More and more people consume palm oil around the world. However, it is a controversial food.
On the one hand, it shows that there are some health benefits.
On the other hand, it can be dangerous for cardiovascular health. There are also environmental concerns related to steady increase in production.
This article gives a detailed look at palm oil and its impact on health, environment and sustainability.
What is palm oil?
Palm oil is extracted from oil palm fruit. Unrefined palm oil is sometimes called red palm oil due to its red orange color.
The main source of palm oil is the tree Elaeis guineensis , originating in West and Southwest Africa, has been used in this area for more than 5,000 years.
A similar palm oil is Elais oleifera found in South America, but rarely grown commercially. However, a hybrid of these two plants is sometimes used to produce palm oil.
In recent years, oil palm cultivation has expanded to Southeast Asia, including Malaysia and Indonesia. These two countries currently produce more than 80% of the world's palm oil supply .
Like coconut oil, palm oil in semi-solid form at room temperature. However, its melting point is 95 ° F (35 ° C), significantly higher than coconut oil 76 ° F (24 ° C). It is due to the different fatty acid components of the two oils.
Palm oil is one of the cheapest and most popular oils in the world, accounting for one third of global vegetable oil production .
It is important to note that palm oil and palm kernel oil should not be confused.
While both originate from the same tree, palm kernel oil is extracted from seeds. It brings different health benefits.
Summary: Palm oil comes from indigenous palm trees in Africa, where it has been consumed for thousands of years. It is semi-solid at room temperature and differs from palm kernel oil in terms of nutrient content.
How is palm oil used?
Palm oil is used for cooking and is also added to many ready-to-eat foods sold at grocery stores.
Its taste is considered delicious and smells of soil. Some people describe its flavor like carrots or pumpkin.
This oil is a staple food in West Africa and is available in tropical dishes, especially suitable for curry and other spicy dishes.
It is often used for sautéing or frying because of its high smoke point 450 ° F (232 ° C) and remains stable at high heat .
Palm oil is sometimes added peanut butter and other nuts butter as a stabilizer to prevent oil from splitting and floating on the face.
In addition to nuts butter, palm oil can be found in many other foods, including:
- Baked foods like bread, biscuits and muffins
- Protein bars and diet bars
- Ice-cream coffee
In the 1980s, palm oil was replaced by trans fat in many products due to concerns that consumption of tropical oil could be dangerous to cardiovascular health. However, after the study revealed health risks of Trans fat , food manufacturers continue to use palm oil.
This oil is also found in many non-food products, such as toothpaste, soap and cosmetics.
In addition, it can be used to produce biodiesel fuel, which is used as an alternative energy source .
Summary: Palm oil is used in cooking, especially West African dishes and curries. It is also found in certain foods, products and fuels.
This is the nutritional content of one tablespoon (14 grams) of palm oil :
- Calories: 114
- Fat: 14 grams
- Saturated fat: 7 grams
- Monounsaturated fat: 5 grams
- Polyunsaturated fat: 5 grams
- Vitamin E: 11% RDI.
All calories of palm oil come from fat. The fat content consists of 50% saturated fatty acids, 40% monounsaturated fatty acids and 10% polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Species saturated fat The main find in palm oil is palmitic acid, which contributes 44% of calories. It also contains a large amount of oleic acid and a small amount of linoleic acid and stearic acid.
The orange-red substance of red palm oil comes from antioxidants called carotenoids, including beta-carotene that your body can convert into vitamin A.
In extracted palm oil, the liquid portion is removed by crystallization and filtration. The solid remains with more saturated fat and higher melting temperature .
Summary: Palm oil is 100% fat, of which half is saturated. It also contains vitamin E, and red palm oil contains antioxidants called carotenoids that your body can convert into vitamin A.
It can be beneficial to health
Palm oil has been linked to a number of health benefits, including protecting brain function, reducing heart disease risk factors and improving vitamin A.
Palm oil is a great source of tocotrienol, a powerful antioxidant vitamin E that can support brain health.
Animal and human studies show that tocotrienols in palm oil can help protect fragile polyunsaturated fats in the brain, slow the process of memory loss, reduce the risk of stroke and prevent the developing brain damage .
In a two-year study of 121 people with brain damage, the tocotrienol group, which was derived from palm oil twice a day, remained stable, while the placebo group experienced increased damage .
Palm oil is said to have a protective effect against heart disease.
Although some research results are inconsistent, this oil often has beneficial effects on heart disease risk factors, including reducing bad LDL cholesterol and "good" HDL cholesterol .
A large analysis in 51 studies showed lower levels of total cholesterol and LDL in those who followed a palm oil-rich diet compared with those who ate a lot of trans fat or myristic acid and lauric acid .
A recent 3-month study examined the cholesterol-lowering effects of palm oil produced from a plant hybrid. Elaeis guineensis and Elaeis oleifera .
