Palm Oil Consumption Increases LDL Cholesterol Compared with Vegetable Oils Low in Saturated Fat in a Meta-Analysis of Clinical Trials

J Nutr. 2015 Jul;145(7):1549-58. doi: 10.3945/jn.115.210575. Epub 2015 May 20.


Background: 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.

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

Methods: We searched PubMed and the Cochrane Library for trials of at least 2 wk 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. Data were pooled by using random-effects meta-analysis.

Results: Palm oil significantly increased LDL cholesterol by 0.24 mmol/L (95% CI: 0.13, 0.35 mmol/L; I(2) = 83.2%) compared with vegetable oils low in saturated fat. This effect was observed in randomized trials (0.31 mmol/L; 95% CI: 0.20, 0.42 mmol/L) but not in nonrandomized trials (0.03 mmol/L; 95% CI: -0.15, 0.20 mmol/L; P-difference = 0.02). Among randomized trials, only modest heterogeneity in study results remained after considering the test oil dose and the comparison oil type (I(2) = 27.5%). Palm oil increased HDL cholesterol by 0.02 mmol/L (95% CI: 0.01, 0.04 mmol/L; I(2) = 49.8%) compared with vegetable oils low in saturated fat and by 0.09 mmol/L (95% CI: 0.06, 0.11 mmol/L; I(2) = 47.8%) compared with trans fat-containing oils.

Conclusions: 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. This systematic review was registered with the PROSPERO registry at as CRD42012002601.

Keywords: HDL; LDL; cholesterol; diet; lipids; meta-analysis; nutrition; triglycerides.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood*
  • Cholesterol, LDL / blood*
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage
  • Fatty Acids / administration & dosage
  • Fatty Acids / analysis
  • Humans
  • Palm Oil
  • Plant Oils / administration & dosage*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Trans Fatty Acids
  • Triglycerides / blood


  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Cholesterol, LDL
  • Dietary Fats
  • Fatty Acids
  • Plant Oils
  • Trans Fatty Acids
  • Triglycerides
  • Palm Oil