Palm oil in baby milk? Let's talk about the effects

Palm oil in baby milk? Let's talk about the effects

In their June 2021 newsletter, Leading charity First Steps Nutrition Trust has published a report on the harmful effects of using palm oil in baby milk. While many brands are now faced with having to change recipes because of the reality that using palm oil as one of their ingredients isn’t the best choice for babies and the environment, Kendamil’s recipe proudly stays the same.

At Kendamil, we truly care about the healthy development of babies. That’s why we do not use palm oil in our baby milk formulation. And we never will.

While many brands are now faced with having to change recipes because of the reality that using palm oil as one of their ingredients isn’t the best choice for babies and the environment, Kendamil’s recipe proudly stays the same.

🌴 Why does palm oil have negative effects in baby milk? 🌴

Research has shown that when vegetable oils (like palm oil) are heated in the refining process, they release harmful levels of glycidyl fatty acid esters (GE) and 3-monochloropropanediol (3-MCPD). Based on the evidence from animal studies, GE is both genotoxic and carcinogenic. Genotoxic means that it can damage DNA, causing mutations, while carcinogenic means it can lead to cancer. 3-MCPD can cause kidney damage. (1)

Studies have also shown that baby milks containing Palm Oil prevented absorption of good fats and prevented absorption of important minerals like calcium. Worryingly, for babies that drink milk that contains Palm Oil, studies have also found that this has led to problems later in life like reduced bone mass and reduced bone density. (2)

There’s also the impact on our little one’s digestive system. Some babies can pass harder stools when they drink formula containing palm oil, and can even become constipated. This happens when palmitic acid binds with the calcium forming insoluble soaps and undigested particles in the baby's gut, which then get excreted from the baby’s body in harder stools. (3)

The problems with palm oil infographic

Because of these concerns, strict maximum levels of palm oil have been placed on infant formula and follow-on formula. A leading public health charity sent out a nutrition newsletter in June 2021 with a study stating "the removal of palm oil from infant milks and baby foods would be a prudent response." The study also acknowledged the Kendamil brand for being palm oil-free. 

🌴 Why does palm oil have negative effects on the environment? 🌴

Then, there’s the damage that the production of palm oil does to our environment. It’s the main driving factor behind deforestation, climate change and affects the habitats of already endangered animals, like orangutans.


🤔 So why do other formula companies use Palm Oil? 🤔

The purpose of baby formula is to closely match each component of breast milk -which is the GOLD standard! Breast milk is made up of fats, protein and carbohydrates. And it’s the fat (or lipids) that give our little ones over half the amount of energy needed for healthy development. But there is more to lipids than just giving our little ones energy. These lipids are essential fatty acids (EFA’s) that aid tissue growth, cardiovascular health, brain development and function. They’re the building blocks of life and essential for neurodevelopment. Babies are born with 100 billion neurons in their brains - twice as many as adults! These neurons are manufactured from lipids (good full cream milk fats!), and in their first three years the brain will grow faster than any other body part. (4)

Palm oil is used in baby formula as part of their 100% vegetable fat recipe, to provide palmitic acid. But as studies show, because the palmitic acid has a different molecular structure in vegetable oils compared to the palmitic acid structure in breast milk and cow's milk, it is actually a poor substitute to good full cream milk fat found in mammal’s milk. This is because of the different ways that the triglycerides in palm oil and breast milk are broken down in our little one’s digestive systems. Because the palmitic acid in palm oil is not absorbed like the palmitic acid in breast milk, it forms an insoluble soap which binds with free calcium ions to create those harder stools we talked about earlier. And these calcium soaps can cause lots of discomfort in little ones including constipation. Babies can digest mammal’s milk fats because a baby's tummy has lipase enzymes that can break down the milk’s fatty acid properly. And this means that they’re able to get all the goodness of the palmitic acid and retain and absorb free calcium, resulting in softer stools. Hooray for our full cream milk fats!

So it seems a no-brainer that brands shouldn’t use vegetable fats. Yet sadly, they use palm oil because it’s cheaper. But we’re not about cutting costs. Kendamil is the only baby milk made in Britain today. Kendamil sources all our ingredients for world-class farms, right here in Britain. Why? Because we believe that local ingredients, naturally derived, are better for your baby - and the planet. Our milk comes from our cows in the Lake District, our whey from Somerset, our vitamins and minerals from Kent and our essential oils from Yorkshire.

 🥛 Why Kendamil has never used palm oil in any of its products 🥛

 We’re about giving your baby the best possible start in life, which is why our Kendamil baby milk has always been palm oil free. We do not, and will never use palm oil. Instead, we use a blend of full-fat milk combined with healthy essential oils found in a combination of sunflower and rapeseed to match the essential fatty acids (EFAs) found in breast milk. These EFAs naturally are high in linolenic fatty acids (omega-6) and alpha linolenic fatty acids (omega-3), giving our little ones the vital nutrients they need.

And because we source all our ingredients in the UK, we have a really (really!) small carbon footprint. And a small footprint means big strides towards a healthier world. Our formula is also uniquely vegetarian-friendly, because we use marine algae as our source of DHA. Our factory even runs on 100% renewable energy! 

From the beginning, Kendamil has put your baby’s health first

When you buy Kendamil, rest assured you’re buying from a brand that truly cares. Because from the very beginning, we’ve put your baby’s healthy development first.


(1) Process contaminants from oil refining in infant milks, First Steps Nutrition Trust

(2) Koo WW, Hockman EM, Dow M. Palm olein in the fat blend of infant formulas: effect on the intestinal absorption of calcium and fat, and bone mineralization. J Am Coll Nutr. 2006 Apr;25(2):117-22. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2006.10719521. PMID: 16582027

(3) Lasekan, John B et al. “Impact of palm olein in infant formulas on stool consistency and frequency: a meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials.” Food & nutrition research vol. 61,1 1330104. 14 Jun. 2017, doi:10.1080/16546628.2017.1330104

(4) Mental Floss, 10 Amazing Facts about the Human Brain, 


Important Notice: Breastfeeding is best. Kendamil Follow-on milk is only for babies over 6 months, and should be used as part of a mixed diet. Please talk to your Healthcare Professional.

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