Is Palm Oil Bad?
Being plant-based doesn’t necessarily make an ingredient good for our health or for the planet. But what’s one of the worst offenders, when it comes to being very common and very unhealthy?
This ubiquitous additive finds its way into an enormous range of food and non-food products, from cookies and ice cream to lipstick, shampoo, margarine and even biodiesel!
Bad for Our Health
If you follow my blog, you know that I’ve left oil off the menu in all my plant-based restaurants. When it comes to health, however, some oils are clearly worse than others. I’ve posted about coconut oil’s problems.
But palm oil is even worse.
One study from USC School of Medicine’s Atherosclerosis Research Institute found an increased risk of atherosclerotic coronary artery lesions in men consuming three different fatty acids:
Saturated lauric acid, found in coconut and palm oils.
Polyunsaturated oleic acid, found in chicken, pork and cake.
Polyunsaturated linoleic acid, found primarily in chicken.
Dr Michael Greger also warns against palm oil’s inflammatory properties:
“Well, there is one fat that may cause more inflammation than milk fat: palm oil. In fact, it may raise cholesterol levels as much as trans fat-laden partially hydrogenated oil.”
Bad for the Environment
In David Attenborough’s recent documentary A Life on Our Planet, the scene of rainforest destruction by the palm-oil industry stood out like a sore thumb. While not as serious as cattle-industry deforestation, it’s still an enormous environmental catastrophe.
Estimates vary on how much jungle destruction is due to industries other than meat producers; the numbers range between 15 and 35 percent.
Bad for Wildlife
The deforestation of our world’s carbon sinks is as devastating for biodiversity as it is for the environment. Native animals, such as orangutans and jaguars, are losing their natural habitats. With the loss of their homes comes the loss of their lives. With most of the world’s wildlife living in forests, the impact of our relentless palm-oil tree expansion cannot be measured.
Bad for Human Rights
In 2016, National Geographic reported on the murderous violence illegal loggers inflicted on a group of four Cambodian patrollers. And this morning’s AP article Rape, abuses in palm oil fields linked to top beauty brands spotlights the horrific mistreatment of the third-world women working on cosmetic-industry palm plantations.
Defrida’s story sums it up.
Upon being handed a $20 lipstick containing palm oil, “She twisted the silver case and stared at the glistening pink stick – first with intrigue, then with disgust.”
She would have to spread nearly half a ton of fertilizer a day and spray 30 acres of jungle terrain with toxic pesticides to afford a single tube. Her plea to those who buy such products?
“Oh, my God! Please pay attention to our lives.”
The AP investigators call out many “natural” cosmetic companies who pretend to be above the fray. In reality, they’re just as guilty as the companies who don’t seem to care.
No matter how you look at it, palm oil is just plain bad. Avoid it at all costs!