Margarine myths debunked

Margarine is much in the news with the recent airing of a Carte Blanche Medical show [.Monday, 19 April 2010] which set out to debunk the myths of margarine

The margarine industry has been fighting the myths about margarine for years – with misconceptions being fuelled by viral emails claiming that margarine was invented to fatten turkeys and that it is just “one molecule away from plastic”. In an interview with Carte Blanche, Carl Albrecht from the Cancer Association of South Africa retorted by stating: “”The only thing plastic about margarine is the tub that it comes in”.”

It was also communicated that margarine was originally invented in 1869 by Hippolyte Mège Mouriès, a French food research chemist, for Emperor Louis Napoleon’’s soldiers as an alternative to butter. It had nothing to do with turkeys! In 1871, Mège Mouriès sold his know-how to the Dutch firm Jurgens, nowadays part of Unilever which manufactures leading margarine brands such as Flora, Rama and Stork.

While consumers may still be confused about which fats are good for them, health experts are very clear – if you want a healthy heart, swap foods high in saturated fat for those containing essential polyunsaturated fats (more commonly known as Omega 3 and 6).

Omega 3 and 6 are essential fatty acids that the body cannot make so they must come from the diet. They are found naturally in seed oils like sunflower, linseed and rapeseed.

Recently the World Health Organization (WHO), responsible for setting global health policies, updated its recommendations on the intake of fat in the diet following a thorough review of all the latest science.

In its new report ‘Interim Summary of Conclusions and Dietary Recommendations on Total Fat & Fatty Acids’, the WHO’s expert committee concluded: “”There is convincing evidence that replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fats decreases the risk of coronary heart disease and there is possible evidence of a relationship between polyunsaturated intake and reduced risk of diabetes”.”

The WHO’’s dietary recommendation for total Omega 3 and 6 has now been set at between 6-11% of total daily energy intake, which translates to an average intake of 19g per day.

In a daily serving (30g) of Flora Regular spread there are 9 grams of omega-6 and 1 gram of omega-3. This represents over 30% of the proposed recommended daily intake for both omega-3 and 6.

The WHO also concluded that, “based on both thes cientific evidence and conceptual limitations, there is no compelling scientific rationale for the recommendation of a specific ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids” . [This would appear to be at odds with the opinion of CANSA and its chief researcher, Dr Karl Albrecht, see this article.]

Flora nutrition manager, Christelle De Witt, describes the updated report as a ‘confirmation that good fats like omega 3 and 6 have an important role to play in a heart healthy diet’. She also confirmed that the absolute intake of both omega-3 and omega-6 is far more relevant to one’’s heart health than looking at the omega-6/omega-3 ratio alone.

She added: ““If you care about the hearts of those you love, replacing products high in animal fats with those high in vegetable fats, like Flora margarine is a simple and easy way to reduce your saturated fat intake while increasing the amount of Omega 3 and 6 in the diet.” Saturated fats are known to raise bad LDL-cholesterol levels in the blood, which in turn increases the risk of heart disease. Recent robust studies have also highlighted that it is better, for heart health, to improve the quality of fat in the diet rather than reducing the total amount.”

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