Is the palm oil contained in many snacks really unhealthy?

Is the palm oil contained in many snacks really unhealthy?

There is such an oil that most people have never used in their homes, but almost everyone has eaten it. This mysterious-sounding but common-sounding oil is palm oil. As long as you pay a little attention to the ingredient lists of chocolate, ice cream, instant noodles, and puffed foods, it is not difficult to find it. For a long time, many voices on the Internet have claimed that “palm oil is suspected of promoting cancer metastasis.” So, can palm oil and foods containing palm oil be safely consumed?

Interpretation 1: Why is palm oil commonly used in processed foods?

Ruan Guangfeng, deputy director and deputy research librarian of the Kexin Food and Health Information Exchange Center, said in an interview with a reporter from China Consumer News that palm oil is a vegetable oil squeezed from the palm fruit of the oil palm tree. It is widely used in Africa and Southeast Asia has a long history of use. Currently, palm oil, soybean oil, and rapeseed oil rank among the three most commonly used vegetable oils in the world, and they firmly rank first. The sales volume of familiar peanut oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, sesame oil, etc. is far lower than that of palm oil.

Palm oil is widely used in the field of food processing, mainly due to its unique advantages-the saturated fatty acid content is as high as about 50%, which is not inferior to lard. Due to its high proportion of saturated fatty acids, palm oil is less prone to violent oxidation reactions at high temperatures and is more suitable for high-temperature cooking such as frying. It is the most widely used in fried foods. Such properties also make palm oil a good substitute for hydrogenated vegetable oils containing large amounts of trans fat in food processing.

From a food processing perspective, when the saturated fatty acids in palm oil come into contact with starch and various celluloses, the fatty acids can enter the interior of the helical structure of starch, eventually forming a stable helical structure complex with better viscosity and toughness. , so palm oil can be solid and hidden in food at room temperature. Unlike other vegetable oils that ooze out at room temperature, it can bring a delicate taste without making people feel too greasy.

 Interpretation 2: Does palm oil promote cancer metastasis?

When it comes to palm oil, many people say that it is a cheap industrial raw material and a synonym for unhealthy. There are even reports that palm oil can promote cancer metastasis. Ruan Guangfeng believes that these statements actually exaggerate the harm of palm oil.

The claim that “palm oil promotes cancer metastasis” comes from a study by Spanish scientists. In this study, scientists first briefly added fatty acids to the cancer cells when culturing human oral cancer or skin cancer cells, and then transplanted these cancer cells into the corresponding tissues of mice. They found that several The fatty acids had no effect on the primary tumor, but palmitic acid significantly increased the cancer cells’ ability to metastasize to the lungs. Another group of experiments directly fed tumor mice a diet rich in palm oil. Even after only eating for 10 days, the cancer cells transplanted into the mice showed stronger metastasis ability. However, this study is only an animal study and is completely different from human clinical studies. The experimental results are actually very preliminary and are very different from the actual daily diet. There is no need to worry too much.

However, the saturated fatty acids contained in palm oil are a double-edged sword. From a food processing perspective, it has many advantages, but from a nutritional perspective, it is not good for cardiovascular health.

Ruan Guangfeng explained that the content of saturated fatty acids in palm oil is basically more than 50%, and the proportion of saturated fatty acids in commercial (purified) palm oil can be as high as more than 80%. The current mainstream opinion in the scientific community is that excessive intake of saturated fatty acids will increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Interpretation 3: Is palm oil safe to eat?

Ruan Guangfeng said that as a kind of oil, palm oil has its nutritional advantages, such as providing fatty acids and energy for human activities. In addition, palm oil also contains more tocotrienols, a type of vitamin E. At the same time, palm oil also contains more carotene, which can be converted into vitamin A in the body.

When talking about whether palm oil can be eaten, we cannot be divorced from the “quantity”. In fact, not only palm oil, but too much intake of any oil is not good for health, even olive oil.

The “Dietary Guidelines for Chinese Residents (2022)” recommends a total intake of edible oil of 25-30 grams per day. In addition, it is recommended that fat provide 20%-30% of the total energy for adults every day, which means that the total amount of fat intake for an adult should be controlled at 50-70 grams per day, of which saturated fatty acids should not exceed 50% of the total fat intake. 8%. Within this recommended amount, you don’t have to worry about health hazards if you eat palm oil appropriately.

In general, palm oil itself is harmless, and foods containing palm oil are not a “scourge”. The key is to pay attention to a reasonable diet, develop healthy eating habits, and try to achieve a balanced diet.

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