Palm Oil: Good or Bad ?


Palm oil which is extracted from the flesh of the palm fruit is the most commonly used vegetable oil in the world today. Since its cost is very cheap, it is the most preferred oil in the food industry. After the banning of trans fatty acids due to their negative cardiovascular effects, palm oil has been used as a substitute all over the world instead of soybean oil. 


Based on researches, palm oil has both negative and positive effects on health. Palm oil is about half saturated and half unsaturated oil, so it occurs in nature as a semisolid at room temperature. The palm oil fractionation has two different components which are palm olein (liquid) and palm stearin  (solid). The fatty acid composition of palm olein is approximately 45% saturated fat and 54% unsaturated fat. The main saturated fatty acids are 40–44% palmitic acid and 4–5% stearic acid. The unsaturated fatty acids are 43% oleic acid and 12% linoleic acid. When compared to other vegetable oils, palm oil has much more amount of saturated fats. It leads to an increase in the blood level of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (Kadandale, Marten, & Smith, 2019). According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the consumption of a high amount of saturated fat causes cardiovascular diseases (2003). Also, palm oil consists of tocotrienols which are unsaturated fats and a rich source of vitamin E. Thus, they can act as an antioxidant and it can reduce the blood glucose level and stroke risk. In addition to fat fraction, palm oil consists of carotenoids which are pigments giving orange-red color as a minor component. It can be used as a natural source of β-carotene. 


Palm oil is very attractive for the food processing industry. Palm and palm kernel oils are ideal for the production of special fats such as Cocoa Butter Equivalent (CBE), Cocoa Butter Substitute (CBS), Toffee fat, non-dairy Fat, cream filling fat, RBD Palm oil, HPK oil. It is known that these kinds of fats are generally used in chocolates, candies, cakes, coffee whiteners, coatings, whipped topping on cakes, creams, fried snacks.


Nutella is the most well-known snack whose ingredient is palm oil and it has been controversial for years if it is harmful to health. In 2017, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) stated that palm oil used in many products, especially Ferrero's popular brand Nutella, may cause cancer. EFSA announced that if palm oil is refined at temperatures higher than 200 degrees, it produces more carcinogenic substances than other vegetable oils. However, according to the statement made by Ferrero, they stated that Nutella does not contain carcinogenic substances and that it is not harmful to health because they heat the oil at 80 degrees. Producers prefer palm oil since it does not contain trans fat, its melting point is high and its production is relatively much cheaper.


CONTENT: Ceyda İpek Selçuk




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