Palm oil is widely used in the food industry for its chemical/physical properties, low cost and wide availability. Its widespread use has provoked an intense debate about whether it is a potential danger to human health. In a careful review of the scientific literature, we focused on nutritional characteristics and health effects of the use of palm oil with regards to children, seeking to determine whether there is evidence that justifies fears about the health effects of palm oil. Our review showed that palm oil represents a significant source of saturated fatty acids, to which scientific evidence attributes negative health effects when used in excess, especially with regards to cardiovascular diseases. However, to date, there is no evidence about the harmful effects of palm oil on the health of children. Nevertheless, palm oil has possible ill health effects linked to its composition of fatty acids: its consumption is not correlated to risk factors for cardiovascular diseases in young people with a normal weight and cholesterol level; the elderly and patients with dyslipidaemia or previous cardiovascular events or hypertension are at a greater risk. Therefore, the matter is not palm oil itself but the fatty-acid-rich food group to which it belongs. The most important thing is to consume no more than 10% of saturated fatty acids, regardless of their origin and regardless of one’s age. Correct information based on a careful analysis of the scientific evidence, rather than a focus on a singular presumed culprit substance, should encourage better lifestyles.
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