Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries (CPOPC) has sent an objection letter to World Health Organization (WHO) for publishing and disseminating an infographic flyer entitled ”Nutrition advice for adults during COVID-19”. The infographic, published by WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean, endorses adults to avoid eating saturated fats, including palm oil.
The letter states the following facts that have been verified and discussed at length by the nutritional fraternity over the years:
1. Despite having high saturated fat content, palm oil is the source of the world’s most widely used cooking oil. Palm oil is safe to consume because it has a balanced composition of various fatty acids and has been confirmed by many scientific research studies globally.
2. The palm-based cooking oil is obtained from olein, a liquid fraction of crude palm oil (CPO), which is produced through a series of refine, bleach, and deodorize (RBD) processes – therefore often termed as RBD palm olein and complied by HACCP standards.
3. The RBD palm olein, or the cooking oil as retail in the market, has lower saturated fats than the unprocessed CPO. Accordingly, when it is consumed as part of a balanced diet, RBD palm olein does not have any incremental risk for cardiovascular disease.
4. Some studies even suggest that the RBD palm olein has positive effects on cardiovascular disease prevention. Due to high oleic acid concentration, RBD palm olein can decrease low-density lipoprotein and cholesterol levels in the blood system. Numerous studies have also demonstrated that palm oil is similar to unsaturated vegetable oils (e.g., soy, canola, olive, and sunflower oils) with regards to effects on blood lipids.
5. Another benefit, palm oil is an excellent source of tocotrienols, a form of vitamin E. This antioxidant protects cells that can reduce the risk of certain health problems such as heart disease and cancer.
6. The recommendation on saturated fats from most health agencies worldwide is to check your consumption and not to avoid altogether. The WHO Infographic is therefore misleading and not warranted as palm oil is the most vegetable oil consumed in the world.
Bearing those facts, CPOPC firmly believes that palm oil should not be listed arbitrarily as restricted food to be consumed during COVID-19. Contrary to the misguided assumption, palm oil has numerous health benefits for adults. As we are all together in addressing the largest COVID-19 pandemic in the world now, WHO should avoid advising on relatively low-risk non-communicable diseases. Therefore, CPOPC would like to request WHO to revise the statement with an official explanation.
In addition, the representative of WHO in Eastern Mediterranean has confirmed the receipt of CPOPC objection letter.