Palm Oil is a Healthy, Balanced Fat
Although past studies have linked palm oil to increased heart disease risk, recent research has found no scientific evidence to support this. Researchers note that factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, alcohol use, lack of physical activity and smoking are responsible for 90 percent of heart disease risk.
Palm oil is a well-balanced fat, made up of 48 percent saturated fats and 52 percent unsaturated fats. Palmitic acid accounts for 85 percent of the saturated fat in palm oil. Oleic acid (the predominant fat in olive oil) makes up 88 percent of palm oil’s unsaturated fat.
When it comes to how the chemical structure of fats impacts health, it’s all about location. Fatty acids can bond to glycerol in different locations to form fat. In palm oil, oleic acid attaches at the SN-2 position, and other key saturated fatty acids attach at points SN-1 and SN-3. This means that the saturated fat in palm oil acts more like a polyunsaturated fat, reducing risk of heart disease.
Palm oil isn’t the only palm product used in foods. Palm olein (often used for frying) is more liquid than palm oil, at 44 percent saturated fat and 56 percent unsaturated fat. Palm stearin fraction (used as an emulsifier in baked goods and nut butters) is more solid at 68 percent saturated fat and 32 percent unsaturated fat.
Short chain fatty acids have a more durable chemical structure than long chain fatty acids, which makes palm oil one of the most stable oils available. This means that it can be stored for long periods without spoiling, and used in high-heat cooking without becoming toxic.