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Eating hazelnut spreads with palm oil causes cancer

What you may have heard

Products that contain palm oil, namely hazelnut spreads, are one of the most recent foods to be flagged as potentially carcinogenic.

What science tells us

Products containing palm oil, which can contain 3-Monochloropropane-1,2-diol esters (3-MCPD) and glycidyl esters (GE), have been flagged as possibly carcinogenic but only when heated 392 degrees Fahrenheit (FDA). Manufacturers have reported that brand-name hazelnut spreads are processed below 392 degrees. As a result, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stated that they pose no cancer risk (FDA).

Epidemiological Evidence

Epidemiological studies have been conducted to examine whether a relationship exists between palm oil and cancer. Currently, there is no evidence in human studies that hazelnut spread or palm oil consumption increase the risk of cancer.

Laboratory Evidence/Supporting Evidence

Animal studies have also been conducted to examine if palm oil causes cancer. Some studies suggest that when the palm oil is heated at high temperature, it can cause cancer.

IARC Carcinogen Classification: Not classified

How to reduce your risk

Because of the added palm oil, hazelnut spreads are high in saturated fats. Saturated fats raise the level of cholesterol in the blood, which increases your risk of heart disease and stroke (AHA). Eating too much fat can lead to obesity, which also raises the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some cancers .

Bottom line

Hazelnut spreads do not have any known carcinogenic effects. These foods are high in saturated fats, though, and should be consumed in moderation (ACS).

Food and Drug Administration (DA): 3-Monochloropropane-1,2-diol (MCPD) Esters and Glycidyl Esters
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: Reducing 3- Monochloropropane-1,2-diol esters and glycidyl esters in refined oils 
American Heart Association (AHA): Saturated fat 
American Cancer Society (ACS): Choosing healthy fats


June 24, 2021
Verified/updated: January 26, 2022