Is Palm Oil Healthy?

Written by Ashley Schaeffer

Topics: Agribusiness

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Palm fruitCould it be true that palm oil is not only bad for orangutans, but for our health too? According to institutions such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute, the answer is yes.

Based on its saturated fat content and effects on blood cholesterol, several such organizations have recommended reducing consumption of palm oil. Problem is, it’s so ubiquitous in grocery stores these days that unless you strictly avoid packaged, processed and refined foods altogether, you’re consuming palm oil in at least one if not more meals per day. From soy milk to breakfast cereal, peanut butter to frozen dinners, granola bars to cookies, even in your seemingly healthier foods like whole wheat pizza crust or vegan butter spreads—palm oil has become a staple in the American diet.

So, if palm oil is already a regular ingredient in our largely unhealthy American diets, why would Dr. Oz, a cardiothoracic surgeon who supposedly has our best interest at heart, be recommending we incorporate even more palm oil into our diet through the use of red palm oil?

Dr Oz health graphic_FINAL

Do you think it’s ironic that, as a doctor who specializes in treating heart and lung disease, he’d be advocating increased consumption of palm oil when the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute is saying the opposite?

What do you think—is palm oil as detrimental to our health as it is to the survival of fragile species like orangutans? And if so, why is Dr. Oz encouraging millions of his viewers around the world to give palm oil a try?

It’s not too late to help reverse the buying frenzy Dr. Oz has already inspired. Sign our petition to Dr. Oz demanding that he retract his irresponsible statements on air.


1. World Health Organization. “Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases.” WHO Tech. Rep. Series 916. Geneva. 2003. P. 88.

2. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). “Choose foods low in saturated fat.”, Accessed 8/25/10.

17 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. LeAnn Fox says:

    Nice job on this article Ashley. We will miss you while you are out.

  2. LeAnn Fox says:

    Thanks for helping get the word out on the devastation caused to climate, on wildlife and to the native people. It is often said when people know better they do better and RAN has been instrumental in turning the light on the horros of deforestation.

  3. Patricia Ortiz says:

    Because of my research I have come to the conclusion on my own that palm oil is unhealthy. Furthermore, I believe that if there is a real campaign to inform consumers of the detriment to their health for which palm oil is responsible, consumers will do what needs to be done. Everyday people don’t think as much about conservation or the greenhouse effect as they do about their own health. With enough consumer pressure palm oil could go the way of asbestos and transfats.

  4. Patricia Ortiz says:

    Thank you so much, Ashley! For my part, I am fiercely supportive of the rain forests and orangutans. I was wondering for some time, however, when someone was going to get around to warning the American public (and those of other nations, too) of the unhealthy for humans aspects of palm oil. Any course of action which persuades Dr. Oz to retract his recommendation on behalf of this detrimental product has my wholehearted support.

  5. drew says:

    I’m really confused after reading this, is palm oil really better than canola or sunflower oil? Who should a layman believe?

  6. roxanne says:

    I am shocked at the number of personal products we had in our home that included palm oil as an ingredient. I will never purchase another and will save myself a lot of money! We can live healthier and more responsible lives without consuming or using palm oil, (which is found under a few dozen other names). Stop the destruction and protect the remaining rainforests for the sake of the orangutans and the rest of us who breath oxygen! Thank you for your message and all your efforts.

  7. manualhoeing says:

    Hi There,
    It is interesting, it is confusing.
    Confusing much…new studies, old experiences…
    So, I do know only one solution: to believe in the messages of my body, which is the real expert at any health topic.
    And yes, we may be free of palm oil/fat if we want to be, only not buying ready or half ready products but turning back to the old methods and foods. That is all.
    Good luck for us!

  8. Nya Simmons says:

    Palm oil is a large part of what we all know as the twizzler. completely unhealthy!

  9. Amanda Woodward says:

    Ashley, what are your credentials, aside from being an animal rights activist? If you do a bit more research into the TYPE of saturated fat that palm oil is, you will find that it is a medium chain fatty acid which is actually easier for the human body to absorb and digest than the long chain fatty acids you find in animal fats and processed food. Therefore, the nutritious elements contained within palm oil can be absorbed. This is what Dr. Oz is referring to. And, like coconut oil, can actually assist with maintaining cholesterol levels (remember, a certain amount of cholesterol is necessary for building cell membranes, manufacturing bile and metabolising fat-soluble vitamins), strengthening the immune system, lowers the risk of cancer (both due to beta-carotene content), and delays the aging process (due to vitamin E content). I don’t particularly like Dr. Oz, I think he spouts a lot of crap based on the latest health fads, but I do agree with him about the benefits of palm oil, although coconut oil is my oil of preference. So, next time, before you get all righteous, do some more research and save the petition for something more worthwhile (such as better farming practices for the manufacture of palm oil so we can stop getting it from the forests and save those orangutan’s homes from being destroyed).

  10. Dr. Otto says:

    Dr. Oz clearly understands a great deal more than Ashley Schaeffer regarding the health benefits of palm oil and is also ahead of the curve of some large health organizations.

    Palm oil has a high content of Medium Chain Triglycerides which are very beneficial to health. Google the benefits of MCT oil, which you will discover it’s composed of palm oil and coconut oil.

    Dr. Oz, whom I had never heard of before, is clearly one of a handful of resourceful individuals spearheading efforts to get back to healthy diets. A wealth of information and countless references of the benefits of MCTs can be found on bulletproof with which I am not associated, but where I have been learning a great deal about my own body.

    I am now consciously consuming MCT oil (i.e. palm oil) in quantity on a daily basis.

  11. Reader says:

    Research the difference between palm kernerl oil (bad) and palm fruit oil (good).

  12. Ashley, Thank you. I think you are doing the earth and all inhabitants good with your passion to protect and educate for earth’s sake.

    The reason for my response is to support Amanda, May 1, in her suggestion to farm palm oil for human consumption and the protection of the rain forests.

    If I am to believe those who have formal education on the health matter, it sounds like Dr. Oz was correct in his assessment and recommendation for its health benefits.

    Farming of palm oil gets my vote.

    Again Ashley, thank you for caring and devoting yourself to the protection of all things.

  13. Maria Whitaker says:

    Hello Ashley, I’m researching the palm oil story and found so much conflicting opinions, I tend to keep going back to the theory that a stone age diet was good for our forefathers and is good for us. I am 64 and, like all older people find my digestive system rebelling; I either take heed or go on life-long medication. I reduced my cholesterol level from +7 to 2.9 in 6 months by stopping my addiction to biscuits and baked products and eating more veg, fruit and oats and moderating meat intake. I also now read labels, I’m no expert but this works for me.

  14. Wilf Staton says:

    Seems very strange that a single doctor is advocating palm oil yet health organizations are not.

    It could be that it is beneficial but at prescribed quantities. Unfortunately we are getting it stuffed down our throats sometimes without us knowing it that probably takes the amount we input way above the prescribed quantity.

    Same as anything that is good for you but at the same time taking excessive amounts can also have the reverse effect.

  15. Marge says:

    If the USDA says that palm oil is bad for you, then I can safely assume that it is actually healthy.

  16. RT Radanovic says:

    Ashley, as recent studies show how wrong we have been about saturated fats and cholesterol,, the criteria by which we define bad has changed as well. So, I would not be quick to make a judgement yet. But one thing is for sure, anything in access is bad. I like to say, take it easy, but take it ;)

  17. Nettie says:

    Palm Oil is so widely used in European countries, and there is such a lower obesity rate there, compared to the US. Perhaps it’s the quality or type of palm oil we need to be concerned about.

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