Increasing prevalence of obesity and overweight in the Western world, continue to be a major health threat and is responsible for increased health care costs. Dietary intervention studies show a strong positive association between saturated fat intake and the development of obesity and cardiovascular disease. This study investigated the effect of positional distribution of palmitic acid (Sn-1, 2 & 3) of palm oil on cardiovascular health and development of obesity, using weaner pigs as a model for young children.
Male and female weaner piglets were randomly allocated to 4 dietary treatment groups: 1) pork lard (LRD); 2) natural palm olein (NPO); 3) chemically inter-esterified PO (CPO) and 4) enzymatically inter-esterified PO (EnPO) as the fat source. Diets were formulated with 11% lard or with palm olein in order to provide 31% of digestible energy from fat in the diet and were balanced for cholesterol, protein and energy across treatments.
From 8 weeks onwards, pigs on EnPO diet gained (P < 0.05) more weight than all other groups. Feed conversion efficiency (feed to gain) over the 12 week experimental period did not vary between treatment groups. Plasma LDL-C content and LDL-C/HDL-C ratio in pigs fed natural PO tended to be lower compared to all other diets. The natural PO lowered (P < 0.02) the plasma triglyceride (TG) content relative to the lard or EnPO diets, but was not different from the CPO diet. The natural PO diet was associated with lower (P < 0.05) saturated fat levels in subcutaneous adipose tissue than the CPO and EnPO diets that had lower saturated fat levels than the lard diet. Female pigs had lower lean and higher fat and fat:lean ratio in the body compared with male pigs. No difference in weight gain or blood lipid parameters was observed between sexes.
The observations on plasma TG, muscle and adipose tissue saturated fatty acid contents and back fat (subcutaneous) thickness suggest that natural palm oil may reduce deposition of body fat. In addition, dietary supplementation with natural palm oil containing palmitic acid at different positions in meat producing animals may lead to the production of meat and meat products with lower saturated fats. An increase in fat content and a decrease in lean content in female pigs resulted in an increased body fat:lean ratio but gender had no effect on blood lipid parameters or insulin concentrations.