For some time we are reading anything and everything about palm oil in food products, its consequences for human health and its impact on environmental. So, we have decided to talk about palm oil in food products and deepen its controversies in different articles. Here, we try to explain the link between palm oil and human health.
Palm oil and health: dangerous or not dangerous?
In the food industry, palm oil is used as a cooking oil and shortening and in the manufacture of margarine, non-dairy creamers and ice cream, but also chocolate, biscuits and confectionary industry. It is also used in products where animal fats are unacceptable on religious grounds.
It has excellent cooking properties, it maintains its properties even under high temperatures, its smooth and creamy texture and absence of smell make it a perfect ingredient in many recipes, including baked goods like cookies. Furthermore, in it’s raw form it has been found to have numerous health benefits. So, why all the recent controversy about palm oil and the human health?
In effect, palm oil in its natural raw form promises to deliver many health benefits, thanks to the high concentration of Vitamin E-tocotrienols. Tocotrienol is a form of natural Vitamin E that can protect against brain cell damage, prevent cancer and reduce cholesterol.
Here some of the health benefits linked to raw palm oil:
- Lowering cholesterol: studies at the University of Illinois demonstrated that raw pal oil capsules reduce the level of high cholesterol.
- Antioxidant power, due to the presence 15 times more of Vitamin A than carrots
- Cancer: studies show that palm oil tocotrienol inhibits the growth of skin, pancreatic, stomach, liver, lung, colon, breast, prostate and other cancers.
- Atherosclerosis: some researches show that adding raw palm oil to the diet can reverse the process of atherosclerosis.
So, with these numerous benefits, why palm oil is suffering so bad press? The answer is the saturated fat and palm oil is made up of over 50% of saturated fat. Saturated fat turns to trans-fat when are involved in a refining process called hydrogenation or partial hydrogenation. Most of the palm oil used in our processed and packaged foods are hydrogenated or partial hydrogenated, so all that natural and powerful goodness has been destroyed.
Here, the risks associated with palm oil and the trans-fat.
- Coronary heart disease: the primary risk identified for trans-fat consumption is an elevated risk of coronary heart disease.
- Cholesterol: eating trans-fat increases the level of LDL.
- Diabetes: the risk of type 2 diabetes increases with trans-fat.
- Obesity: obesity is often linked to trans-fat and may increase weight gain and abdominal fat, despite a similar caloric intake.
- Liver Dysfunction: trans-fat are metabolized differently by the liver than other fats, interfering with delta 6 desaturase, an enzyme important to the functioning of cells.
- Prostate cancer: recent studies show that there is a link between the consumption of trans-fat and prostate cancer.
So even though raw palm oil is healthy, it is rarely used in this form in processed food. Differently, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated palm oil are used in many food products.