Show Buttons
Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkdin
Hide Buttons
palm oil has no adverse health risk

At Current Low Levels of Consumption, Palm Oil Has No Adverse Health Risk in France

The following was submitted by Kalyana Sundram & Yusof Basiron, Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC)

Introduction

During the past nine months, there has been a spate of activity and buzz in the French food sector. An ever-increasing number of French food producers are emboldened to carry a “No Palm Oil” label on an ever-increasing range of products. Because of these product labels, as well as a concerted media and PR campaign, French consumers are assuming that such products offer better nutrition through the exclusion of palm oil. Anyone well versed in European food labeling laws and familiar with the principles of Codex Alimentarius (FAO/WHO) would realize that these practices contradict stringent food regulations governing claims on packaged foods by these producers. The French authorities have turned the other cheek; nothing has been done about these labels. Similarly the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) did not react to these intrusions.

A French senator’s proposal to introduce a tax on palm oil products in France has thankfully been defeated. According to this proposal, the funds thus generated should be used to educate French consumers about better nutritional and food habits. Supporting these types of propositions, not wholly based on scientific principles, actually places the French and other European legislators – as well as their scientific communities – at risk of losing their credibility. Described below are facts extracted from the FAO’s Food Balance Sheets, which help to assess the true nutritional impact of palm oil in France.

 

French Food Consumption Trends : Facts based on the FAO’s Food Balance Sheets

Over the years, the FAO has been credited with tracking possibly the best set of available food consumption trends, including those of France (http://faostat.fao.org/). Thus data plucked for the year 2009 is used (as an example) to critically examine here if the exclusion of palm oil from the French diet will have any impact on coronary vascular disease (CVD) trends.

In 2009, the French diet provided 3531 kcal per capita per day; oils and fats consumed were 166.1 g which accounted for 42.3% of total calories consumed. Table 1 describes the major sources of oils and fats in the French diet during 2009. Notable is the fact that of the major vegetable oils consumed (61.2 g/day), sunflower (20.5 g), soy (14.5g), rapeseed (8.6 g) and olive (5.1g) oils were prominent. Palm oil, the traget of current discussions and labeling campaign, accounted for a mere 1.3g /day while palm kernel oil was even less at 0.6g / day. This is in dire contrast to speculations of the ever-increasing quantum of palm oil in the French diet and its potential adverse nutritional implications. Some sources estimate that palm oil consumption in France has currently reached 5.4g/capita/day, but this is based on total palm oil imported into France without taking into consideration wastages or losses during processing and non-food uses of imported palm oil.

 

Table 1: France: Major Dietary Sources of Fat and Their Fatty Acid Composition

 Source

g/day

Total Fats Derived kg/yr

SAFA   g/day

MONOs g/day

PUFA g/day

Vegetable Oils & Fats
Sunflower

20.5

7.48

2.1

4

13.5

Rapeseed, Mustard

8.6

3.14

0.5

5.5

2.5

Olive Oil

5.1

1.86

0.71

3.72

0.56

Soybean Oil

14.5

5.29

2.32

3.33

8.41

Groundnut Oil

1

0.37

0.17

0.46

0.32

Palm Oil

1.3

0.47

0.88

0.52

0.14

Palm Kernel

0.6

0.22

0.53

0.1

0.01

Corn Oil

1.7

0.62

0.26

0.51

0.94

Dairy Products
Butter, Ghee

16.9

6.17

12.84

3.55

0.52

Cheese

19.5

7.12

13.09

5.83

0.59

Cream

3.1

1.13

2.08

0.92

0.09

Whole Milk

3.6

1.32

2.32

0.99

0.1

Animal Fats
Poultry

6.2

2.26

1.55

2.37

2.23

Pork

21

7.67

7.60

8.99

4.41

Beef  4.3  1.57  2.37  1.46  0.43

Source: Food Balance Sheets, FAO, 2009

 

