Health and palm oil

Health and palm oil: Expert opinion

In discussions about palm oil consumption, the subject of health comes up quite frequently. To understand the issues involved, let us review the characteristics of its composition.

Saturated and unsaturated fatty acids

Like all oils, palm oil is composed of fatty acids. In the case of palm oil, half of these are saturated fatty acids and the other half are unsaturated fatty acids. Both are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our bodies. It is saturated fatty acids in excessive quantities that can have negative effects on the cardiovascular system – but that’s the case with all saturated fats.

Moderate intake of saturated fatty acids

Today, palm oil is a moderate contributor to the daily intake of saturated fat among French people: 2.8g per person per day, or 3.7% of total fat consumption (source CREDOC* 2014).

The importance of diversity in food fats

Nutritionists tell us that the perfect vegetable oil in a natural form does not exist. All oils are complementary in their composition and uses (consistency, etc.), which is why we should diversify our fat sources. This means that palm oilcertainly has its place in a balanced diet, provided, of course, that consumption remains moderate. Remember, too, that, as with any vegetable oil, a product’s palm oil content does not say everything about its nutritional value. That value is determined by the overall composition of the product, to what degree it is consumed, and how it fits into a balanced diet.

Avoid consuming trans-fatty acids

LThe use of palm oil in our food has an often overlooked benefit: it is able to remain solid at room temperature, which means the artificial process called “partial hydrogenation” can be avoided. It is this process that produces the “trans-”fatty acids that are known to have adverse effects on health.

And don’t forget…

Palm oil has other nutritional qualities: in its pure state, it is naturally rich in beta carotene. It is even the natural foodstuff with the highest beta-carotene content, boasting about 15 times more than the carrot! It is also the oil with the highest vitamin E content (tocopherols) after wheat germ oil. Once refined, it retains much of this vitamin E, which keeps it from turning rancid and protects its many qualities.

*Centre de Recherche pour l’Étude et l’Observation des Conditions de Vie – the Frenc Research Center for the Study and Observation of Living Conditions