Butter wins over margarine in health debate – latest research

By Maria Kyriacou

Image: Thinkstock
Image: Thinkstock
Margarine’s trans fats deadlier than the saturated fats found in butter, according to new study

The health debate of margarine versus butter has waged since the 1950’s, with the latter often vilified as the bad guy. This train of thought resulted from research linking butter with deaths from heart disease, owing to a high dietary saturated fat intake.

The latest research turns this concept on its head, indicating that the fat found in butter, meat or cream is less likely to kill you than margarine.

Lead author Dr Russell de Souza, an assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, at McMaster University in Canada said that we have been advised to eliminate fats from our diets for years, but asked us to reconsider what kinds of fats.

“Trans fats have no health benefits and pose a significant risk for heart disease, but the case for saturated fat is less clear,” he said. “That said, we aren’t advocating an increase of the allowance for saturated fats in dietary guidelines, as we don’t see evidence that higher limits would be specifically beneficial to health.”

The largest study ever conducted has shown animal fats do not increase the risk of stroke, heart disease or diabetes, but trans fats, found in processed foods like margarine, have heightened the risk of death by 34 per cent in less than a decade.

Saturated fats are found in:

  • Butter
  • Cows’ milk
  • Meat
  • Egg yolks
  • Some plant products like chocolate and palm oils.

Trans-unsaturated fats – or trans fats are usually produced industrially, and found in:

  • Plant oils for use in margarine
  • Snack foods
  • Packaged goods

Guidelines recommend that saturated fats be limited to less than 10 per cent, and trans fats to less than 1 per cent of energy, to reduce risk of heart disease and stroke.

However, the new research surveyed 50 studies featuring 1 million people and found no evidence that saturated fat was bad for your health. This is in contrast to guidelines that recommend limiting your saturated fat intake to 10 per cent, and trans fats to 1 per cent to reduce risk of stoke and heart disease.


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