PALM OIL: YES OR NO?

We will never stop talking about how important is to follow a healthy and varied diet in our daily lives. Fortunately, society is increasingly aware of this and government agencies are creating the legal framework to stop the increase of processed foods that are so harmful to our health. Starting to regulate foods at the political level is very beneficial since a huge reason there are so many problems related to nutrition is due to the lack of information. The tobacco companies are obliged to indicate the deadly risks of tobacco in their cigarette packages, the media insists almost daily about the risks of alcohol consumption and the consumption of both is prohibited before being of age... but what about sugar and processed oils? Why are these hardly mentioned? Or, better yet: why are they not legally regulated?

In recent years, society has begun talking about the dangers of junk food and sugars. At least we are all aware that they are not beneficial to our health. However, we still have a long way to go. It is so important to start talking about how harmful foods are consumed without even being aware of it.

This is the case, palm oil is a huge one. Palm oil and its derivatives are obtained from the fruit of the species Elaeis guineensis, also known as African palm, because it is origin from the African continent. After its discovery, it was widely introduced in Southwest Asia and South America plantations at the beginning of the 20th century. Beyond its food uses, palm oil derivatives are also used in the cosmetics industry (creams, toothpaste or soaps) and in the production of biodiesel.

Palm oil can be found in a wide variety of prepared meals: ice cream, sauces, cookies, pastries, pizza, chocolates, breads, and the list goes on. We could say that in regards to processed foods, there is no shortage of palm oil.

The case against palm oil for its health effects has been known for many years. The main argument was (and still is) the lipid profile of the oil. The nature of the oil is especially rich in saturated fatty acids and is directly linked to the increasing different metabolic diseases.

As if this were not enough, a recent study confirmed that there are numerous contaminants present in vegetable oils due to their processing. Vegetable oils are treated at high temperatures to eliminate the marked reddish appearance and to improve its taste and smell. In this high temperature treatment, glycidyl esters of these fatty acids are formed and have been proven to have genotoxic and carcinogenic properties.

So remember that it is very important to check the ingredients of all foods that we buy in the market. Don't be tricked by the clever wording on the labels and make sure you know what you are eating, even it it does say 100% natural. Based off the facts above, we recommend to steer clear of all processed oils even if they make certain food items taste so good.

- María Álvarez Pérez

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