The link between dietary fats and cardiovascular disease has created a growing interest in dietary red palm oil research. Also, the link between nutrition and health, oxidative stress and the severity or progression of disease has stimulated further interest in the potential role of red palm oil (a natural antioxidant product) to improve oxidative status by reducing oxidative stress in patients with cardiovascular disease, cancer and other chronic diseases. In spite of its level of saturated fatty acid content (50%) red palm oil has not been found to promote atherosclerosis and/or arterial thrombosis. This is probably due to the ratio of its saturated fatty acid to unsaturated fatty acid content and its high concentration of antioxidants such as b-carotene, tocotrienols, tocopherols and vitamin E. It has also been reported that the consumption of red palm oil reduces the level of endogenous cholesterol, and this seems to be due to the presence of the tocotrienols and the peculiar isomeric position of its fatty acids. The benefits of red palm oil to health include a reduction in the risk of arterial thrombosis and/or atherosclerosis, inhibition of endogenous cholesterol biosynthesis, platelet aggregation, a reduction in oxidative stress and a reduction in blood pressure. It has also been shown that dietary red palm oil, taken in moderation in animals and humans, promotes the efficient
utilisation of nutrients, activates hepatic drug metabolising enzymes, facilitates the haemoglobinisation of red blood cells and improves immune function. This review provides a comprehensive overview of the nutritional, physiological and biochemical roles of red palm oil in improving wellbeing and quality of life.