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Margarine vs. Butter

I just read through a newsletter article I wrote in 2010. I mention that 90% of the dairy section at the supermarket was devoted to margarin

e and only about 10% to butter. I don’t think this is true anymore. Last time I checked I saw a lot of different types of butter including organic butter, Danish butter, salted or unsalted, butter mixed with vegetable oils and pure butter. I see this as a positive sign that the message is slowly getting through, the message being that people are switching from a totally artificial food, namely margarine, to a natural fat, butter.

Margarine is the result of a process called hydrogenation, whereby hydrogen atoms are added to the fat molecules, which requires the presence of a metal catalyst and high temperatures of about 260°C. Hydrogenation is popular in the manufacturing industry because this type of oil does not go off or become rancid. You can leave margarine out of the fridge for years and it will not go mouldy. Some of the several dozens of altered compounds created in the manufacture of partially-hydrogenated fats are “trans” fatty acids.

A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that trans fatty acids interfere with reproduction and lower the amount of volume in milk from lactating females. Pregnant women consuming significant amounts of trans fatty acids are at risk of pregnancy-induced hypertension, preeclampsia, and insulin resistance.

Trans fat tends to raise “bad” LDL- cholesterol and lower “good” HDL-cholesterol. Another adverse effect is an increase in the body’s pro-inflammatory hormone, prostaglandin E2 and inhibition of the anti-inflammatory hormone, prostaglandin E1 and E3. Prostaglandin E2 plays a role in inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. Furthermore trans- fatty acids in cell membranes weaken the membrane’s protective structure and function. This allows toxins to get into the cell more easily. It also affects the transport of minerals and other nutrients into the cell.

Unfortunately, organisations such as the Heart Foundation state the following on their website: Why margarine is a must. You may be surprised to learn that butter is the bad boy lurking in your fridge! I couldn’t believe my eyes. Despite all the research and evidence about the detrimental health effects of margarine, they are still recommending it.

Enough about margarine, let’s talk about butter. The ingredients are cream, water and salt. Butter contains healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. Vitamin A and D (synthetic) are added to margarine, but they occur naturally in butter. It also contains cholesterol. Despite all of the misinformation you may have heard, cholesterol is needed to maintain health. The best butter is obtained from organic milk from pasture-fed cows without any vegetable oils added. Just pure butter!


Dietary trans-fatty acids raise LDL cholesterol and result in reductions of HDL cholesterol. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1994 Apr, 59:861. Udo Erasmus, Fats that heal, fats that kill, Alive Books, 1993 Mary Enig, Sally Fallon, Eat Fat, Lose Fat: The Healthy Alternative to Trans Fats, Plume Publisher, 2006 Jamioł-Milc D, Stachowska E, Chlubek D., [Effects of dietary trans fatty acids in pregnancy and lactation]. Ann Acad Med Stetin. 2010;56(1):21-7. Review. Polish. B B Teter and others. Milk Fat Depression in C57B1/6J Mice Consuming Partially Hydrogenated Fat. Journal of Nutrition. 1990;120:818-824.


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