Does Palm Oil Cause Allergic Reactions?

Recently, Best Food Facts reader Natalie submitted a question about palm oil regarding whether it causes allergic reactions.To answer the question,we reached out to Dr. Steve L. Taylor, Professor, Food Science & Technology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Dr. Taylor:

In my opinion, palm oil would be rather unlikely to be the cause of a food allergy. Food allergies are caused by proteins, and oils typically contain very low levels of protein. The likelihood of allergic sensitization to these proteins seems very low to non-existent, in my opinion. And, we don’t typically eat other foods derived from palm species, so sensitization by that route also seems unlikely. Coconut is a product of palm trees but coconut oil and palm oil are derived from different species of palm.

Natalie also asked whether there have been scientific studies on palm oil allergies.

Dr. Taylor:

No, palm oil allergy has not been described in clinical literature. That said, coconut allergy is described in clinical literature, but it’s not common, and it is the only allergy to a food from the palm family. Coconut oil is not known to be allergenic, even in those with coconut allergy, because of its very low protein content.

Dr. Taylor recommended that Natalie ask an allergist about her palm oil allergy suspicions. He suggested that because palm oil is not eaten alone, but rather as an ingredient, there might be allergic reactions to another ingredient in the food.

If you are experiencing problems you think are associated with palm oil or allergies, please visit your physician or allergist.

Have a question about food?  Ask your question, and we’ll have an expert respond!

Flowering Palm, Torquay” by Torquay Palms is licensed under CC BY SA.

  • impaler

    Seems very suspicious. Had an allergic reaction to orville redenbacher popcorn and its not the corn as I can have corn flakes…the next ingredient is palm oil. Water doesnt have protein yet there are people that are allergic to that.

    • DeadHead

      A lot of those things are processed in the same areas as tree nuts and other things. Could have been cross contaminated with that.

      • impaler

        its a possibility, but if i eat, say, cashews, it doesnt happen

      • impaler

        No as I can eat tree nuts like cashews no problem.

  • Ellie Ramsden

    This is very misleading. I have a palm oil intolerance, when I eat it my stomach bloats very badly and I get very bad pain. I also get contapted. These symptoms can last days. Palm oil intolerances are real – it just hasn’t been researched properly yet.

  • Ryan Williams

    I can’t breath right for a couple days anytime i eat anything with palm kernel oil

  • Kim_T

    I have a bad reaction every time I eat anything with dates, palm oil, palm fruit or palm kernel oil in the label. I get hives in isolated areas, typically where my clothes fit tightest and it lasts for over a week and I may also have small psoriasis lesions pop up in a few places (typically my scalp) . I discovered this allergy when I substituted Smart Balance Butter (key ingredient, palm fruit) for regular butter in my family’s diet about 10 years ago. After about two weeks of using the smart balance butter, I had hives from head to toe, rash on top of hives, my hair, eye lashes, eye brows and body hair was getting noticeably thinner, and my psoriasis exploded! It took me several months to recover, even after I put myself on a gluten-free diet. I remained on the gluten free diet for two years. I have been allergy tested for common allergens, including peanuts, tree nuts and gluten- all negative. I have purposely tested my reactions over the years, only to find that palm dates, palm kernel, palm oil, and to a lesser extend coconut products, do indeed cause an allergic reaction every time. I have also unknowingly consumed foods with these products, and gotten the same reaction….only to find the culprit in the label after the reaction ensued. I can eat all tree nuts and peanuts with no issues. This is real…you are not alone. Check every label because palm is in more foods than you can imagine, and manufacturers often change the oils in their products for no apparent reason…so even foods that were once safe, could become unsafe and vice versa. I have found that more food manufacturers tend to be moving away from palm oil….yay!