Now palm oil is in the gun
It started out that ordinary animal fats -- saturated fats -- were widely used in processed food -- cakes, cookies etc. But then we were all told that saturated fats were bad for you. So manufacturers were told to switch to trans fats, which they did.
But some evidence soon emerged that trans fats were also bad for you. So everybody was told to switch to palm oil in food preparation, which many did.
But now palm oil also appears to be bad for you! You can't win against the food freaks, it appears.
What next? It can't be butter because that was condemned long ago. The obvious move is to switch back to animal fats -- tallow, dripping etc -- and damn the food freaks. When everything is bad for you, nothing is
New studies have discovered how a fatty acid found in palm oil affects the cancer genome, increasing the likelihood the disease will spread in human beings.
The spread of cancer, known as metastasis, is the main cause of death in patients with the disease. Researchers in the field say the vast majority of people with metastatic cancer can only be treated, but not cured.
The Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB) in Barcelona conducted a study on mice, finding that palmitic acid promoted metastasis in mouth and skin cancers.
Scientists suggest this process could be targeted with drugs or carefully designed eating plans in the future, but the team behind the work has put out a warning for patients putting themselves on diets in the absence of clinical trials.
According to the research, other fatty acids called oleic acid and linoleic acid found in foods such as olive oil and flaxseeds did not show the same effect.
“There is something very special about palmitic acid that makes it an extremely potent promoter of metastasis,” Professor Salvador Aznar-Benitah said via The Guardian.
The research found that when palmitic acid was supplemented into the diet of mice, it not only contributed to metastasis but also exerted long-term effects on the genome.
However, the professor also claimed it was too early to tell what diet should be taken for patients with metastatic cancers.
“I think it is too early to determine which type of diet could be consumed by patients with metastatic cancer that would slow down the metastatic process,” he said.
“That is a much more realistic approach in terms of a real therapy, that doesn’t depend on whether a patient likes Nutella or pizza. Playing with diets is so complicated.”
Prof Greg Hannon, director of the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, praised the “rigorous and comprehensive” study into one of the most commonly used oils around the world.
“This is a rigorous and comprehensive study that suggests that exposure to a major constituent of palm oil durably changes the behaviour of cancer cells, making them more prone to progress from local to potentially lethal metastatic disease,” he said.
“Given the prevalence of palm oil as an ingredient in processed foods, this study provides strong motivation for further study on how dietary choices influence the risk of tumour progression.”
Made from the fruit pulp of the oil palm tree, palm oil plantations are grown in tropical regions in Indonesia, Malaysia, Colombia, New Guinea and Ghana.
According to Ethical Consumer, it is the most consumed vegetable oil on the planet, with 72 per cent of worldwide production being used in the food industry. A 2015 report by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil estimated worldwide use would more than double by 2030 and triple by 2050.
Palm oil is a cheap substitute for butter, meaning it is especially common in dough and baked foods. It is commonly found in everyday pantry items, such as margarine, Nutella and biscuits.
Helen Rippon, chief executive at Worldwide Cancer Research, said the discovery is “a huge breakthrough in our understanding of how diet and cancer are linked”.
“Perhaps more importantly,” she said. “Is how we can use this knowledge to start new cures for cancer. Metastasis is estimated to be responsible for 90 per cent of all cancer deaths – that’s around 9 million deaths a year globally.
“Learning more about what makes cancer spread and – importantly – how to stop it is the way forward to reduce these numbers.”
The environmentally unsustainable nature of palm oil production, which has led to mass pollution and loss of native species, has long been a topic of pursuit for activists worldwide.
According to The Orangutan Project, palm oil plantations have been a major factor in deforestation in Malaysia and Indonesia, where 85 per cent of the world’s palm oil is produced.
Palm oil plantations are the biggest cause of rainforest destruction in these countries, where the United Nations reports an area of forest the size of 300 soccer fields is lost every hour.
This loss of rainforest displaces animals such as the orangutan and causes air pollution.
Palm oil is a common ingredient in food and cosmetic products, with alternate names such as palm oil kernel, palmitate, palmate, palmitic acid, elaeis guineensis and hydrated palm glycerides hexadecanoic.