The good, the bad and margarine
I must say I am a great fan of butter. Never did like the "artificial" kind that was hyped as more healthy: margarine. As the decades passed, we found out about trans fatty-acids and about the absorption of fat soluble vitamins. And after half a century, all of a sudden butter does not seem so bad any more - compared to margarine.
Partially hydrogenated margarines and shortening are even worse for you than the highly refined vegetable oils from which they are made because of chemical changes that occur during the hydrogenation process. Man made trans fats are toxins to the body, but unfortunately your digestive system does not recognize them as such. Instead of eliminating them, your body incorporates the trans fats into the cell membranes as though they where naturally occurring fats called cis fats. Your cell actually become partially hydrogenated. This interferes with cellular metabolism because it changes the normal chemical reactions which take place in the cell.
Summarized from Fallon, Sally. Nourishing Traditions. Washington, DC: New Trends, 1999. page 15 (found on Rami Nagel's site)
Here is a spirited but essentially correct description of what we are now coming to realize about the good, the bad and - the margarine.
DO YOU KNOW ... The difference between margarine and butter?
- Both have the same amount of calories.
- Butter is slightly higher in saturated fats at 8 grams compared to 5 grams.
- Eating margarine can increase heart disease in women by 53% over eating the same amount of butter according to a recent Harvard Medical Study.
- Eating butter increases the absorption of many other nutrients in other foods. Butter has many nutritional benefits where margarine has a few only because they are added!
- Butter tastes much better than margarine and it can enhance the flavors of other foods.
- Butter has been around for centuries where margarine has been around for less than 100 years.
Now for Margarine...
- Very high in Trans Fatty Acids...
- Triple risk of Coronary Heart Disease...
- Increases total cholesterol and LDL (this is the bad cholesterol) ...
- Lowers HDL cholesterol, (the good cholesterol) ....
- Increases the risk of cancers by up to five fold...
- Lowers quality of breast milk...
- Decreases immune response...
- Decreases insulin response.
- And here is the most disturbing fact....
- Margarine is but ONE MOLECULE away from being PLASTIC...
This fact alone was enough to have me avoiding margarine for life and anything else that is hydrogenated (this means hydrogen is added, changing the molecular structure of the substance).
YOU can try this yourself: purchase a tub of margarine and leave it in your garage or shaded area. Within a couple of days you will note a couple of things: no flies, not even those pesky fruit flies will go near it (that should tell you something)... it does not rot or smell differently... because it has no nutritional value, nothing will grow on it... even those teeny weeny microorganisms will not a find a home to grow. Why? Because it is nearly plastic. Would you melt your tupperware and spread that on your toast?
Update November 2003:
As a kind reader has pointed out, the article I posted has been around the internet as a letter for a while. It is also mentioned on a site called the Chainbreaker, where the following information is given:
What you're looking at above is not a coherent essay written by a single, knowledgeable author. It is actually a compilation of facts and opinions from many unidentified sources. As with most chain letters, the truth often is not compelling enough and gains widespread appeal only after sensational and questionable information is tacked on.
It is true that a 1994 Harvard University study, as well as research from other credible sources have concluded that a diet high in Trans Fat doubles the chance for heart attack and decreases life expectancy. While trans fats can occur naturally, they are most commonly associated with chemical preservative techniques. Hydrogenation is one of these techniques and health experts recommend that you limit your intake of hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated foodstuffs as much as possible.
While butter and Margarine may indeed have similar caloric values, butter generally ranks higher in saturated fat, which is also known to be detrimental to heart health. Margarines differ from brand to brand, but are lower in saturated fat, and contain small amounts of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (which are generally considered healthier than saturated). Furthermore, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, switching to margarine from butter can greatly reduce blood cholesterol levels.
The final argument in the letter above is what has make it so popular, but is also the farthest from reality and preys on the lay man's general ignorance of chemistry. It is not true that margarine is "but ONE MOLECULE from being PLASTIC." Many items in nature are chemically similar to one another, but that doesn't make them similar in appearance or effect. For instance hydrogen peroxide (H 2O2) is "but one molecule from" water (H 2O), but I don't recommend drinking it. Similarly, Ozone (0 3) is "but one molecule from" oxygen (O 2), but the former can create serious respiratory distress, while the latter can alleviate it.
The "plastic" outrage has been added as the chain circulates and is total bunk, but is unfortunately what appeals to most readers. This is one reason why BreakTheChain.org recommends strongly against relying upon or forwarding health advice via e-mail chain letters. The medium is simply too unreliable. Please break this chain.
I agree that the article is using descriptive language that is somewhat exaggerated, but in my view, the main thrust of the message (margarine is one of the big sources of trans-fatty acids, which are damaging to health) has not been contradicted. So I have decided to keep this post on line, quoting both the letter and the refutation, and letting you, the reader, decide for yourself.
For more information on trans-fatty acids, see also this excellent article of Jenny Thompson, of the Baltimore Health Sciences Institute.
