Palm oil

Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil derived from the reddish pulp of the fruit of the oil palms.

Palm oil is a type of vegetable oil that is derived from the fruit of oil palm trees. 

It is widely used in various industries due to its versatile properties, including being stable at high temperatures, having a neutral flavor, and contributing to the texture of many products. 

It is commonly found in food products, such as baked goods, margarine, chocolate, and instant noodles. 

It is also used in non-food products like cosmetics, soaps, and biofuels.

Its production has raised concerns due to environmental and social issues: deforestation, habitat destruction for wildlife, greenhouse gas emissions, land conflicts, and labor rights violations.

The oil is used in food manufacturing, in beauty products, and as biofuel. 

Palm oil accounted for about 33% of global oils produced from oil crops.


Palm oil formed the basis of soap products.

Palm oil is naturally reddish in color because of a high beta-carotene content. 

Along with coconut oil, palm oil is one of the few highly saturated vegetable fats and is semisolid at room temperature.

Palm oil is used in the commercial food industry because of its lower cost and the high oxidative stability  due to saturation of the refined product when used for frying.

Many processed foods either contain palm oil or various ingredients made from it.

Refined, bleached and deodorized palm oil is the basic palm oil product sold on the world’s commodity markets. 

Oil produced from palm fruit is called red palm oil and is  around 50% saturated fat, and 40% unsaturated fat and 10% polyunsaturated fat. 

Red palm oil also contains sterols, vitamin E, and carotenoids such as alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and lycopene.

White palm oil is the result of processing and refining, resulting in the loss of its deep red color. 

White palm oil is extensively used in food manufacture and can be found in a variety of processed foods including peanut butter and chips. It is often labeled as palm shortening, and is used as a replacement ingredient for hydrogenated fats in a variety of baked and fried products.

Its highly saturated nature renders it solid at room temperature in temperate regions, making it a cheap substitute for butter or hydrogenated vegetable oils in uses where solid fat is desirable, such as the making of pastry dough and baked goods. 

Palm oil is pervasively used in personal care and cleaning products, and it provides the foaming agent in nearly every soap, shampoo, or detergent. 

Around 70% of personal care products including soap, shampoo, makeup, and lotion, contain ingredients derived from palm oil. 

Palm oil is used to produce biodiesel.

Forests have been cleared to make space for oil-palm monoculture, 

leading to deforestation and biodiversity loss: orangutan loss.

Palm cultivation produces 38% of the world’s total vegetable oil supply.

In terms of oil yield, a palm plantation is 10 times more productive than soybean, sunflower or rapeseed cultivation.

Palm oil cultivation has been criticized for its impact on the natural environment: deforestation, loss of natural habitats, and greenhouse gas emissions which have threatened critically endangered species, such as the orangutan and Sumatran tiger.

Slash-and-burn techniques are still used to create new plantations across palm oil producing countries.

The deforestation caused by oil palm plantations may be damaging for the climate than the benefits gained by switching to biofuel and using the palms as carbon sinks.

It has higher productivity compared with many other vegetable oils. 

Palm oil, like all fats, is composed of fatty acids, esterified with glycerol. 

Palm oil has an especially high concentration of saturated fat, specifically the 16-carbon saturated fatty acid, palmitic acid, to which it gives its name. 

Monounsaturated oleic acid is also a major constituent of palm oil. 

Unrefined palm oil is a significant source of tocotrienol, part of the vitamin E family.

The approximate concentration of esterified fatty acids in palm oil is:

Type of fatty acid Fraction

Myristic saturated C14 1.0%

Palmitic saturated C16


Stearic saturated C18 4.3%

Oleic monounsaturated C18:1 36.6%

Linoleic polyunsaturated C18:2 9.1%

Other/unknown 5.5%

Red palm oil is rich in carotenes, such as alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and lycopene, which give it a characteristic dark red color.

Palm oil that has been refined, bleached and deodorized from crude palm oil does not contain carotenes.

Palm oil contributes significant calories as a source of fat.

Palm oil and saturated fats should be replaced with polyunsaturated fats in the diet.

Palm oil is among foods supplying dietary saturated fat which increases blood levels of LDL cholesterol and increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, and should be reduced or eliminated in favor of consuming unhydrogenated vegetable oils.

Excessive intake of palmitic acid, which makes up 44% of palm oil, increases blood levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and total cholesterol, and so increases risk of cardiovascular diseases.

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