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What Is Palmitate?

By Paul Scott
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Palmitate is a synthetic salt of palmitic acid produced by a process of esterification. Palmitic acid is a saturated fatty acid found in a variety of plant and animal sources. The most prolific of these natural sources are palm oil, palm kernel oil, and coconut oil. Palmitate is an antioxidant and source of vitamin A used as a dietary supplement and as a fortifying agent in dairy products. The effects of vitamin A palmitate are well documented, and its use as a supplement should always be controlled by a medical professional.

Palmitic acid is a naturally occurring saturated fatty acid made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen found in fats, waxes, body lipids, and several plant oils. Palm and palm kernel oils, coconut oil, olive oil, dark green vegetables, liver, full cream milk, and carrots are common sources of palmitic acid with palm oils being among the strongest sources and the origin of the name. Palmitate is a synthesized salt of palmitic acid produced by a process of esterification or alcohol oxidation of the acid. A strong antioxidant and source of vitamin A, it is used as a fortifying food additive or as a dietary supplement.

Many low fat foods lose much of their vitamin A component when they undergo milk fat removal. This is particularly true of dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese. Palmitate is commonly added to these products as a vitamin A fortification agent. Various oral preparations of palmitate are also available as direct dietary supplements. In this format, the compound is often known as retinol or retinol A which is also often found in a range of topical preparations including sun blocks, scar tissue reducing formulations, and skin conditioners.

Vitamin A deficiencies may have a negative impact on good health with afflictions of the eyes being the most common symptoms. These include dryness, night blindness, and degradation of the cornea. Excessive use of palmitate preparations may, however, also pose significant health risks including an increase in LDL cholesterol levels and a decrease in HDL cholesterol concentrations with an associated risk of arterial diseases. As with most supplemental substances, the best course of action is generally to try and address deficiencies naturally through dietary adjustment before resorting to the use of synthesized agents. Although palmitate may have benefits as a supplement, the associated risks require that its use be recommended and monitored by a medical professional.

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Discussion Comments

By Fa5t3r — On May 04, 2013

@Ana1234 - It sounds like palmitate can increase bad cholesterol, so I wouldn't exactly call it harmless, especially when people don't really need any extra help in that area.

I didn't even know they put it into food. I have a gel that I use on a scar that I'd like to reduce and I just wanted to see what the ingredients are, because it works so well.

By Ana1234 — On May 04, 2013

@Iluviaporos - Well, food is made up of chemicals, if you're going to break it down to its base components and that goes for every kind of food, not just the ones that have been processed.

I don't think every additive is good for you, but I don't like palmitate has side effects unless you eat too much of it, and it generally gets added to things so that they will be more healthy for you, not less.

The same can't really be said for things like gelatin though. But, companies are required to list everything in the ingredients list on the side of packaging, so if you're worried about this kind of thing, either check there or try to only get non-processed foods. There are plenty of yogurts on the market that haven't been tampered with like this, and yogurt is already a healthy food, it doesn't actually need to be low-fat.

By lluviaporos — On May 03, 2013

It always kind of creeps me out when they add and take away the natural components of food but then present it as though nothing has changed. I used to buy low fat yogurt thinking it was a mostly natural product and it must be good for me, but then I read an article about how they add palmitate vitamin A and other things like gelatin (which, by the way, is often made from cow bones and hooves) to improve the texture.

It just feels like it can't be healthy if you're eating a bunch of chemicals rather than food.

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