In this study, people use 25ml (2 tablespoons) of olive oil or palm oil daily. Based on 15% LDL cholesterol reduction in both groups, the researchers suggested that this palm oil could be called "tropical olive oil" .
However, it is important to note that increasing or decreasing LDL cholesterol levels alone cannot predict the risk of heart disease, but many other factors are involved.
However, a controlled study in 1995 found that palm oil may help slow the disease in people with heart disease.
In this 18-month study, seven out of 25 people treated with oil showed improvement and 16 remained stable. In contrast, the disease of 10 out of 25 people in the placebo group is still progressing and there is no improvement at all .
Improve vitamin A status
Palm oil can help improve vitamin A status in people who are deficient or at risk of deficiency.
Research for pregnant women in developing countries has shown that consumption of red palm oil increases the amount of vitamin A in the blood, as well as in breastfed babies .
One study found that people with cystic fibrosis had difficulty absorbing fat-soluble vitamins that increased the amount of vitamin A in the blood after taking 2-3 to three tablespoons of red palm oil every day for eight weeks .
Red palm oil has also been shown to enhance vitamin A levels in adults and children .
In fact, a study in India showed that preschool children use 5 ml (1 teaspoon) per day to increase their vitamin A levels more than children who take vitamin A supplements .
Summary: Palm oil can help protect brain function, reduce risk factors for heart disease and increase vitamin A levels in certain groups of people.
Potential health risks
Although most studies show that palm oil has a protective effect on cardiovascular health, other studies report conflicting results ( 29).
A study was done in women with high cholesterol.
It shows a dense and dense particle LDL (sdLDL) - a type of cholesterol associated with heart disease - increased with palm oil but decreased with other oils. However, combining palm oil and rice bran oil reduces the concentration of sdLDL .
Another study found that sdLDL did not change in the palm oil consumption group, while large LDL particles increased. Large LDL particles are considered to cause less heart attacks than small LDL particles .
Other studies have reported an increase in LDL cholesterol in response to the use of palm oil. However, in these studies did not measure LDL particle size .
It is important to note that these are only potential risk factors and not evidence to show that palm oil can cause heart disease.
However, an animal study showed that consumption of heated oil several times can cause plaque in the arteries due to the antioxidant activity of the oil.
When mice eat food containing palm oil that has been cooked 10 times, they develop large patches and other signs of heart disease for 6 months, while mice fed fresh palm oil do not .
Summary: Palm oil may increase some risk factors for heart disease in some people. Repeat the process of warming oil can reduce the ability of antioxidants and contribute to the development of heart disease.
Controversies about palm oil
There are a number of ethical issues related to the impact of palm oil production on the environment, wildlife and communities.
Over the past decades, increasing demand has led to an unprecedented expansion of palm oil production in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.
These countries have a humid humid climate ideal for planting oil palm trees.
However, for planting oil palm forests, tropical forests and peat land are being destroyed.
A recent analysis showed that 45% of land in Southeast Asia currently used for palm oil production was once forested in 1990, including more than half of palm oil plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia .
Deforestation is expected to have devastating effects on global warming because forests play a decisive role in reducing greenhouse gases by absorbing carbon from the atmosphere.
In addition, the destruction of natural landscapes causes changes in ecosystems that threaten the health and diversity of wildlife.
Of particular interest is the impact on endangered species like chimpanzees, which are facing extinction due to habitat loss .
There have also been reports of human rights violations by palm oil producers, such as illegal liquidation of agricultural and forest land, low pay, unsafe working conditions and a significant reduction in quality. live .
Fortunately, experts say there are more ethical and sustainable methods.
For example, a 2015 analysis shows that limiting the expansion of new palm oil plantations in non-forest areas and growing only in areas with low carbon stocks can reduce emissions. greenhouse gas up to 60% .
(RSPO) is an organization committed to making the production of oil as environmentally friendly, culturally and sustainable as possible.
They only give RSPO certificates to manufacturers that comply with their standards by following certain guidelines, including:
- Do not erase forests or areas with endangered species, protected ecosystems or important areas to meet basic or traditional community needs.
- Drastically reduce the use of pesticides and fire.
- Equitable treatment of workers according to domestic and international labor rights standards.
- Information and advice with the local community before developing new oil palm plantations on their land.
Summary: The replacement of tropical forests and peatland with palm oil has caused damage to the environment, wildlife and the quality of life of the people.
Palm oil is one of the most widely used oils in the world.
However, the impact of production on the environment, wildlife health and the lives of indigenous peoples are deeply concerned.
If you want to use palm oil, buy brands that are ethically certified RSPO.
Also, since you can get the same health benefits from other oils and foods, it's best to use other sources of fat for most of your daily needs.