PALM oil if nothing else is a controversial food, writes councillor and columnist Martin Heath.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) have asked for more research on the claims and counter claims of the benefits or otherwise, of using palm oil and its derivatives’. 

What we do know is many palm groves were once forests with much diversity, but now we have rows of palm oil trees with very little biodiversity. 

But when it comes to health issues, there seems to be a lot of concealment surrounding palm oil in food products. 

Palm oil is now in about half the processed foods we eat, including pre-wrapped wholemeal bread. Could this be why half of Brits are now either overweight or clinically obese? The government has been warned by one of their own committees that if we don’t get on top of the obesity crises, then in 10 years’ time, this will crash the NHS, due to all the health issues of being overweight. 

Although palm oil has lots of antioxidant and vitamin E in it, which is good, this oil contains a high concentration of saturated fat, at 49%. This is the bad oil (LDL, low density). 

This compared to olive oil at less than half of that. Olive oil is high in HDL good oil, but don’t cook high temperature with it, use sunflower or corn oil, or rapeseed oil.  

Saturated fat will raise cholesterol levels in the blood and may lead to other health issues. As WHO has pointed out, the research has not been done on whether this shift to palm oil over the last 30 years or so is part of the obesity problem or not. 

So why is it commercial the favourite oil to use? It’s cheaper than most other oils, so keeps their prices down; it easily blends with most other foods; it does not separate when mixed with other products. 

We know how peanuts butter has oil at the top and has to be stirred to mix back in; but not with palm oil. Most of us know about the connection of deforestation and palm groves, but did we know we are eating vast quantities of saturated fat, when for years we have been told that saturated fat will raise your bad cholesterol and possible lead to blocked arteries and serious health issues. 

Could this be another smoke screen like the cigarette companies did for years, when saying, ‘cigarettes were fine.’ 

This summer, if you really want to change your eating habits to lose weight and get healthy, it may well be good to reduce all saturated fats like palm oil and coconut oil - which is also on the NHS list of high saturated oils to avoid if you want to reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke; cancer and diabetes. 

Read the ingredients list, and sustainable palm is just as bad. And the good part is you will be helping the environment at the same time by slowing deforestation. 

Just remember when dieting, you still need about 15% fat in your diet, but make it good fat (HDL). Also note, fatty meat has trans fats; which are also bad for you, along with hydrogenated oils.