Every hour, forests are cut down on our planet, the area of which is equivalent to 300 football fields. This land will be used for growing palm plantations. Some – with the use of hard child labor, others – posing a threat to life for rare animals. And this is just a small part of what you should know about palm oil. An unpopular truth that spoils our health and life.
Palm oil is not a modern product, as many believe, but a time-tested product. It was used in ancient times. Archaeological excavations have shown that the ancient Egyptians fried food on it. Since this oil was not produced in Egypt, scholars believe it was traded from Africa and Asia.
But it’s worth noting that this was not the kind of oil that is widely used today. It was completely natural, without any technical processing.
Palm oil in its natural form is an amber-red oily liquid with a taste reminiscent of pumpkin pulp. It is rich in valuable substances that should be in the diet of any person.
According to the USDA, one tablespoon of oil contains 5 grams of monounsaturated fat and 1.5 grams of heart-healthy polyunsaturated fat. In addition – 2 grams of vitamin E (more than in any other oil) and 1 gram of vitamin K. Palm oil is famous for its high carotene content, which helps to maintain eye health and visual acuity.
But the problem is that in the food industry today, not this oil is used, but discolored, refined and deodorized. And it has a completely different effect on the body.
Since 2015, palm oil has taken the leading position among all other types of oils in the world. For comparison: if at the beginning of the twentieth century about 250 thousand tons of oil were exported annually from South-East Asia, today this figure has grown to 60 million tons!
One of the main reasons for interest in palm oil is that its production produces 10 times more oil per 1 conventional unit of raw material compared to soybeans or sunflower seeds.
Palm oil production is downright dirty business. Industry giants that use this ingredient to create baby food from the first days of life, explaining this by caring for a child, are encouraging hard child labor in remote areas of Indonesia and Malaysia.
While some babies eat a specially designed mixture for them, others, a little older, spend long hours removing weeds or picking palm fruits from the floor, as well as experiencing serious stress on the spine, carrying a heavy load on themselves.
Relationship with nature
In 2011, the Asian company Wilmar International Limited razed an entire village to 4 hectares of fertile oil palm plantation. Studies show that if the trend of deforestation continues, then by 2022, Indonesian and Malaysian forests will be completely destroyed.
Experts say that about 50 orangutans die every week due to deforestation. There are many rare animals that are about to die out due to the destruction of their habitat. Among them are the pygmy elephant, Sumatran tiger, Asian rhino, gibbon, clouded leopard, black-backed tapir and others.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, there are about 20 million hectares of abandoned land in the world suitable for growing oil palms. However, the giants of industry prefer to use not them, but to clear forests in order to grow palm trees after that. So they get a double profit: from the sale of wood species and the production of palm oil.
According to UN reports, the production of palm oil requires manufacturers to apply a huge number of fertilizers and pesticides that pollute soil and water and degrade the ecological situation in the world.
Palm oil is present in about 30% of the foods most commonly consumed by humans. These are confectionery, cereals, spreads, frozen dough, baby food, milk powder, chocolate desserts, chips, french fries, sauces, diet bars, coffee cream and many others.
Consequences of processing
As mentioned above, palm oil is not used naturally in industry, but processed. At room temperature, it holds the consistency of butter. For this reason, it is often used as a substitute for animal fats and natural vegetable oils.
The content of vitamins E and K in this oil is insignificant, and there is no beta-carotene at all. Processing deprives palm oil of absolutely all nutrients, turning it into a product not only useless, but also downright dangerous.
One of the most controversial constituents of palm oil is palmitic acid. As a result of the hydrolysis of triglycerides during the processing of the product, it acquires a free form, after which, by binding with calcium, it forms insoluble compounds. The latter are excreted from the body unchanged, often causing constipation.
Research studies have shown that children who are regularly fed with palm oil formulas absorb 53% less calcium and other valuable substances, which results in deficiencies in vital nutrients during active growth. Of course, this negatively affects the health, in particular, teeth and bones.
Contrary to popular belief, processed palm oil is devoid of trans fats but contains saturated fat. With frequent use, they increase the level of “bad” cholesterol in the blood, create plaque on the walls of the arteries. Over time, this leads to the development of cardiovascular diseases, can provoke a heart attack or stroke.
Palm oil is the only oil in the world with a saturated fat content of 50%. Hence – the increased risk of cardiovascular and oncological diseases, overweight and obesity, arterial hypertension and many other problems.
At the same time, a modern person has virtually no choice whether to use palm oil or not, since it is contained in a latent form in most food products.
Fortunately, a law passed by the Eurasian Economic Commission in November 2017 obliges manufacturers to provide reliable information on the name of the product, getting rid of dairy associations and related terms. Now it has become much easier to determine what is in front of us – a real village sour cream or a vegetable substitute. However, as well as to understand the composition of other popular products.