Ofic 2014 to spotlight palm oil research trailblazers

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PETALING JAYA: The Oils and Fats International Congress 2014 (Ofic 2014) hopes to bring more attention to research that has pushed for or brought about important breakthroughs in many areas of the palm oil industry.

Malaysian Oil Scientists’ and Technologists’ Association (Mosta) president Tan Sri Augustine S H Ong said there are not many platforms available for scientists’ and researchers to speak about their work, some of which has hugely contributed to a greater understanding of palm oil properties.

“We are trying to focus on technology that has been developed and is ready for implementation. There are a lot of research papers for the further development of the industry. We also have a forum where we talk about challenges in sustainability and the economy,” he told The Edge Financial Daily recently.

Organised by Mosta in collaboration with the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB), the congress, to take place on Nov 5 to 7, will see several trailblazers in palm oil research taking centre stage, including Maarstricht University’s experimental nutrition expert, Professor Gerard Honstra, whose research implied that the reduction of saturated fat intake is unlikely to reduce cardiovascular risk.

Ong said Honstra’s contribution to the palm oil industry in the 1970s and 1980s was invaluable, as the fundamental finding of his research indicated that palm oil does not behave like saturated fats, a finding that Ong said “saved the industry” then.

Another notable speaker is University of Sydney’s School of Molecular Bioscience Professor Steward Truswell, who confirmed previous studies conducted by Malaysian researchers that the effects of palm oil and olive oil on cholesterol levels in the human body are similar.

“What was not known, even in Malaysia, was that palm olein is slightly better than olive oil in terms of blood clotting, whereby the tendency for blood to clot is lower in palm olein than olive oil,” he said.

Another researcher, University Malaya lipids researcher Darren Gouk, will also be recognised for his studies on the molecular structure of palm olein, which showed the reasons for the oil’s propensity to behave like unsaturated fat. Ong said MPOB Advanced Biotechnology and Breeding Centre head Dr Ravigadevi Sambanthamurthi will also announce information on the oil palm genome that could contribute to crop improvement.

Palm Oil Refiners Association of Malaysia (Poram) chief executive officer Mohammad Jaafar Ahmad said the congress is not only limited to the palm oil industry but will also provide viewpoints on other vegeoils, and that there will be a presentation by Oil World executive director Thomas Mielke.

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on October 7, 2014.