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Margarine is Bad, Butter is Good

X-Andrew-WideReply: From: Newsgroups: Subject: The Dinkum Oil (long) was The MEAT PIE THREAD Date: 28 Sep 94 16:11:26 +1300 Organization: Victoria University of Wellington, NZ Lines: 248 Message-ID: <> NNTP-Posting-Host: > Noeline McCaughan <> wrote: > >: of our good NZ Butter.* > > > > Practically 100% saturated fat. Now you've done it, Noeline. You hit the hot button! So here are more facts than you really wanted to know about beautiful butter and mucky margarine. :-) The article below is provided by Sally Thomson of the Dairy Advisory Bureau. Yes, I know that's open to the suspicion of being a biased source, but read the excerpts from her article and judge the facts presented: *************** The latest controversy has been fuelled by a Harvard University report stating that a little known fat lurks in margarine and other processed foods that could be responsible for 1000's of heart attacks. Dr William Willett, a leading researcher says that people who think it is healthier than butter are being grossly misled. (description of butter making process omitted for space reasons - BH) Margarines in New Zealand are generally made from imported vegetable oils, most commonly sunflower seed, soya bean, rapeseed (canola) and palm oil. The oils are refined to remove impurities before being hydrogenated. This process artifically "saturates", or hardens oils into solid fat making them more suitable for food processing. Oil is hydrogenated by mixing it with fine particles of nickel (a catalyst) heating it to 180 degrees celcius and pumping hydrogen gas through it under high pressure. After filtering the nickel out again, the oil is bleached and deodorised. As it cools the hydrogenated oil turns into a waxy fat, which can be minced into pellets for blending into any recipes needing solid `dry' fat. The hydrogenated `hardened' fat is then mixed with oil to form a product with the desired texture. Antioxidants prevent the polyunsaturated fatty acids in margarine from going rancid. The type and amount of ingredients and additives that go into margarine are controlled by the food regulations. FAT IN SPREADS Butter and margarine contain the same amount of fat, but differ in fatty acid content. Butter contains more saturated fat than margarine or vegetable oils - it is 81 percent butterfat and 66 percent of the fatty acids in butterfat are saturated fatty acids. Table margarines contain less saturated fat and much more polyunsaturated fatty acids. This was good news for the margarine makers - until recently when a number of studies cast doubt over the health benefits of margarine. The new nutritional baddie, `trans fatty acids' has recently hit the headlines. Trans fatty acids are found in margarines and other processed foods such as cakes and biscuits that contain vegetable oils which have been hydrogenated. WHAT ARE TRANS FATTY ACIDS? Trans fatty acids are unsaturated fats that are straight like a saturated fatty acid, rather than bent at the unsaturated bond like the cis form of mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Hence trans and cis fatty acids act in the body like saturated fats and in the case of CHD may be even worse. Research shows that trans fatty acids may tend to act more like other hardened fats (mostly saturated) in affecting cholesterol levels. The replacement of naturally occurring fatty acids with trans fatty acids can lower concentrations of high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) as well as increase low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL). Trans fatty acids may also adversely affect platelet function, consequently predisposing to thrombogenesis. WHAT FOODS CONTAIN TRANS FATTY ACIDS? Trans fatty acids occur naturally in the fats of ruminating animals, so humans have been consuming small quantities of trans fatty acids for centuries in foods such as beef, lamb, butter and other dairy products. Trans fatty acids are also formed by the industrial hydrogenation or hardening of vegetables of vegetable oils used in the manufacture of products such as margarines. Based on US figures foods made with hardened vegetable-origin fats will be higher in trans fatty acids. Examples of foods which may have more than 30 percent of total fat as trans fatty acids include water crackers, biscuits, muesli bars, confectionary bars and foods made with vegetable shortening and some fried foods. Currently there is little published information on the levels of trans fatty acids in New Zealand foods. A recent study from the University of Otago reports that the level of C18:1 trans fatty acids in New Zealand margarines is approximately eight percent. (Although there is unpublished data which indicates a higher level - BH) MARGARINE WORSE THAN BUTTER? According to Dr William Willett from Harvard University, products containing trans fatty acids, especially margarine have been heavily promoted on the basis of health claims which have never been substantiated. He also states that consumption of partially hydrogenated vegetable fats has tracked closely in time with the epidemic of CHD in the United States and elsewhere. And a more general concern is that a major artificial element has been introduced into the food supply without a full understanding of all its metabolic and health implications. Willett recently commented that trans fatty acids could be the cause of 30,000 deaths from heart disease every year in the US. He suggests that these fats in margarine may be more dangerous than the saturated fats found in butter