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Is Palm Oil Bad for Babies?

Palm oil is often found in baby formula – but isn’t it bad? Not just for babies, but for the environment too?

Maybe you’ve seen news stories about how palm oil can be devastating for rainforest habitats. This is true – but there are sustainable forms of palm oil. HiPP, for example, uses organic, sustainable palm oil.

But even if you stick to sustainable palm oil, what about the impact on your baby? It’s important to understand that palm oil isn’t all bad. 

Why is palm oil in formula?

Formula manufacturers use it because it’s rich in natural fats that can help your little one’s body and brain develop. 

All babies need fat to support their growth, and unlike adults, you don’t need to worry about restricting calories or reducing fat intake (unless you’ve been advised to by a pediatrician).

Fats are essential to healthy brain development in particular, and under-twos should get around one-third of their calories from fat. 

Palm oil is often the first choice for formula because it’s very similar to palmitic acid – a nutrient found in breastmilk. It includes some vital nutrients, such as:

  • Beta-carotene, to help with vision
  • Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant
  • Vitamin K, which helps with blood coagulation
  • Good cholesterol, for a healthy heart

Is there anything bad about palm oil?

There are concerns that babies don’t absorb palm oil as well as other fats (including the palmitic acid found in breast milk), which could mean they also absorb less calcium, potentially leading to lower bone density. To compensate, formula manufacturers add extra calcium to their milk. 

Is there an alternative to palm oil?

Yes. Concerns about fat absorption and the sustainability of some palm oil mean that one European organic brand, Loulouka, has chosen not to use it at all. Instead, they use coconut oil, which is known to be absorbed more easily by babies.

Should I choose a palm-oil free formula?

For most babies, palm oil is a healthy fat that will help them grow. But, either because of sustainability considerations or concerns over fat absorption, some parents prefer to choose a palm-oil free formula such as Loulouka. 

Not sure which formula to order?

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