Palm oil is found in a wide range of products. It is included in chocolate, biscuits, instant soups, margarine and – surprisingly – in lipsticks, shaving foam and washing detergents. Why?
Palm oil is the most commonly used vegetable oil worldwide. This is because on the one hand, the palm tree in itself is very productive and on the other hand, it is undemanding concerning the quality of the soil on which it grows. Unfortunately, in order to meet the increasing demand of the industry, huge, spacious rich rainforest areas – especially in Indonesia – are cleared and converted into palm oil plantations. Besides this, there is another reason to reflect on one’s own palm oil consumption: Palm oil is, if consumed excessively, potentially dangerous for our health. On the one hand, nearly half of all fatty acids in palm oil consist of palmitic acid – a saturated acid. Saturated acids are considered to promote, if consumed in considerable amounts, heart and vascular diseases. On the other hand, harmful substances are generated in the oils’ industrial refinement process. One of these substances is glycidyl fatty acid ester (GE). GE is, after uptake, transformed to glycidol. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) released a statement in April 2016, calling glycidol, ”genotoxic and carcinogenic”. Glycidol seems, therefore, to be effective in mutating the human genetic makeup which might lead to the development of cancer. Although there is a way to remove glycidol from the product, it is an unrealistic option for the industry because of the high costs.
For the reflective consumer, only one real alternative remains: to decrease one’s consumption of products containing palm oil for the sake of both nature and one’s own health.
by Tibor Altenberger