Experts Skeptical of Dalmia's Pomace Oil 'Discovery'

With one sample, the Indian Olive Association's asserted "the humble olive pomace oil contains generous quantities of antioxidants."

VN Dalmia
By Curtis Cord
Aug. 9, 2013 12:11 UTC
VN Dalmia

It is no longer just in the big cities of India where mod­ern health men­aces like dia­betes are a major prob­lem. The cri­sis is every­where in the coun­try as a culture’s tra­di­tion­ally starchy, sug­ary diet meets ever more seden­tary lifestyles to form a per­fect storm for a health care sys­tem on the brink.

So there is lit­tle won­der mar­keters in the coun­try that is pro­jected to soon over­take China as the world’s most pop­u­lous seize every oppor­tu­nity to high­light the health ben­e­fits of their prod­ucts, even if some claims might be a stretch.

Last September, Leonardo Olive Pomace Oil, one of India’s lead­ing brands, was served a notice by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) to with­draw its print adver­tise­ments that claimed the prod­uct helps fight cho­les­terol and heart dis­ease, low­ers blood pres­sure, con­trols and pre­vents dia­betes and fights can­cer.”

In its deci­sion, the ASCI said, Pomace olive oil is pro­duced by sol­vent extrac­tion and has poly­cyclic aro­matic hydro­car­bons (PAHs) which are both muta­genic and car­cino­genic. This is con­tra­dic­tory to the claim made for olive pomace oil in fight­ing can­cer. Additionally, the health ben­e­fits of olive oil are from extra vir­gin olive oil due to its antiox­i­dant con­tent, which is not present in pomace olive oil. Hence mis­lead­ing claims are por­trayed about the ben­e­fits of con­sum­ing pomace olive oil.”

Since extra vir­gin olive oil is unre­fined, meets cer­tain chem­i­cal para­me­ters and is free of taste defects, it is widely con­sid­ered to be richer in nutri­ents than the refined grades which have under­gone indus­trial pro­cess­ing. Now, in yet another effort to lift the sta­tus of olive pomace oil, India’s largest olive oil com­pany says that’s not always the case.

In an email sent last week to the International Olive Council (IOC), VN Dalmia, chair­man of Dalmia Continental, which sells Leonardo brand oils, touted the dis­cov­ery of micro-nutri­ents in olive pomace oil.” Dalmia, who is also the pres­i­dent of the Indian Olive Association, pro­duced lab reports that showed a higher amount of the com­pound toco­pherol in a sam­ple of olive pomace oil than in any of nine sam­ples of extra vir­gin olive oil tested. Dalmia pointed out that the olive pomace oil tested had no added vir­gin oil that would pre­sum­ably con­tribute some of the com­pound.

Dalmia has been crit­i­cized for focus­ing his mar­ket­ing efforts on olive pomace oil — the low­est edi­ble grade made by chem­i­cally extract­ing the last bit of oil from left­over olive pits and pulp, that is shunned by much of the world where it is rel­e­gated to use in food­ser­vice.

Speaking in April at a sem­i­nar that was part of the New York International Olive Oil Competition, Dalmia laid out what some atten­dees called con­vinc­ing rea­sons for ask­ing Indians to con­sider the grade that can’t even be legally called olive oil.”

Traditional Indian cook­ing often calls for oil to be added to a hot pan, which would elim­i­nate the sought-after tastes and many of the nutri­ents in extra vir­gin olive oil. Olive pomace oil costs far less than other grades, and what Indians really need is the low­est hur­dle” to a monoun­sat­u­rated fat that can replace the unhealthy polyun­sat­u­rated seed oils that have been con­tribut­ing to their early deaths, Dalmia argued.

Tocopherols are among the ben­e­fi­cial chem­i­cal com­pounds in olives and olive oil, and Dalmia cited in his email to IOC Executive Director Jean-Louis Barjol lab reports show­ing that the sam­ple of olive pomace oil had higher lev­els of both alpha- and beta-toco­pherol than the nine sam­ples of Italian extra vir­gin olive oils tested in 2012 that included the brand names Colavita, Colonna and Monini.

Barjol responded by ask­ing Dalmia for a sam­ple of the olive pomace oil that was tested so he could have an IOC lab con­duct a sep­a­rate analy­sis, but con­firm­ing the high lev­els of toco­pherol in the one, or as one chemist called mirac­u­lous,” sam­ple of olive pomace oil might serve lit­tle pur­pose.