Doing the Math
Health Sciences Institute e-Alert
November 12, 2003
Whether you know it or not, you're probably getting plenty of trans-fatty acid (TFA) in your diet. And in case you haven't heard: a little TFA is way too much.
Right now, it's not easy to tell exactly what the TFA content of a loaf of bread or a box of crackers might be because "trans fats" aren't listed on the "Nutrition Facts" panel of processed foods. Not yet anyway.
Last July, the FDA announced that by January 2006 all nutrition labels must reveal trans fat content. But until then, there are a few key items listed on food packaging you can look for to avoid a diet heavy in this "franken-fat."
A little is a lot
Trans fats are created by the hydrogenation of vegetable oil; a process that gives the oil a longer shelf life and makes it less... well, oily. These qualities also make hydrogenated vegetable oil an appealing choice for "quick service" restaurants and snack foods such as cookies, crackers, and chips. But many studies over the past decade have shown trans-fatty acids to be associated with artery damage and a high risk of heart disease.
And that's only part of what makes TFA dangerous.
In a review article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, nutritionists at the Harvard School of Public Health wrote that trans fats inhibit the natural process by which alpha-linolenic acid is converted into EPA and DHA, the omega-3 fatty acids that are critical to so many facets of good
health. And in a study of more than 800 subjects conducted at Chicago's Rush University Medical Centre, seniors who had a high trans fat intake were found to be twice as likely to suffer from Alzheimer's disease compared to those with the lowest intake.
But how high is a high intake?
Bruce Holub, a professor of nutritional sciences at Canada's University of Guelph, told the Toronto Globe and Mail that ingesting a daily gram of trans fat over several years is enough to significantly boost your risk of heart disease. And professor Holub points out that as few as two crackers can contain an entire gram of TFA.
So until Nutrition Facts panels start revealing trans fat contents in 2006, there's a relatively simple way to figure out the TFA content of processed foods.
First check the list of ingredients. If the product contains hydrogenated oil or partially hydrogenated oil, that's obviously your first trans fat tip-off.
Next go to the Nutrition Facts panel where you'll see grams of "Total Fat" listed. Below that, the fats will be broken down into saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats. If the "Total Fat" number is higher than the other three combined, the difference between the two totals equals the grams-per-serving of trans fat.
Some products, however, aren't required to list monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. In that case, if the grams of "Total Fat" are higher than the grams of "Saturated Fat," it's time to go back to the list of ingredients. If "hydrogenated" appears high on the list of ingredients, you're definitely getting some trans fat. If "hydrogenated" appears lower on the list, the trans fat content is probably low.
Let's take a look at a popular brand of "natural light" microwave popcorn. Total fat is 5 grams, saturated fat is one gram, and no other fats are listed. So with 4 fat grams unaccounted for, we check the ingredients and find only three items, in this order: popcorn, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, and salt. That's a pretty good indication that you're getting at least a gram or two of trans fat, and maybe even four.
But be sure to also check the serving size. This 3-ounce bag of popcorn claims to be 2.5 servings. So if you sit down and eat the whole bag, you might end up getting well over 4 grams of trans fat.
And because trans fat is present in so many food products, it's easy to see how you could pick up a dozen or more grams every day without even trying.
Zip, nada, goose egg...
In the e-Alert "The New Big Oil" (8/20/02) I told you about a 2002 report from a National Academy of Sciences panel that attempted to set a safe intake level for trans-fatty acids. The report confirmed previous findings about the relationship of trans-fatty acids and the risk of heart disease, and concluded with this recommendation: "The only safe intake of trans-fat is zero."
The bad reputation of this dangerous fat is on the rise, and every day we're seeing more and more products claiming to be "trans fat free." I'm sure this trend will probably continue, and the result could be better health for millions.
But what about restaurants? You'll know we've officially entered the Trans Fat Free Era when menus start boasting, "No trans fats."
"Health Effects of Trans Fatty Acids" American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 66, 1006S-1010S, ajcn.org
"Dangerous Fats Lurk in Seemingly Healthy Snacks" Paul Taylor, Toronto Globe and Mail, 10/28/03, theglobeandmail.com
"Exposing Trans Fats" Lyrysa Smith, Albany Times Union, 10/28/03, timesunion.com
"Research Update: Trans Fatty Acids" Christian Finn's Research Update, Issue 133, 7/16/03, thefactsaboutfitness.com
"NAS Panel: Only Safe Intake of Trans Fat is Zero" Center for Science in the Public Interest, 7/10/02, cspinet.org
Copyright (c)1997-2003 by www.hsibaltimore.com, L.L.C.
The e-Alert may not be posted on commercial sites without written permission.
See also related articles
Margarine, Fatty Acids and Your Health
To maintain good health it is important that we have the correct intake of omega fatty acids in our diets. Hydrogenated fats like margarine are non-foods with toxic effects and should be avoided at any cost.
posted by Sepp Hasslberger on Monday September 29 2003
updated on Thursday September 19 2013
URL of this article:
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