With the right balance, saturated fatty acids maintain your HDL (good cholesterol) while polyunsaturated fatty acids decrease your LDL (bad cholesterol). Palm oil contains approximately 44% palmitic acid (saturated), 5% stearic acid (saturated), 39% oleic acid (monounsaturated), and 10% linoleic acid (polyunsaturated).
Researchers are only on the cusp of understanding how fatty acids work independently and in conjunction with other nutrients to impact our health. The conclusions are evolving. Here’s some of what is known so far about the fatty acids present in palm fruit oil.
Palmitic acid: Until recently, palmitic acid was thought to be associated with raising cholesterol levels. However that line of thinking is changing. A review of all of the related scientific literature on the subject was recently published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition. The researchers concluded that the evidence of palmitic acid promoting heart disease was scanty and not convincing. In fact, experts predict that replacing trans fats with palmitic acid (which is also found in chocolate) may actually help to reduce cardiovascular risk factors.
Stearic Acid: Clinical and epidemiologic studies have associated stearic acid with lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol while having a neutral effect on HDL (good) cholesterol.
Oleic Acid: This fatty acid contains antioxidants and promotes healthy cholesterol levels, and may also help prevent cell damage. It is also believed to have anti-inflammatory properties. There is very preliminary evidence that it may boost memory.
Linoleic Acid: Linoleic fatty acid is an essential fatty acid that supports healthy hair as well as wound healing. It is also being investigated for its potential anti-cancer properties.
Robin Miller is a health and nutrition editor with more than 30 years of industry experience. She researches and writes about the nutritional benefits of palm fruit oil, with the goal of giving readers factual, science-based information that will be useful in their daily lives.