Palm kernel oil is an edible plant oil derived from the kernel of the oil palm Elaeis guineensis. It should not be confused with the other two edible oils derived from palm fruits: palm oil, extracted from the pulp of the oil palm fruit, and coconut oil, extracted from the kernel of the coconut.
Palm kernel oil, which is semi-solid at room temperature, is more saturated than palm oil and comparable to coconut oil.
Oil from the African oil palm Elaeis guineensis has long been recognized in West African countries. European merchants trading with West Africa occasionally purchased palm oil for use in Europe, but palm kernel oil remained rare outside West Africa.
In the 1960s, research and development (R&D) in oil palm breeding began to expand after Malaysia's Department of Agriculture established an exchange program with West African economies and four private plantations formed the Oil Palm Genetics Laboratory. The Malaysian government also established Kolej Serdang, which became the Universiti Pertanian Malaysia (UPM) in the 1970s to train agricultural and agroindustrial engineers and agribusiness graduates to conduct research in the field.
In 1979 with support from the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI) and UPM, the government set up the Palm Oil Research Institute of Malaysia (Porim), a public-and-private-coordinated institution.[clarification needed] B.C. Sekhar was appointed founder and chairman. Porim's scientists work in oil palm tree breeding, palm oil nutrition and potential oleochemical use. Porim was renamed Malaysian Palm Oil Board in 2000.
Palm kernel oil, similarly to coconut oil, is high in saturated fats and is more saturated than palm oil. Palm kernel oil is high in lauric acid which has been shown to raise blood cholesterol levels, both as LDL-C (cholesterol contained in low-density lipoprotein) and HDL-C (cholesterol contained in high-density lipoprotein). Palm kernel oil does not contain cholesterol or trans fatty acids.
Palm kernel oil is commonly used in commercial cooking because it is lower in cost than other oils and remains stable at high cooking temperatures. The oil can also be stored longer than other vegetable oils.
The approximate concentration of fatty acids (FAs) in palm kernel oil is as follows:
Splitting of oils and fats by hydrolysis, or under basic conditions saponification, yields fatty acids, with glycerin (glycerol) as a byproduct. The split-off fatty acids are a mixture ranging from C4 to C18, depending on the type of oil or fat.
Resembling coconut oil, palm kernel oil is packed with myristic and lauric fatty acids and therefore suitable for the manufacture of soaps, washing powders and personal care products. Lauric acid is important in soap making: a good soap must contain at least 15 per cent laurate for quick lathering, while soap made for use in sea water is based on virtually 100 per cent laurate.