Sunday, July 6, 2008

Is margarine healthier? (Part 1 of 2)

For the past few decades, due to the influence of the western diet, we take bread and butter as breakfast. Subsequently, people starting to say that butter is not good, so we switch to margarine instead. Developed as a butter substitute, as margarine is made with vegetable oils, people consider anything that is plant or vegetable-based is better. Over prolonged period of time, this has created a lot of health problems such as high blood pressures, high cholesterol, heart attack, stroke, allergies, reduced body immunity, obesity and so on.

Margarine is not any healthier than cream and butter. Developed over 100 years ago, margarine is made by hydrogenating edible vegetable oil (adding hydrogen to vegetable oil so to make it in solid form at room temperature and has longer shelf life), and thus making it to contain Trans Fatty Acids, or Trans Fats. As we learnt from The plastic fats: Trans Fats, trans fats are almost non-existent in the natural world, and our human body simply cannot decompose them naturally. Consuming trans fats is like consuming plastic itself, we should thus avoid it as much as we can. However, there are still many people out there mistake trans fats as good stuff. And like going for an all-you-can-eat buffet meal, they simply eat as much as they can. Sadly to say, they actually don’t know they are eating ‘plastic’ (trans fats).

Hydrogenated vegetable oil is the worst oil that we can take. If we have allergies, cardiovascular and other diseases, we must stop eating trans fats, or at least avoid consuming much. Even if we are healthy now, we should also learn to reduce the consumption of trans fats. Otherwise, our health will deteriorate overtime.

Continue to Part 2

(Words Count: Approximately 289)

2 comments:

Emma said...

I work with the National Association of Margarine Manufacturers so I’m well informed on this subject. Have you looked at a margarine label lately? You won’t find any soft or liquid margarine that contain trans fat, and trans fat levels of stick margarines have been greatly reduced. Margarine manufacturers continue to be the leaders in the food industry in removing trans fats from products, and they continue to innovate the market by adding healthy, functional ingredients such as antioxidants, omega fatty acids, and fat-soluble vitamins to products.

The margarine industry has made such an impact in providing healthy product that in 2005, when the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the MyPyramid food guidance system was issued, liquid oils, and soft, trans fat-free margarine spreads were classified by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report as helping to meet the essential fatty acids and Vitamin E needs of consumers.

To learn more about the benefits of margarine products, check out these links: http://www.margarine.org, http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/transfat.html#choice1 and http://margarine.org/pdf/inthenews_092906-nytimes.pdf

|| Eugene Lim || said...

Hi emma,

My honour to have your informative and constructive feedback. :-)

For your information, food manufacturers in Malaysia are only required to list down the three macro nutrition on the Nutrition Facts Label. So, besides Carbohydrate, Protein and Fat, all other nutritional information is currently optional. As such, there is currently no way for us to know if a particular product does contain trans fat or not. The only way we can do is perhaps to check out the ingredient list of the product and look for fatal ingredients like shortening, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, or hydrogenated vegetable oil.

In USA, food manufacturers are required to list trans fat on a separate line, immediately under saturated fat on the Nutrition Facts Label, as required by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as of 1st January 2006. However, food manufacturers are allowed to list amounts of trans fat with less than 0.5 gram (1/2 g) as 0 (zero) on the Nutrition Facts Label. As a result, we may see a few products that list 0 grams trans fat on the label even though they contain some. (Source: http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/transfat.html)

I believe that margarine manufacturers, and other food manufacturers as well, are looking for way to eliminate harmful trans fats from their products. But that would take time. On top of that, we might be able to purchase healthy margarine with zero trans fat and consume it ourselves. But what about other people? For instance, when we purchase breads and cakes, are the makers also using zero trans fat margarine and/or shortening too? I sincerely have no answer on this.

My humble two cents. ;-)