Thursday, March 5, 2009

Butter and Margarine debate continues

Cream is the raw material for butter. Butter is a partially saturated fat, just like margarine. However, butter is a natural product that does not contain trans-fatty acids. Butter is an excellent source of fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A, D, E and K. These are not found to any degree in margarine.


In 1869 Emperor Louis Napoleon III of France offered a prize to anyone who could make a satisfactory substitute for butter, suitable for use by the armed forces and the lower classes.

It is made 'Hardening' vegetable oil by bubbling hydrogen through it at high temperature produces margarine. The hydrogen saturates some of the carbon-carbon bonds of the oil. The product then becomes hard or solid at room temperature


Concerning the nutritional value of margarine revolve around two aspects — the total amount of fat, and the types of fat (saturated fat, trans fat).

Amount of fat
Fat is an essential part of nutrition. It is needed in the production of cell membranes, as well as in several hormone-like compounds called eicosanoids. In addition, fat acts as carrier for fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. The roles of butter and traditional margarine (80% fat) are similar with respect to their energy content, but low-fat margarines and spreads are widely available.

Saturated fat
The saturated fatty acids in triglycerides contribute to elevated blood cholesterol levels, which in turn has been linked to cardiovascular diseases. Saturated fat increases both LDL and HDL.

Vegetable fats can contain anything between 7% and 86% saturated fatty acids. Liquid oils (unhardened canola oil, sunflower oil) tend to be on the low end, while tropical oils (coconut oil, palm kernel oil) and fully hardened oils are at the high end of the scale. A margarine blend is a mixture of both types of components, and will rarely exceed 50% saturated fatty acids on fat. Exceptions are some traditional kitchen margarines or products that have to maintain stability under tropical conditions. Generally, firmer margarines contain more saturated fat.
Regular butterfat contains about 65% saturated fatty acids on fat, although this varies somewhat with season. One tablespoon of butter contains over 7g of saturated fat.

Unsaturated fat
The unsaturated fatty acids decrease LDL cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol) levels and increase HDL cholesterol (the "good" cholesterol) levels in the blood, thus reducing the risk of contracting cardiovascular diseases.

There are two types of unsaturated oils — mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Their nutritional and health effects are recognized in contrast to saturated fats. Some widely grown vegetable oils, such as rapeseed (and its variant canola), sunflower, safflower, and olive oils contain high amounts of unsaturated fats. During the manufacture of margarine, some of the unsaturated fats may be converted into saturated fats or trans fats in order to give them a higher melting point so that they are solid at room temperatures.

Trans fat
Several large studies indicate a link between consumption of high amounts of trans fat and coronary heart disease, and possibly some other diseases. This is mainly because trans fats increase the amount of LDL cholesterol and decrease the amount of HDL cholesterol in blood stream. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the American Heart Association (AHA) all have recommended people to limit intake of trans-fat.

Trans fats occur naturally in vegetable oils in only tiny quantities. However, they are a consequence of partial hydrogenation of light oils, intended to solidify the oil sufficiently for it to take on the eating quality of butter oil. In contrast, full hydrogenation generates few trans fats, but is intended to turn light oils into fully saturated fats. The intended effect of partial hydrogenation is to straighten the molecule of polyunsaturated fatty acids, so that they behave more like saturated fats.

These trans fatty acids are used by the body like saturated fats, mainly as fuel, but tend to block the use of Omega-3 and Omega-6 for vital bodily functions. They have been indicted as worse for health than even the well-publicized saturated fats in butter and meat. Particularly in the US, partial hydrogenation has been common as a result of national dependence on a limited number of vegetable oil sources, US-grown oils being preferred to tropical oils which are principally saturated fat.

However, in other parts of the world, the industry started to move away from using partially hydrogenated oils in the mid-1990s. This led to the production of new margarine varieties that contain less or no trans fat. Many manufacturers in the US now label their products (following government regulations) as "zero grams" trans-fat, which effectively means less than 500 mg trans-fat per serving; however, no fat is entirely free of trans fats. For example, natural butterfat contains 2-5% trans-fatty acids (mainly trans-vaccenic acid, a variant of the normal vaccenic acid).

Typically about 70% of human cholesterol is produced by the human body and only 30% comes from food sources. Thus intake of cholesterol as food has less effect on blood cholesterol levels than the type of fat eaten. However, some individuals are more responsive to dietary cholesterol than others. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration states that healthy people should not consume more than 300 mg of cholesterol each day.
Butter contains approximately 33 mg of cholesterol in each tablespoon. Margarine contains only negligible amounts of or no cholesterol.

Inherent harm of margarine is not obvious. Another reason why margarine won the butter v margarine debate is that the inherent harm of margarine – unlike the harm of cigarette smoking – is not obvious.
Many people – including the scientists and health authorities who side margarine in the butter v margarine debate – are not aware of how margarine is made.
They might vaguely know that it is made by a process called hydrogenation, whereby hydrogen molecules are forced into oil molecules through the use of high heat, high pressure and toxic catalysts such as nickel.

Less widely known, however, are the details of this process:
Typically, margarine is made from cheap, poor quality oils that have already turned rancid – because the oils had been extracted from oil seeds using high temperature, and high temperature damages oil, causing rancidity.

Some of the oils used in making margarine, such as cottonseed oil, are not suitable for human consumption in the first place because they contain naturally toxic substances.
At the end of the hydrogenation process, the resulting margarine is grey and smelly! It needs to be bleached and deodorized, artificially flavored and dyed yellow (with a natural dye, as synthetic coloring is not allowed) before humans would eat it. Yet rats and cockroaches still would not touch margarine. Only humans do.

Only humans can be foolish enough to declare such a product as healthy – just because it happens to be polyunsaturated.

The argument for eating margarine and other products containing hydrogenated oils are their lack of cholesterol. Margarine is also less expensive than butter. However, margarine contains refined, artificially saturated vegetable oil. It also contains harmful trans-fatty acids, and often residues of the toxic metals nickel and cadmium.

Butter is a natural food and a good source of important fat-soluble vitamins. You will pay more for butter, but nutritionally it is well worth it.

I like to believe that those who continue to vote for margarine in the butter vs margarine contest are unaware of the details of how margarine is made. If they are aware and they still support margarine in this butter vs margarine debate, then I have no more faith in the human race.

Anyway eating too much anything is no good for you… get to the basic rules…
Balance Food, rest and exercise… a cup of warm water in the morning… stay healthy!


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