In contrast, the greater share of fats in the French diet was contributed through dairy products, namely whole milk (3.6g), cheese (19.5g), butter (16.9g) and cream (3.1 g), among the major food choices by the French. Another major fat source was pork (21g), beef (4.3g) and poultry (6.2g). It is thus highly discriminatory in framing palm oil as the fat that must be controlled in the French diet in order to improve overall nutrition. This is aptly demonstrated in Table 2 where the classes of fatty acids derived from each fat source are detailed:

Table 2: Major Sources of Saturated Fatty Acids, SAFA as % Daily Energy in the French Diet

Dietary Fat Source

g/capita/day

SAFA (g)

SAFA kcals % En. as SAFA
Sunflower

20.5

2.1

18.9 0.54
Rape, Mustard

8.6

0.5

4.5 0.13
Olive Oil

                5.1

           0.71

6.39 0.18
Soybean Oil

14.5

2.32

20.88 0.59
Groundnut oil

1

0.17

1.53 0.04
Palm Oil

1.3

0.88

7.92 0.23
Palm Kernel Oil

0.6

0.53

4.77 0.14
Corn Oil

1.7

0.26

2.34 0.06
Butter, Ghee

16.9

12.84

115.56 3.27
Cheese

19.5

13.09

117.81 3.34
Cream

3.1

2.08

18.72 0.53
Whole Milk

3.6

2.32

20.88 0.59
Beef

4.3

2.37

21.33 0.60
Poultry

6.2

1.55

13.95 0.40
Pork

21

7.60

68.4 1.94

1. Daily Energy Consumed Reported as 3531 kcal/day/capita (2009, FAO Food Balance Sheets)

2. Above equates to 12.58% En as SAFA; FAO total is approximately 15% energy. Balance is other minor sources (2.42%, from nuts, cereals, legumes, etc.)

The French diet averages 42.3% as fat energy, of which approximately 15% energy is derived from saturated fatty acids. A combination of vegetable oils, meat, poultry and dairy products are the major sources of saturated fatty acids. Table 2 above reveals some interesting nutritional observations that should be considered seriously by anyone proposing to change the French dietary make up for overall improved nutrition through the elimination of saturated fatty acids.

The major vegetable oils and fats are reported to account for about 60g of the daily French fat intake of about 166g. In Table 2, these reported vegetable oils and fats account for about 53.3 g per day and their calculated total saturated fatty acid contribution is a mere 7.4 g per day or a merger 1.91% energy as saturates. Within this group, the major saturated fat contributors are actually soybean and sunflower seed oils, given their volumes consumed but despite their higher polyunsaturated fatty acid composition. Curiously, consumption of rapeseed, olive, palm and palm kernel oils each contribute only minor saturated fat energy in the French diet due to their very low consumption levels. In the case of palm oil, it is a mere 0.23% en as saturated fatty acids. One wonders whether from a public health viewpoint the current strategies advocating “No Palm Oil” would in any way assist better nutritional and reduced CVD mortality outcomes for the French.

On the other hand the major saturated fat sources in France are dairy based through regular consumption of cheese, butter, dairy cream and whole milk (3.34%, 3.27%, 0.53%, 0.60% SAFA energy respectively). Meat – especially pork – is similarly a significant saturated fat source. All these products, in addition to their saturated fat contribution and being of animal origin, also carry a dietary cholesterol burden for the French consumer. It is conservatively estimated that these animal sources would contribute about 450mg of dietary cholesterol per day, which can only add to the CVD risk burden from each of these sources.

Overall the French strategy to target only palm oil appears misplaced. This is further amplified by calculating the potential serum cholesterol risk burden from each major dietary source using the Keys and Hegsted Equations (Keys A, Anderson JT, Grande F. Serum cholesterol response to changes in the diet. IV Particular saturated fatty acids in the diet. Metabolism 1965; 14: 776-787). Although these equations prescribe a delta-change in consumption levels of saturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids factored for cholesterol content in the diet, for convenience of this argument, only absolute energy values from saturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids are factored to provide a crude estimate.

