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Palmitic acid

Palmitic acid (hexadecanoic acid in IUPAC nomenclature) is a fatty acid with a 16-carbon chain. It is the most common saturated fatty acid found in animals, plants, and microorganisms. Its chemical formula is CH3(CH2)14COOH, and its carbon-to-double bond ratio (C:D ratio) is 16:0. Palmitic acid is a major component of palm oil from the fruit of Elaeis guineensis (oil palms), constituting up to 44% of total fats. Meats, cheeses, butter, and other dairy products also contain palmitic acid, making up 50–60% of total fats.

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By BartVL71 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4996751

Effects in Cosmetics

Palmitic acid and its salts and esters (palmitates) are used in cosmetics as surfactants for producing soaps, cosmetics, and industrial mold release agents. These applications utilize sodium palmitate, commonly obtained by saponification of palm oil.

The use in food

Due to its low cost and ability to add texture and "mouthfeel" to processed foods, palmitic acid and its sodium salt are widely used in food products. Sodium palmitate is permitted as a natural additive in organic products.


Palmitic acid was discovered by Edmond Frémy in 1840 through the saponification of palm oil, which remains the primary industrial route for producing the acid today. Triglycerides in palm oil are hydrolyzed under high-temperature water, and the resulting mixture is fractionally distilled.

Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals 

It is widely accepted in the medical community that dietary sources of palmitic acid raise low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and total cholesterol levels. The World Health Organization has stated there is convincing evidence that palmitic acid increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.


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