JAKARTA, SAWIT INDONESIA – Entering the holy month of Ramadhan 1441 H is indeed very different due to the outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. To fight the disease, it is not only important to practice social distancing by eliminating religious activities, but also to maintain health by consuming foods that can improve the body’s immunity and maintain lung health. One of them is contained in the Palm Oil.

Gadjah Mada University’s expert on Food Technology and Agricultural Products, Prof. Sri Raharjo revealed the importance of consuming foods that contain pro-vitamin A, vitamin E and vitamin C to maintain lung health in the face of COVID-19 pandemic. This was explained by Sri at an online seminar or webinar titled “Virgin Red Palm Oil (VRO) to enhance immunity against the COVID-19 pandemic” organized by the Indonesian Oil Palm Society (Masyarakat Perkelapasawitan Indonesia – MAKSI) on Tuesday (21/04/2019).

Sri Raharjo explained that VRO contains beta carotene or pro-vitamin A 15 times higher than pro-vitamin A contained in carrots. Meanwhile, palm oil also contains vitamin E (tocopherol) and high tocotrienols, known as antioxidants that can boost the human immunity system.

“Vitamin E, tocotrienol, and pro-vitamin A dissolved in VRO are powerful antioxidants that can ward off free radicals. Vitamin C, which is available in many fruits, functions to refresh vitamin E as a weakened antioxidant after reacting with free radicals, ” Sri explained.

Sri also explained that VRO contains palmitic acid which is a saturated fat and one of the dominant components in palm oil. Palmitic acid plays an important role in providing protection for healthy lungs. Palmitic acid is the main component (about 60%) of the phospholipid compound that lines the inner walls of the alveoli of the lungs. This phospholipid acts as a surfactant that can help facilitate the exchange of gases (oxygen and carbon dioxide) from the alveoli cavity to blood vessels or vice versa.

“When someone is infected with COVID-19, the lungs become the main target. The cells in the lungs’ alveoli, which are responsible for producing phospholipids, can be damaged and are unable to produce phospholipids anymore. As a result, the process of gas exchange in the alveoli cavity cannot take place normally. In this condition the sufferer will have difficulty in breathing. That requires a ventilator to help sufferers breathe, ” Said Sri.

Although from the beginning, the palmitic acid as the main component of phospholipids which functions as a surfactant, can be synthesized by our body. However, the intake of palmitic acid from food is also needed to maintain adequate availability in the body.

Meanwhile, the editor in chief of Kulinologi Magazine who is also the author of a book entitled nutrition and health, Hindah Jatiningrum Muaris also concurred with the view. In his presentation, Hindah stated that like margarine the VRO texture is not salty, thus it does not change the taste when mixed with food recipes.

But despite of the fact, Chairman of the Indonesian Palm Oil Society (MAKSI) Darmono Taniwiryono said that most of Indonesian people are not aware of such health benefits from palm oil. He regretted the lack of education and socialization regarding the VRO content among the Indonesian people, and even there is still a negative stigma about the content of oil palm as a result of the black campaign against Indonesian palm oil industry.

“In Africa, VRO is the basic ingredient of daily food for its people, but in Indonesia, there are still many people who do not understand it, even do not know if the food contains palm oil. Like the composition of the main components of palm fatty acids, which are exactly the composition of the fatty acid components of breast milk and have been the basis for formula milk,” Darmono stressed. ( (This article is written by Ra-Tri)

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