High cholesterol warning: The vegetable oil that ‘significantly’ increases ‘bad’ levels

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Cholesterol is a fatty substance produced inside the liver and as a result of the food you eat. High cholesterol means you have too much LDL cholesterol inside your blood. LDL cholesterol is commonly referred to as the “bad” cholesterol because it can clog up your arteries, thereby raising your risk of having a heart attack.

Finding ways to lower high cholesterol levels is key to ward off the threat of heart complications.

Diet is central to this effect and certain decisions present deceptive risks.

According to a review published in The Journal of Nutrition, consuming palm oil can hike your risk of high LDL levels.

Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil that comes from the fruit of oil palm trees, the scientific name is Elaeis guineensis.

According to the study’s researchers, “palm oil contains a high amount of saturated fat compared with most other vegetable oils, but studies have reported inconsistent effects of palm oil on blood lipids”.

Saturated fat is an unhealthy type of fat that increases the amount of LDL cholesterol in your blood.

The researchers systematically reviewed the effect of palm oil consumption on blood lipids compared with other cooking oils using data from clinical trials.

They searched PubMed and the Cochrane Library for trials of at least two-week duration that compared the effects of palm oil consumption with any of the predefined comparison oils: vegetable oils low in saturated fat, trans fat–containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, and animal fats.

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Data were pooled by using random-effects meta-analysis.

What did the researchers find out?

Palm oil “significantly” increased LDL cholesterol compared with vegetable oils low in saturated fat, the researchers observed.

The vegetable oil also increased HDL cholesterol compared with vegetable oils low in saturated fat and trans fat–containing oils.

HDL cholesterol counters the harmful effects of LDL cholesterol by picking it up and transporting it to the liver where it is flushed out.

The researchers concluded: “Palm oil consumption results in higher LDL cholesterol than do vegetable oils low in saturated fat and higher HDL cholesterol than do trans fat–containing oils in humans.

“The effects of palm oil on blood lipids are as expected on the basis of its high saturated fat content, which supports the reduction in palm oil use by replacement with vegetable oils low in saturated and trans fat.”

Other sources of saturated fat

Saturated fat is found in:

  • Butter, ghee, suet, lard, coconut oil and palm oil
  • Cakes
  • Biscuits
  • Fatty cuts of meat
  • Sausages
  • Bacon
  • Cured meats like salami, chorizo and pancetta
  • Cheese
  • Pastries, such as pies, quiches, sausage rolls and croissants
  • Cream, crème fraîche and sour cream
  • Ice cream
  • Coconut milk and coconut cream
  • Milkshakes
  • Chocolate and chocolate spreads.

UK health guidelines recommend that the average man aged 19 to 64 years should eat no more than 30g of saturated fat a day.

The average woman aged 19 to 64 years should eat no more than 20g of saturated fat a day.

It’s also recommended that people should reduce their overall fat intake and replace saturated fat with some unsaturated fat, including omega-3 fats.

Omega-3 fats are found in oily fish, such as:

  • Kippers
  • Herring
  • Trout
  • Sardines
  • Salmon
  • Mackerel.

“Vegetable sources of omega-3 fats are not thought to have the same benefits on heart health as those found in fish,” adds the NHS.

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