Studies have shown that polyphe­nols and micronu­tri­ents are prac­ti­cally elim­i­nated dur­ing the harsh processes of chem­i­cal refin­ing and deodor­iza­tion. Tocopherol is sen­si­tive to the refin­ing process and it breaks down eas­ily,” said Selina Wang, research direc­tor of the UC Davis Olive Center.” In the same way the com­pound fights oxi­da­tion in our bod­ies, Wang explained, it spends itself quickly com­bat­ing the process dur­ing every stage of refin­ing.

Tocopherol and other com­pounds can be added artif­i­cally to olive pomace oil, though pro­duc­ers rarely go through the trou­ble. Wang said the IOC lab could see if the toco­pherol has a struc­ture that would indi­cate it was added after pro­cess­ing. Asked if such an analy­sis would be per­formed on the pomace oil sam­ple he would soon receive from Dalmia, Barjol said, Pomace oils gen­er­ally con­tain higher amounts of toco­pherols than the olive oils obtained from pulp. However, dur­ing refin­ing can see sig­nif­i­cant losses of these com­pounds. That is why in this case being a refined pomace oil, we requested a cer­tifi­cate of full analy­sis to the stake­hold­ers as well as a prod­uct sam­ple in order to study it prop­erly.”

When Wang was asked if she would find it sur­pris­ing to dis­cover higher lev­els of toco­pherols in olive pomace oil than in extra vir­gin olive oils, she responded with lit­tle hes­i­ta­tion: Absolutely.”

It makes no sense,” said another chemist, olive oil expert Gino Celletti, who also noticed irreg­u­lar­i­ties in the lab reports for the extra vir­gin sam­ples Dalmia pre­sented. One sam­ple, for exam­ple, showed a per­ox­ide value so high that it would have cer­tainly resulted in the detec­tion of ran­cid­ity by taste testers, strip­ping the oil of its extra vir­gin sta­tus, yet no defects were recorded in the lab report. Celletti also ques­tioned why nine extra vir­gin olive oils were tested, but just one pomace oil.

The ele­vated level (370mg/kg) of tocophorols found in the sam­ple of olive pomace oil would make any author­ity laugh,” Celletti said. I have never seen a value of alfa-toco­pherols like that in a pomace oil and I do not know who could be inter­ested in eval­u­at­ing it in a refined pomace oil any­way.” Celletti said toco­pherols lev­els are reduced to just trace amounts dur­ing refin­ing.


One of our mem­bers tested Olive Pomace Oil (OPO) in his lab and found toco­pherols at a pretty high level,” Dalmia explained. It did not seem illog­i­cal because sev­eral other sol­vent-extracted refined oils have high toco­pherols,” he said. Technologists here explain to me that the rea­son lies in the effi­ciency of the sol­vent extrac­tion process. It seemed log­i­cal, there­fore, that OPO should have some micro-nutri­ents too. So we decided to have a sam­ple tested in an IOC-accred­ited lab. When we got a result that indi­cated a high level of toco­pherols, I asked for an analy­sis of extra vir­gin oils in order to com­pare. So they sent me the results of extra vir­gin oils picked up ran­domly from the mar­ket.”

The Indian Olive Association issued a press release with the title Generous Micro Nutrients Discovered in Olive Pomace Oil,” cit­ing the lab test on a sin­gle sam­ple of olive pomace oil which it said was blast­ing myths and con­tra­dict­ing asser­tions of food writ­ers and nutri­tion­ists.”

This pio­neer­ing inves­ti­ga­tion blows apart the mis­ap­pre­hen­sions and mis­per­cep­tions of crit­ics prov­ing them to be com­pletely and fac­tu­ally incor­rect. The hum­ble olive pomace oil actu­ally con­tains gen­er­ous quan­ti­ties of antiox­i­dants,” the release said.

The ongo­ing efforts by VN Dalmia to lift the sta­tus of olive pomace oil illus­trates his con­fi­dence that the grade will serve as the entry-level MUFA that will spark a change for 1.3 bil­lion peo­ple whose diets could use the help. However, in an indus­try rife with con­sumer con­fu­sion, what this lat­est ini­tia­tive amounts to, some experts say, is just more mis­in­for­ma­tion.


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