May 28, 2013 by Dr. Sana Keller
Why is it that ants & other insects leave margarine alone? They will not eat it. Hmmm… It’s confusing out there: Is butter ‘bad for our hearts’?…Is margarine better for us?…What about the recent news that margarine might not be good for us?…So is butter a better route to go than margarine? So many questions—let’s check it out.
First of all, what is margarine? Margarine is produced by using lesser quality vegetable oils, such as corn, cottonseed, soybeans, safflower seeds and canola. Cottonseed oil, commonly used in margarine making, has natural toxins in it and is also used as a pesticide. It contains significantly larger amounts of Omega-6 fatty acids in relation to Omega 3 fatty acids. Although both Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids are important in our health, an imbalance between the two is widely believed to cause various health problems, including heart disease. Most experts agree that a healthy ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 is between 1:1 and 1:2. Cotton seed oil, however, has over 50 percent omega 6 and only trace amounts of Omega 3, giving a ratio of 1: several hundred or more. These lesser quality oils are mixed with finely ground nickel, a highly toxic substance that serves as a catalyst for the chemical reaction during the hydrogenation process. They are then placed under high temperature and pressure in a reactor. If the oil is partially hydrogenated, it turns from liquid into a semi-solid. Trans fats are formed during partial hydrogenation stage. To remove the lumps, emulsifiers are mixed in. This oil mixture is then deodorized using high pressures and temperatures to remove the odor of chemicals. Next, the mixture is bleached to get rid of the grey color, followed by the addition of a yellow color (otherwise it would be grey and smell bad!). Synthetic vitamins and artificial flavors are also mixed in. (Doesn’t this sound like something that is better NOT eaten??)
On the other hand, butter is made by churning cream. A small amount of salt is added to most butter, acting as a natural preservative and flavoring.
From Dr. Andrew Weil (Harvard University graduate, undergrad and medical school, & Founder, Professor, and Director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona): “As doctors became convinced of the dangers of saturated fat and cholesterol, they began to recommend margarine to patients, and the margarine industry capitalized on this development by emphasizing new formulations made exclusively from polyunsaturated vegetable oils, like safflower, corn, and soy. Producers also stressed that margarine contains no cholesterol. So it is that doctors, like other health-conscious Americans, tended to switch from butter to margarine. Many of these people will admit that they prefer the taste of butter but consider margarine better for them. I do not share this view, and I predict that over the next decade, medical research will demonstrate clear health hazards of eating margarine… many people do not understand that the process of hardening vegetable oils by artificial hydrogenation creates saturated fat.”
From Harvard Health Publications: Although a staple of the American diet, butter came under a great deal of scrutiny when its high levels of saturated fat were associated with increased heart disease risk. Many people accepted the demise of butter in stride, ruing the loss of its savory flavor but agreeing that its effect on the heart might be too high a price to pay. They dutifully switched to margarine, as researchers and nutritionists suggested. Then the hazards of margarine came to light. Its high levels of trans fats packed a double whammy for heart disease by raising levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) and lowering levels of HDL (good cholesterol). Many people felt betrayed or duped.
The truth is, there never was any good evidence that using margarine instead of butter cut the chances of having a heart attack or developing heart disease. Making the switch was a well-intentioned guess, given that margarine had less saturated fat than butter, but it overlooked the dangers of trans fats.
A new analysis of a study published in the British Medical Journal, carried out between 1966 and 1973 in Sydney, Australia; found that those who ate more margarine products were almost twice as likely to die from all causes, including heart disease. This study followed 458 men aged 30 to 59 who had recently had a heart attack or suffered from angina. Half were advised to cut their animal fat consumption and replace it with safflower oil – similar to sunflower oil – and safflower oil margarine.
Margarine and other processed foods can contain trans-fats. These are not naturally occurring fats and cause many problems in the body including increased inflammation. If the label lists hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils as an ingredient that means it also contains trans fats.
Butter provides several trace minerals including manganese, chromium, zinc, copper, & selenium. It also contains healthy fatty acids (short & medium-chain fatty acids which are used as energy and are short-lived, minimally impacting blood lipid levels) which help support the immune system and a healthy metabolism. Butter provides a healthy balance of Omega-3 & Omega-6 fats as well. It also contains anti-oxidants (a good thing!), Vitamins E and K, and a highly absorbable form of iodine.
Yes, butter comes out on top, as more and more leading health care professionals are realizing and embracing. Organic butter comes out ever further on top, as does butter made of milk from grass-fed cows. Moderation is a key factor (as it is in virtually all areas of our lives!).
Photo credit: jmaxfitness.com & healthierhappierwiser.wordpress.com