Palm oil: a sweet-tooth’s greatest fear


We love busting myths about chocolate. But there are things difficult to refer to as just myths — they’re the primal fear of all chocolate lovers. Generally they’re related to the composition of chocolate. And the main one of these things is palm oil.

If every time we hear about palm oil in a negative way we would be paid a coin, then this Journal would have been published online from the Maldives long ago. Despite the fact that the first mention of palm oil dates back to the 15th century, when chemistry, as a science, was not yet so respected and known, palm oil is often used in speech somewhere near the word «chem».

The main consumer’s fear is that even if cocoa butter is listed as part of the product, an unscrupulous manufacturer will put palm oil instead anyway in order to cash in on trusting chocolate lovers. Okay, let's say that chocolate actually contains palm oil. Why is everyone so afraid of it? Well, thanks to the media, who demonize palm oil, label it as harmful trans fat full of carcinogens and blood vessels clogging stuff. And all for the sake of views and ratings

Let's start with the fact that…

Palm oil ≠ trans fats

​​Trans fats can be found in the most common foods: meat, milk and butter.

Trans fat, also called trans-unsaturated fatty acids or trans fatty acids, is a type of unsaturated fat that contains long hydrocarbon chains, which can be either unsaturated (have double bonds), or saturated (have no double bonds). Trans fats are closely related to hydrogenation, the process of saturating fat with hydrogen. Any oil can be hydrogenated: sunflower, olive, rapeseed. The purpose of this reaction is to make soft fat hard and stable, so the confectionery solidifies, shapes and does not spread. Palm oil naturally has the same amount of soft and hard fats (oleins and stearins), and solid fractions are quite simply separated without any chemical processes like hydrogenation. Anyway, to obtain a solid fraction of palm oil, it’s not necessary to hydrogenate it, and such oil does not harm the body at all, unlike industrial trans fats. If we continue to drive your fears away, then by default (without special chemical processing) meat, milk, butter and other animal products contain trans fats. Does it make your favorite steak unhealthy? Nope. Animal trans fats do not cause huge harm to health, but remember not to exceed their concentration in your body.

Palm oil is derived from the mesocarp of the fruit of the oil palms.

The next fear of the «palm conspiracy theorists» is that we are being purposefully poisoned with industrial palm oil. Yes, this kind of palm oil really exists, but only 0.87% of the total amount of palm oil imported for technical purposes. Industrial and food palm oil is imported under different transport codes, so it’s always easy to track and any violations are recorded by the transport prosecutor's office. No manufacturer would risk their reputation by filling your favorite biscuits with stinky industrial oil from dirty tanks for a small savings.

​​Palm oil is used in the food industry, while palm kernel oil is used in cosmetics.

And the last, but not least fear is related to palm kernel oil: if palm oil is bad, then palm kernel oil is double bad. In case you didn't know, both ingredients come from the same palm tree fruit and are made in almost the same way. The only difference is that palm is more focused on the food industry, and palm kernel is more focused on household industry. Vitamins E, A, K and D in its composition are great for the skin, so palm kernel oil is often used in cosmetology as one of the most important ingredients. Cosmetology is an expensive industry, so we don’t think that someone will borrow «harmful» palm kernel oil from there for your cookies and chocolates.

Let’s resume

  • If the label says «cocoa butter» — it’s true. This can be easily checked and forgery will cost the manufacturer much more;
  • Palm oil is not a trans fat. Hydrogenation is also not always about trans fats;
  • Industrial palm oil exists, but no one being poisoned with it;
  • Palm kernel oil is similar to palm oil, but it’s more valuable for the cosmetic industry than food.

Finally, it needs to be said that palm oil also has useful properties. It improves cognitive functions and effects on the brain in a positive way, used to prevent vitamin A deficiency, is an excellent source of tocotrienols — a form of vitamin E with strong antioxidant properties. Studies show that these values are connected to polyunsaturated fats as a result of breakdown, slow dementia development, reduce the risk of stroke and prevent the growth of lesions in the cerebral cortex.

Are you still afraid of palm oil??

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