Margarine Myth Busted For Good
Health advice to swap saturated animal fats for polyunsaturated vegetables fats, particularly in the form of margarine has been a cornerstone of mainstream dietary guidelines for over 50 years.
Many margarine companies advertise their products as being heart healthy and have even promoted them as a means of reducing cholesterol and heart disease.
A new analysis of old research data has now brought this advice into question and adds to the mounting evidence that saturated fats are not so bad for us after all.
The meta-analysis published by the British Medical Journal in early February of 2013 reports that contrary to popular belief; rates of death from all causes, including cardiovascular and coronary heart disease are increased when dietary saturated fats are replaced with polyunsaturated omega 6 fats.
The research reviewed in this analysis was from the Sydney Diet Heart Study, a randomized controlled trial conducted in Australia between 1966-1973 involving 458 men, aged 30-59 years who had history of recent coronary events.
The treatment group (221 men) replaced dietary saturated fats, predominantly from animal fats such as butter with safflower oil and safflower oil based margarines, while the control group continued to eat unaltered diets higher in saturated fats.
The results of this trial showed that the men who made these dietary changes had significantly higher rates of death than the men who didn’t swap saturated fats for polyunsaturated fats.
What do these results mean?
This meta-analysis further confirms the health dangers of processed food products, in particular refined oils.
Although these research results apply specifically to safflower oil, similar omega 6 fats such as sunflower, cottonseed, soybean and canola oil are also used in many other margarines and processed food products and are best avoided.
Margarine carries more than a few health risks, particularly due to the processing methods used in it’s production.
The most common way of producing margarine involves heating vegetable oils to extremely high temperatures and adding certain chemical catalysts and hydrogen atoms to the fats to ensure they remain solid in the finished product.
This means that the oils in margarine are rancid before you even open your container and can cause serious health problems when ingested.
Furthermore, this processing method changes the molecular structure of the polyunsaturated fats to a saturated form anyhow and can also result in the production of disease-causing trans fats.
Finally, numerous artifical food additives, colours, emulsifyers and preservatives are added to make your margarine appear more appetising than the grey goop it would otherwise look like, and so it lasts longer.
So if margarine is out, what can you use instead?
For heating and cooking purposes, saturated fats such as organic butter and coconut oil are advisable as they are more heat-stable than polyunsaturated fats and thereby less likely to go rancid and harm your health.
For cold uses such as salad dressings, use cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, and if you want something to spread, try organic nut-butters, avocado or use some organic butter sparingly.
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- The Omega Question; Understanding The Role of Fatty Acids in Your Body