It’s important to all of us that our babies receive the best possible nutrition. At Enfamil, we strive to create infant formulas that are inspired by human milk composition and function. Our goal is to provide your baby with the best possible start in life.
We've done extensive research to develop our Enfamil products, including the plant-based oils we use to create them. One of these oils is palm olein oil, which helps make our formulas compositionally similar to human milk.
What is Palm Olein Oil?
Palm olein oil is a refined version of palm oil; the liquid component of palm oil that has undergone “fractionation” or a process that filters out crystals in the crude oil. This helps make the oil more temperature-stable, shelf-stable, and nutritious!
Why is palm olein oil in baby formula?
Enfamil uses palm olein oil for three main reasons; its nutritious benefits, its stability, and its accessibility:
Nutritious benefits of palm olein oil
The goal of infant formula is to create a food source that is as close to a mother’s breast milk as possible in terms of nutrition and sustenance. Palm olein oil is an excellent source of fatty acids that model those found in breastmilk such as palmitic, oleic, and linoleic acids.
Stability of palm olein oil
The refined oil we use in baby formula helps keep our product physically consistent–we don’t want you to come across clumpiness, discoloration, or harsh flavors. It’s also important to keep our product shelf-stable so that it’s fresh when you buy it, and stays fresh for as long as possible. Always be sure to check the expiration date before purchase and use.
Accessibility of palm oil
Palm oil is one of the most widely abundant resources, and in a world where supply chain issues can lead to catastrophes, we want to make sure we do everything we can to keep production going.
Difference between palm oil, palm olein oil, and palm kernel oil
Palm oil: unrefined
Palm oil may refer to crude palm oil and/or palm olein oil. In both cases, the product is edible and commonly used as a cooking oil and/or ingredient in food. Another word for crude palm oil is “red palm oil” due to its natural reddish or orange color and distinct flavor. The redness comes from natural pigments called carotenoids, which also make carrots orange and ripe tomatoes red.
Palm olein oil: refined
Have you ever seen coconut oil become solid in the jar, or olive oil become cloudy when chilled? Refining oils helps them maintain their same liquid state and avoid getting cloudy. The process also helps neutralize the color and flavor of unrefined palm oil.
Palm kernel oil: made from the seed
Palm kernel oil is also edible but sourced from the seed, rather than the fruit. Its nutrition and properties are different from palm oil, but palm kernel oil is not used in our formulas.
If you have any questions or concerns about including any variation of palm oil in your or your baby’s diet, be sure to consult with your doctor for guidance that’s specific to your needs.
Criticism of Palm Oil in Baby Formula
We understand that there have been some concerns raised about the use of palm olein oil in infant formulas. Some have alleged that it negatively impacts calcium absorption, bone mineralization, and stool health among infants who are fed formulas that contain it.
Numerous and more recent clinical studies have shown that formulas containing the multi-oil fat blend in our infant formulas result in growth and development comparable to that seen among infants fed breast milk, are well tolerated and promote soft stools:
- Babies fed infant formulas/milks absorb and retain as much calcium for bone as healthy infants fed breast milk. When measured at 4 years of age, children fed our products as babies have bone mineral content and bone mineral density similar to those fed breast milk as infants.1
- The fat blend in our infant products is patterned after breast milk. The palm olein oil in most of our routine and specialty infant formulas provides palmitic acid, the source of about 20 percent (by weight) of the fatty acids in breast milk and is a good source of energy for growing infants2,3
In other words, studies show that formulas with palm olein provide the baby with at least as much absorbed calcium as human milk.4
Why Enfamil uses palm oil
All things considered, Enfamil uses palm oil in our infant formulas because we believe it’s the best option for reliably providing nutritious infant formula to as many families as we can. Keep in mind that each individual baby may respond differently to different ingredients and formulas, which is why it’s always best to review your options with your doctor to help find the right balance for your baby.
For more information about our formula ingredients, features, and benefits, check out our family of formulas.
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Is Enfamil’s palm oil sustainable?
Is palm oil bad for babies?
What is the difference between partially hydrogenated vs fractionated palm oil?
What do our key competitors use instead of palm oil?