Hardly is anyone that will be reading this post would not have consumed palm oil, either in a meal or as part of some medicine.
It is also true that most of us have been affected by or are being managed for hepatitis.
Many people would like to know whether the foods they consume make any significant differences to their health.
Luckily, there has been some research evidence to provide some guidance to those that seek to know and to optimise their health.
In 2019, some researchers wanted to determine the effect of oils that are commonly consumed on the liver. They used experimental mice for their trial and divided them into 4 groups.
These 4 groups of mice were fed Palm oil, hydrib red oil, olive oil and the control group fed chow diet (combination of corn, oats, soybean meal) for 8 weeks.
At the end of the experimental period, they found that those mice that were fed palm oil and hybrid oil developed changes in their livers, consistent with a diagnosis of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. Their conclusion was that these oils produce disturbed hepatocyte transcription. Read more about that Research here .
Above is not the only animal study that found some association between intake of palm oil and liver inflammation. Earlier, in 2014, Go et al. undertook a controlled study in experimental mice fed on one arm by palm oil and on the other arm, sunflower oil. Their outcome was that "... that palm oil, a highly saturated form of vegetable oil, may induce dysfunction of the liver lipid metabolism before affecting serum lipid levels. On the other hand, sunflower oil, a highly unsaturated vegetable oil, was shown to be well metabolized in liver."
The effect of palm oil on the liver of humans continue to be debated. However, it is apparent from the foregoing that if palm oil affects mice liver, then there is a high chance that it would produce similar effects on the liver of humans as well.
In 2014, Rosqvist et al. studied the effect of palm oil on human volunteers. They recruited 39 young and normal-weight individuals, and who were overfed muffins high in SFAs (palm oil) or n-6 PUFAs (sunflower oil) for 7 weeks. At the end of their trial, they found results that led to the conclusion that overeating SFAs (of which palm oil is) promotes hepatic (liver) and visceral fat storage, whereas excess energy from PUFAs may instead promote lean tissue in healthy humans.
Controversially, another study that was conducted on hepatitis C infected patients with cirrhosis suggested that the intake of refined red palm oil downregulated inflammatory markers in the peripheral blood of 60 patients that were studied. Unfortunately, the authors concluded that palm oil was beneficial as a nutritional supplement based on that simple observational study.
No study, dedicated to determine the impact of palm oil on the liver of patients with chronic hepatitis B was available for comparison at the time of writing this article. Several African patients are given products (traditional therapies), some of which may contain palm oil, when they have hepatitis and the impact of palm oil on the liver of these patients may be need to be known. Due to the temporal relationship between the development of fatty liver disease on exposure to palm oil in mice, as well as the few follow up human studies, it is highly likely that eating with palm oil may be worsening the liver inflammation than good.
Below are my recommendations:
If it is practically possible, avoid the use of palm oil, in the setting of hepatitis, as palm oil is one of the saturated fatty acids and which effect on cardiovascular health as well as liver health is not good
If due to the fact that most of your staple food is one that contains palm oil and you cannot do without palm oil, then cooking with the oil is perhaps better than frying foods with it.
Clinician researchers can undertake either case controlled or cohort studies to measure, if there are robust causal effects of palm oil on outcomes of viral hepatitis infection
To learn more on recommendations of foods to eat or avoid (when you have hepatitis), I recommend this eBook, Best Diet Tips for the Hepatitis Patient.