune system and prevent cancer. This antioxidant content is also found in other micronutrient components in palm oil such as Lycopene, Lutein, and Ubiquinone 10 (UQ-10). The palmitic acid in palm oil has also been shown to reduce cardiovascular risk.
Closing his presentation, Dr. apt Mahdi Jufri, M.Si concluded that palm oil has many advantages in the health aspect so that it is very prospective to be developed into preventive health products such as multivitamins. Given that currently the Indonesian pharmaceutical industry still relies heavily on imported raw materials, the development of palm oil-based pharmaceutical products is expected to be a solution to dependence on imports.
However, it faces various obstacles, one of which is the lack of research on the technology of processing palm oil into pharmaceutical products. Therefore, the speaker who also serves as the Dean of the Faculty of Pharmacy of University of Indonesia encourages Pharmacy students to research in this field by utilizing BPDPKS funding support as an effort to succeed in developing innovative palm oil-based pharmaceutical products in Indonesia.
The last speaker, namely Dr. Arif Havas Oegroseno, who currently serves as the Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia for the Federal Republic of Germany since 2018, said that although palm oil has proven to has advantages in terms of health, until now, the potential for utilization and market access of palm oil and its derivative products is still hampered by various challenges in the global market. These challenges referred to include the increase of the black campaign that attacks palm oil and the importing country’s trade policies that discriminate against palm oil. Even though their motive behind it is protectionism carried out by western countries as vegetable oil producers, which are palm oil competitors.
At the end of his presentation, the Ambassador also advised that we must defend Indonesian palm oil by “flooding” the European Union and the world with information related to the positive campaigns or counter hoaxes based on data and facts from studies/empirical studies, do not use the strategy that has been used which is likened to “Not Evenly Drizzle Rain”.
The common thread of this discussion is there are many research and studies conducted by researchers in Indonesia and abroad that reveal the various contents of palm oil that are beneficial to human health. However, in its development to produce products of high economic value, namely palm oil-based pharmaceutical products (drugs or supplements) in Indonesia, there are still faces many challenges, such as lack of research factors to potential challenges to market obstacles and trade competition faced by the palm oil industry.
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