Palm oil vitamin E set to be a big earner

KUALA LUMPUR: Vitamin E, the most valuable product along the palm oil supply chain, is set to be a big foreign revenue earner for Malaysia, said Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB).

Scientific studies show that tocotrienols can help lower the risk of stroke and possess anti-aging properties, said MPOB product development and advisory services director Rosidah Radzian.

Tocotrienols are a naturally occurring vitamin E nutrient in palm oil, Rosidah told reporters after a seminar titled 'Commercialising Downstream Business in Palm Food & Health' organised by Performance Management & Delivery Unit (PEMANDU) of Prime Minister's Department, held here yesterday.

Also present was Universiti Sains Malaysia professor Dr Yuen Kah Hay. He noted clinical studies have proven brain cells treated with tocotrienols were more likely to survive in the event of a stroke.

“If a person takes palm oil vitamin E as a supplement, it can prevent his brain cells from dying in the event of a stroke, and stimulate the reconstruction of blood vessels after,” said Yuen. 

Stroke is the number three killer in Malaysia after heart disease and cancer. Tocotrienols in palm oil can improve blood flow and boost cell regeneration. This discovery can make a difference to millions affected by stroke.

Last year, MPOB's Rosidah said the country exported 14,400kg of palm oil vitamin E, mainly to Europe, the US, Canada and Japan. A kilogramme of palm oil vitamin E sells for around US$400. 

"Although Malaysia is the biggest tocotrienol producer and exporter in the world, we need to invest more in scientific studies to give more evidence of the health benefits of palm oil vitamins A and E," said PEMANDU director of palm oil and rubber sectors Ku Kok Peng.

"So far, the government had extended some RM145.75 million in the last five years to study and commercialise nutritional and anti-ageing benefits of palm oil phytonutrients," he said.

Palm oil, packed with phytonutrients like carotene, tocotrienol, lycopene, co-enzyme Q10, and Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, can meet the 'beauty from within' trend in the multi-billion-ringgit business of health supplements and skincare products.

In the export market, palm oil vitamin E are mainly used in the health supplement and cosmetics, said KL-Kepong Oleo business development and planning director Lau Kwee Ying. 

Lau highlighted tocotrienol-enriched moisturiser are gaining popularity because human trials show tocotrienols very effective at protecting the skin from the damaging effects of over-exposure to ultraviolet (UV) sunrays.

When one walks out into the sun, skin cells exposed to UV-rays generate huge amount of superoxide radicals in our body, causing serious damage to surrounding cells. Pro-longed and extensive cell damage surface as wrinkles on the skin.

As more clinical studies are published, cosmetics giants all over the world are becoming more convinced to use tocotrienols in their lotion and sun blocs to slow down sun damage and reduce formation of freckles on our skin.

To raise awareness on the benefits of tocotrienols, the Malaysian Palm Oil Council, had since 2009, initiated the Palm International Nutra-Cosmeceutical Conference (PINC). This year, some 200 health and wellness professionals is set to gather at the two-day industry meet here next week.

Doctors and pharmacists can do a good job in advising their patients on palm oil vitamin E since they are seen as opinion leaders in the health field. Among key exhibitors at PINC is Davos Life Science, the world's largest palm oil vitamin E producer, capable of churning out 100,000kg per year. 

Davos Life Science, a unit of Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd, was previously operating in Singapore in a smaller plant. In 2012, it invested RM65 million in the next-generation nutraceutical plant in Westport, Klang.