Biological and Nutritional Properties of Palm Oil and Palmitic Acid: Effects on Health

Molecules. 2015 Sep 18;20(9):17339-61. doi: 10.3390/molecules200917339.


A growing body of evidence highlights the close association between nutrition and human health. Fat is an essential macronutrient, and vegetable oils, such as palm oil, are widely used in the food industry and highly represented in the human diet. Palmitic acid, a saturated fatty acid, is the principal constituent of refined palm oil. In the last few decades, controversial studies have reported potential unhealthy effects of palm oil due to the high palmitic acid content. In this review we provide a concise and comprehensive update on the functional role of palm oil and palmitic acid in the development of obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular diseases and cancer. The atherogenic potential of palmitic acid and its stereospecific position in triacylglycerols are also discussed.

Keywords: MUFA; PUFA; SFA; T2DM; TAG; cancer; cardiovascular diseases; obesity; palm oil; palmitic acid.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / etiology
  • Dietary Fats / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Palm Oil
  • Palmitic Acid / adverse effects*
  • Plant Oils / adverse effects
  • Plant Oils / chemistry*


  • Dietary Fats
  • Plant Oils
  • Palmitic Acid
  • Palm Oil