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Tropical Oils - Safer Than You Think

"Tropical oils" refers to oils made from palm, palm kernel and coconut oils. In the 1980s, the American soybean industry was worried that foreign tropical oils would replace their oils as the number one fat, and take money from the American farmer.

A public relations firm working for the American soybean industry devised a campaign that would help to convince consumers that tropical oils were unhealthful. Foods made with soybean oil were labelled "contains no tropical oils." Later the U.S. Federal Trade Commission made that label illegal because there was an implied health claim that tropical oils are harmful and there is no evidence to back it up. the total amount of tropical oils in the U.S. diet was about two percent, so anything that caused consumers to avoid them would have a negligible effect on cholesterol. The whole issue was a trade war and not about health effects.

Tropical oils are used in foods for functional reasons. They are excellent for shortening because they don't get rancid easily, they produce flaky pastry and good color on fried foods, and they don't give a greasy feel to crackers. It is difficult to substitute most other vegetable oils for the tropical ones because their polyunsaturated fats have a short shelf life. To prolong the shelf life, manufacturers convert soybean oil in your food to partially hydrogenated oils which are known to be harmful to your health (increasing risk for a heart attacks and certain cancers).

The countries with the highest palm oil intakes in the world are Costa Rica and Malaysia. Their heart disease rates and serum cholesterol levels are much lower than in western nations.

However, also see my report on a study showing that saturated fats from plants may increase fat in the liver.

Checked 4/3/15

June 2nd, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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