and he's calling on the Food and Drug Administration to add them to food labels. His research carried out in conjunction with a team at Harvard Medical School looked at the dietary habits of 85,000 nurses in Massachusetts over a period of eight years, and examined the role of trans isomers of fatty acids on CHD risk. In this large prospective cohort study a positive association was observed between intake of trans fatty acids and risk of CHD. The CHD risk of women in the highest quintile of trans fatty acid intake was almost twice that of women in the lowest quintile of intake. This relative risk remained irrespective of the intake of multi-vitamins, saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, linoleic acid, dietary cholesterol, carotene or fibre. It is important to note however that in the 1980's when the study was carried out much of the margarine eaten in the States was stick margarine which is much `harder' than the polyunsaturated margarine available in New Zealand. The trans fatty acid content of stick margarine is very high, often over 30 percent. The study also points the finger at processed foods containing `bakers' fats' or vegetable shortenings found in biscuits, cakes and pastries. "Many of these foods were touted as healthy because they contained no cholesterol or saturated fat, but the trans fats they contained were bad too," says Willett. SEARCHING FOR TRANS ON LABELS However finding out whether the margarine you eat is high in trans fatty acids is not easy. Labels on foods do not spell out how much trans fatty acid they contain. The only hint given is usually a mention of `hydrogenated oils' and phrases like `vegetable oil and fat'. Vegetable shortening' or `vegetable margarine' are likely to contain hydrogenated oil. Manufacturers in the UK have resisted moves to declare trans fats and have lobbied to ensure that legislation from the European Commission to standardise nutrition labelling from 1995 will exclude the declaration of trans fat from the list of declared nutrients. Proposals for implementing the Directive are currently out for consultation. The European Commission considers it is now time for manufacturers to declare not only the amount of trans fats in their products, but to drop the arbitrary division of fats into saturated and unsaturated forms and instead focus on categorising their fat into `cholesterol raising' and `cholesterol lowering fats'. An article in The New England Journal of Medicine has called for a similar labelling change in the US. "Will people be shocked?- I suspect so," says Willett. "Many people are trying to make good nutritional decisions for themselves and their kids and being grossly misled." Willett urged US companies to follow Europe's lead and make margarine without trans fats, by altering the hydrogenation process. The food industry and other scientists have blasted Willett's report accusing him of overreacting. "We have to come back to the big picture, reduce your total fat intake to 30 percent," they say. The NZ National Heart Foundation's Scientific Committee Chairman, Peter Leslie says the report needs to be treated with caution. "Margarine has lower saturated fatty acids than butter, which is the important point of difference. The trans fats aren't enough to counter the benefits to some people of using margarine rather than butter." He went on to say that there is as much fat in margarine as butter, to suggest otherwise is misleading. "But its a different kind of fat and less of a building block for cholesterol than those in butter. Both should be used sparingly and properly." The Harvard Nurses' study has received international coverage, and reintroduced the butter/margarine debate to consumers, health professionals and manufacturers. Its relevance to New Zealand remains uncertain. Meanwhile the edible oil industry is now researching ways of reducing trans fatty acids. Non-hydrogenated margarines are on the market in Canada however the low trans fatty acid content of these products is offset by higher levels of saturated fat. So please pass the...? REFERENCES: 1. From Milk to Dairy Products. Oct 1990. New Zealand Dairy Board. 2. Living Earth & Food Magazine/ Checkout:11-13. February 1994. 3. Consumer Magazine. Fat Battles. April 1994. Issue 325:12-14. 4. Menzing and Katan (1990). Effect of deitary trans fatty acids on high density and low density lipoprotein cholesterol levels in healthy subjects. New Eng J Medical 323, 439-45. 5. Zock PL et al (1992) Hydrogenation alternatives: effects of trans fatty acids and stearic acid versus linoleic acid on serum lipids and lipoproteins in humans, J Lipid. Res 33:399-410. 6. Litin and Sacks (1993) Trans fatty acid content of common foods. New Eng J Medical 329,1969-70. 7. Willett WC, MD, DR PH & Albert Ascherio, MD Dr PH. Trans fatty Acids:Are the Effects Only Marginal? 8. Willett WC et al.(1993) Intake of trans fatty acids and risk of coronary heart disease among women. The Lancet. 341:581 - 585,1993. 9. Wahle KWJ, James WPT (1993) Eur J Clin Nutr 47;828-839. 10. Enig (1989) Fats and oils: understanding the functions and properties of partially hydrogenated fats and oils and their relationship to unhydrogenated fats and iols, University of Maryland publication, Dept. of Chemistry and Biochemistry. June 1989. If anyone wants the unexpurgated article, send me an e-mail and I will arrange it.ΓΏ -- Brian M Harmer I Personal mission statment: Department of Communication Studies I Victoria University of Wellington I to retain most of my marbles I \enddata{text822, 0}

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