So what is the nutritional justification for using palm oil in formula milks?
Formula milk companies aim to approximate the nutritional content of breast milk as closely as possible, and they achieve this by using a blend of ingredients that can provide a similar composition of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Fat is one of the most important components of breast milk, providing a range of different fatty acids needed for development and energy.
Infant formulas contain a mixture of plant-based oils e.g. palm, sunflower, rapeseed, as they each contain a different profile of fatty acids. Palm oil is specifically used as it is the only plant oil that is rich in palmitic acid (32-57%), the predominant saturated fatty acid in breast milk (approx. 24% of the total fatty acids).1 Sunflower and rapeseed oils are used for their higher content of mono- and poly-unsaturated fatty acids. By using a blend of these oils, it is possible to achieve a fatty acid pattern that is as close to that of breast milk as possible.
Palm Oil Sustainability
Many of the concerns related to palm oil are not about its health effects, but rather its environmental impact. Unfortunately, much of the world’s palm oil is produced using agricultural methods that are detrimental to ecosystems and biodiversity. However, HiPP are the only formula brand in the world to use sustainably-sourced, socially-responsible organic palm oil that is largely certified by the Rainforest Alliance. This means it has been grown without reliance on slash-and-burn agriculture or the destruction of rainforests. Certified palm oil protects the environment and the local communities who depend on it for their livelihoods.
So not all palm oil is the same. You can feel confident that the palm oil used in HiPP formula milks is cultivated on certified organic plantations, largely Rainforest Alliance Certified.
1. EFSA (2014). Scientific Opinion on the essential composition of infant and follow-on formulae. The EFSA Journal 2014; 12(7):3760