Blood lipid and cholesterol effects

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According to studies reported on by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), excessive intake of palmitic acid, which makes up 44 percent of palm oil, increases blood cholesterol levels and may contribute to heart disease.[88] Several studies have linked palm oil and cardiovascular disease including a 2005 study conducted in Costa Rica which indicated that replacing palm oil in cooking with polyunsaturated non hydrogenated oils could reduce the risk of heart attacks,[89] and a 2011 analysis of 23 countries which showed that for each kilogram of palm oil added to the diet annually there was an increase in ischemic heart disease deaths though the increase was much smaller in high-income countries.[90]

However, results from several studies indicate that palm oil provides health benefits, including increasing good cholesterol and reducing bad cholesterol, and that consumption of palm oil does not increase the risk of cerebrovascular disease.[91] Additionally, a 1993 study published by the United Nations University Press found that consumption of palmitic acid appeared to have no impact on cholesterol levels when daily cholesterol intake is below 400 mg per day.[92]

The CSPI also reported that the World Health Organization and the US National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute have encouraged consumers to limit the consumption of palmitic acid and foods high in saturated fat.[88][93] In response to negative reports on palm oil many food manufacturers transitioned to using hydrogenated vegetable oils in their products, which have also come under scrutiny for the impact these oils have on health.[94] A 2006 study supported by the National Institutes of Health and the USDA Agricultural Research Service concluded that palm oil is not a safe substitute for partially hydrogenated fats (trans fats) in the food industry, because palm oil results in adverse changes in the blood concentrations of LDL cholesterol and apolipoprotein B just as trans fat does.[14][95]

However, according to two reports published in 2010 by the Journal of the American College of Nutrition palm oil is again an accepted replacement for hydrogenated vegetable oils[94] and a natural replacement for partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, which are a significant source of trans fats.[96] Palm oil is also an important source of calories and a food staple in poor communities.[93][97][98]

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