Using this modified approach, it is calculated that the sum of all the vegetable oils and fats consumed in the French diet actually could result in a non-significant reduction of serum cholesterol equivalent to 0.10 mmol/L. In this context the consumption of palm oil (1.3 g/day) is calculated to result in a non-significant increase in serum cholesterol of 0.013 mmol/L. At 5.4g/day this amounts to an increase in serum cholesterol of 0.054 mmol/L; these changes would have no consequence on the overall CVD burden of French consumers.

On the other hand, the consumption of the combination of dairy products (butter, cheese, cream and whole milk) in the French diet is calculated to result in an increase in serum cholesterol of 0.41 mmol/L which has a far greater potential to impact CVD risk than the combination of all the vegetable oils or palm oil alone.

For a healthy, normocholesterolemic individual the serum cholesterol level is 5.2 mmol/L. Computing the impact of the above mentioned dietary sources on an individual’s serum cholesterol level, the consumption of the vegetable oils and fats could potentially reduce serum cholesterol by 1.9% whereas the consumption of palm oil could increase this by 0.25% (at 1.3 g/day); both levels of change being non-significant with respect to overall CVD risk. However, the consumption of dairy fats in the French diet could result in a 7.9% overall increase in serum cholesterol, which is significant and in the longer term could adversely impact CVD risk.

Although these calculations are essentially crude estimates, they provide a good indication of how dietary changes, if at all required must be targeted with greater care and consideration of all dietary components for the betterment of the French consumer.

Nutrition Policy versus Political Ideology

Policies affecting the health and nutrition of the population have generally attracted significant attention among legislators, with the occasional outcry towards changing goals to reduce the disease burden of a nation. Europe in particular has been vocal and reflected for example in a study published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization 2012;90:522-531. doi: 10.2471/BLT.11.092643 by O´Flaherty et al. (2008).

This study estimated the CVD mortality burden attributable to the EU’s Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) with specific reference to the abundance of saturated fat sources produced within the EU. The original CAP was a strategy to ensure adequate food supply for the European population and prevent rural poverty, especially among its farming communities. The CAP injected massive financial support into the agriculture sector resulting in the oversupply of dairy products (especially milk and butter), beef and pork in Europe. To keep market prices profitable for the farmers, even today the EU injects more than 500 million Euros each year simply to ensure that the per capita consumption of butter is at 1.5 kg per year. Butter and other dairy-based products, along with beef and pork, are significant contributors of saturated fat in the European diet. Their sheer quantities of consumption has been correlated with increased mortality from coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke and ever-increasing obesity trends.

The above mentioned 2008 WHO publication for example clearly stated that the estimated overall mortality attributable to the CAP was approximately 9,800 additional CHD deaths and 3,000 additional stroke-related deaths within the EU. The authors suggested that changes in CAP would particularly benefit France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. Their observations were further underscored by observations in Poland, a newer member of the EU, where CHD mortality was significantly reduced in the population when food subsidies were abolished. Despite these observations, the EU has been slow to implement nutrition goals and policies that may directly reduce consumption of dairy and meat products, produced generously through the CAP.

The current French “No Palm Oil” labels and senate actions could be a direct consequence of avoiding the obvious. As demonstrated above, if the overall objective is to reduce CHD risk by reducing saturated fat consumption in France, the more effective targets would obviously be dairy and meat products produced locally in the country. Furthermore, the effect of palm oil as a non-cholesterol raising fat, especially when consumed at moderate levels, has been adequately researched and proven through numerous scientific peer-reviewed publications (see for example: P. Khosla & K. Sundram, Journal of the American College of Nutrition (JACN), 29: 3(S), 2010).

 

 

 

 

 

 

SEE ALSO  Research: Wonders of healthy palm oil vitamin E

, , , , , , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

HTML tags are not allowed.

64,287 Spambots Blocked by Simple Comments