Palm oil has a role to play among the fats we consume because of its specific composition, and particularly to meet technological requirements of some of the foods we consume. In many food applications, the use of palm oil has been instrumental in lowering (unhealthy) trans fat levels. Scientific research confirms that from a nutritional point of view, there is no indication that consumption of palm oil in a balanced diet is related to any specific health concern.
The importance of fat
Everyone needs fat in their diet. Fat is a source of energy and some of its fatty acids provide essential building blocks for the cells in the body. Fats also help the body absorb the vitamins A, D, E and K. Not all fat that is stored in the body originates from fat in the diet. It can also be produced by the body itself.
Fats are a major energy source for the body, along with carbohydrates and proteins. To achieve a healthy diet, the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) advises that a minimum of 20 per cent and a maximum of 35 per cent of daily energy intake should come from fat (EFSA 2010). Similar recommendations are provided by the 2010 guidelines of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO-WHO 2010), which recommends that a minimum of 15 per cent and maximum of 35 per cent of the daily energy intake should come from fat.
The role of palm oil
Palm oil has a role to play among the fats we consume because of its specific composition, and particularly to meet technological requirements of some of the foods we consume. From a nutritional point of view, there is no indication that consumption of palm oil in a balanced diet is related to any specific health concern. The relation between nutrients and health must be considered within the whole diet and not in terms of single food items.
Palm oil and heart disease
Compared to other fats and oils, palm oil has average levels of saturated fats. A recent meta-analysis on the effect of substituting palm oil with other fats and oils on validated biomarkers of heart disease, showed that substituting palm oil by other fats resulted in a mix of favorable and unfavorable changes in markers of CHD and CVD. Clear favorable changes occurred when palm oil replaced trans fatty acids (Fattore 2014).
Palm oil intake
In food products palm oil is often used in combination with other fats and oils which together determine the fatty acid composition of the product and eventually the effects on health. No Europe-wide data exists on palm oil consumption. In France, in 2013 palm oil consumption was 2.7 grams per day representing approximately 4% of the total intake of the SAFA in adults (CREDOC 2014).
One of the reasons for the increase in palm oil use in the food industry in the nineties is the move away from using unhealthy trans fats. Because palm oil is naturally smooth and stable, it is a good replacement for partially-hydrogenated fat containing trans fatty acids.Read more