Palm oil and health: a case of manipulated perception and misuse of science

J Am Coll Nutr. 2010 Jun;29(3 Suppl):240S-244S. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2010.10719840.


In the 1980s, a combination of forces came together to convince the public that food products containing tropical oils contributed to their risk of coronary heart disease. Tropical oils were competing with the U.S. soy bean oil market as an alternative vegetable oil, yet they were higher in saturated fat, which had become the target of the health promotion community for its theoretical association with coronary heart disease risk. Successful national campaigns were undertaken to force food manufacturers to remove tropical oils, including palm oil, from their products and to replace them with hydrogenated vegetable oils, resulting in increased intakes of trans-fatty acids, which later became the target of the same advocacy groups. Today palm oil is being touted as a suitable replacement for hydrogenated vegetable oils.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Arecaceae*
  • Dietary Fats / history*
  • Food Technology / history
  • Heart Diseases / etiology
  • Heart Diseases / history*
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination
  • Nutritional Sciences / history*
  • Palm Oil
  • Plant Oils / history*
  • Trans Fatty Acids / history
  • United States


  • Dietary Fats
  • Plant Oils
  • Trans Fatty Acids
  • Palm Oil