Easy to say palm oil: let's get to know it better to really defend ourselves

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Carlos Laforet Coll
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To better understand what the health risks of consuming palm oil are and if it is really the most dangerous fat on the market, we decided to seek the advice of doctors and nutritionists.

Don't store avocado like this: it's dangerous

We do not like palm oil, we repeat, in particular due to the devastating effects that its production has on the environment. What this article proposes, however, is understand if palm vegetable fat is really the "absolute bad" for our health, the worst we can find in the foods we commonly bring to the table.

For example, let's assume that all producers decide not to use palm oil in their foods, replacing it with other fats. Would our health really be safe? To better understand how things are, what are the health risks of palm oil consumption and if it really is the most dangerous fat on the market, we decided to seek the advice of some doctors and nutritionists.

But let's start from the beginning and try to better understand what kind of fat palm oil is. Here's what the Dr. Alessandro Targhetta, surgeon, specialist in Geriatrics and Gerontology and expert in Homeopathy and Phytotherapy:

“Palm oil, despite being of vegetable origin, is an exception. It has a fatty acid composition more similar to butter and so it lends itself well, due to its chemical properties, to replace it in industrial preparations: it is solid, tasteless, does not go rancid and resists temperature well, something that other oils of vegetable origin (olive, sunflower, etc.) do not do, which with cooking give rise to toxic peroxides. Its massive entry into our foods took place following the tightening of the regulations of the World Health Organization on hydrogenated fats, such as margarines, a solid transformation of vegetable oils, rich in trans fatty acids, polysaturated, very harmful for the our health ".

The question we all ask ourselves is does it really hurt? Continue Nameplate:

"It is true that it is rich in saturated fat (45-50%), but compared to butter, lard and margarine itself, it has less. It certainly has less polyunsaturated fats than olive and sunflower oil and is therefore more atherogenic. It hurts? It depends on how much we consume. Being a saturated fat, it should be considered exactly like all other saturated fats (butter, lard, etc.). So it is good to limit its consumption. What is wrong, however, is to argue that other fats, such as butter, margarine or other vegetable oils, especially if cooked, are not harmful, while palm oil does.

What would then be an acceptable consumption threshold not to run into health problems?

"That of Maximum 10% of total daily calories. A quota that however includes all saturated fats, both those of vegetable and animal origin, not only those of palm oil ".

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There is a lot of talk around the world about palm oil, but what did studies prove about this vegetable fat? He did a good search for us Roberta Martinoli, nutritionist biologist and surgeon, which made use of Pub-Med, the largest scientific database in existence. Clicking the word "palm oil" they came out well 2003 scientific works, of which 152 in the last year alone. This obviously means the great interest (and interests) that there are in the production and use of this oil.

Well not all studies are against, Dr. Martinoli found as many as 19 in which the beneficial effects on health related in particular to the presence of tocotrienols that would be able to suppress the proliferation of neoplastic cells are documented. Also in the study entitled "Palm oil and the heart: a review"(World J Cardiol. 2015 Mar 26; 7 (3): 144-9)) the authors even come to the conclusion that palm oil would be able to protect against the formation of atherosclerotic plaques thanks to the antioxidant power due to the presence of vitamin A and vitamin C.

The doctor points out though a fundamental thing:

“We know that not all oils are the same. There is a huge difference between extra virgin olive oil and olive oil. But also there is not just one palm oil: the red one is considered healthier than refined palm oil (which appears colorless since boiling in a few minutes destroys the carotenoids) due to the many antioxidant substances it contains. So if the works that document the beneficial effect on health are done using palm oil obtained from the first pressing of the fruits and then refined palm oil ends up in our biscuits it's not quite the same thing ”.

(An interesting table where palm kernel is missing, which has 85% saturated fat)

And of course this is just what happens. You know that palm oil is found in 93% of packaged products including milk intended for infants? We obviously speak of refined oil, which as explained by the Dr. Raniero Facchini, specialist in digestive system surgery, it is very dear to companies because:

"it is cheap but also because it is a very stable oil, it hardly turns rancid and therefore allows products to stay on the shelf longer ".

But be careful there are, just like extra virgin olive oil, of the sub categories which in the case of palm oil are l'integral oil (the red one),refined oil and palm kernel.

Dr. Facchini clarifies:

“To understand the difference between these oils it is useful to do a parallelism with extra virgin olive oil which as sub-categories has olive oil (refined) and pomace oil (obtained from peel, pulp and stone waste). For palm oil we speak of crude oil, virgin (the red one), refined oil (the common palm oil) and the palm kernel obtained from the seeds. There is a big difference between these oils, the palm kernel in particular is what we focus on as it is absolutely to be avoided since it is composed of 85% of saturated fats that our body can hardly metabolize and which can lead to cardiovascular problems ".

How can we defend ourselves then? Doctor Facchini underlines the importance of read the labels carefully to understand which fat we are facing:

“In theory on food labels we should no longer find the wording“ vegetable oil ”but in reality not all producers have yet adapted to the new indications. If I find this writing I must be careful because the manufacturer probably has something to hide. But I can also find the writing "Palm fat" and in any case I doubt whether it is palm kernel oil, or just openly palm kernel oil in which case the product is to be absolutely avoided ".

The question, as you will have understood, it is quite tangled and it certainly does not end here. So what is the solution to all this? For the good of the planet and ours, leave packaged products on the shelves as much as possible and prepare bread, cakes, etc. in home, using our so dear and beneficial extra virgin olive oil.

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