A recent report revealed the discovery of an estimated 1,000 or more orangutans on the eastern border in a remote part of Borneo.
The orangutan, considered endangered, is found predominantly in Indonesia and Malaysia. It is also in these areas where palm oil production provides a livelihood for the people there.
Palm oil is used in a number of products in the U.S., such as margarine, shortening, baked goods, candies, crackers, popcorn, frozen dinners, fried foods, and processed foods with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. It is even used in soaps and cosmetics. It’s been forecast that this will be the most traded and produced oil in the world by 2012.
Unfortunately, to produce the product, large areas of rainforest must be cleared, thus destroying habitats of animals such as the orangutan, and thereby placing the animal on the endangered list.
Nonetheless, it seems the oil produced out of the region not only threatens animal habitats but can put human beings on a kind of endangered list as well.
Palm oil contains trans fatty acid, or trans fat. It’s been determined that trans fat increases the "bad" LDL cholesterol and decreases the "good" HDL cholesterol in human beings. These factors contribute to heart disease, strokes, and diabetes. What’s more, serious effects from trans fat can occur at very low levels. Adding just 2% in calories from trans fat in your diet can escalate your risk of heart disease by 23%! The American Heart Association recommends limiting trans fat to 1% of one’s total intake of daily calories.
It’s good to note, though, that naturally occurring trans fat, as that found in meat and dairy products, has a far lower risk on health compared to the kind of trans fat found in processed food products. Trans fat occurs naturally in a great number of foods. Therefore, deleting the naturally occurring fat entirely from the diet would not be realistic because it would cause a deficiency with regards to nutrition.
Nevertheless, palm oil, with regards to its production in processed foods, seems to be a controversial substance healthwise as well as in the wild. As long as we use moderation on both accounts and find more healthy and viable uses for the oil while sustaining the forests and therefore animal habitats, it can be produced with more positive results.
I hope the recent discovery of the Borneo orangutans will make people realize how important it is to sustain our natural resources.