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Eat margarine or your family will die

Eat margarine or your family will die

“Health food” commercials are getting worse and worse – and of course I’m not referring to adverts for kale or grass-fed beef. I’m talking about products with a list of unpronounceable ingredients – products I go out of my way to avoid. And given that you’re reading my blog, I suspect you do too.

There seems to have been a huge turn here. It seems to slow be becoming the norm to eat an unprocessed diet of real, whole foods. Avoiding processed carbs like bread and pasta seems to be slowly becoming mainstream, and a feat of fat is definitely starting to disappear. I get the impression the manufacturers of  all those other food-like-products are getting worried…

So which advert has been annoying me most this week?

Eat margarine or your family will die

Flora Pro-Activ

Cue upset wife that her husband has high cholesterol. He undertakes the Flora Pro-Activ challenge for three weeks, has his cholesterol re-checked. Ends with happy wife, now her husband isn’t about to drop dead due to a high cholesterol invoked heart attack.

So what is the Flora challenge? For three weeks you eat 25 g of Flora every day, make sure you eat your wholegrains, replace BAD saturated fat with healthy saturated fat and generally keep your fat as low as possible. Nooo!

And what does Flora Pro-Activ actually contain?

Ingredients: Water, Vegetable Oils (30%), Plant Sterol Esters (12.5%), Buttermilk, Modified Waxy Corn Starch, Salt (1%), Emulsifiers (Mono-and Diglycerides of Fatty Acids, Sunflower Lecithin), Preservative (Potassium Sorbate), Citric Acid, Flavourings, Colour (Beta Carotene), Vitamin A and D

And evil butter? Let’s remind ourselves of the dangerous ingredients that contains: Pasteurised Cream (from Milk), Water, Salt. Three ingredients that I have in my kitchen; compared to unidentified “vegetable” oils and a host of ingredients not available at the local farmers market.

Despite a lot of research showing a higher cholesterol actually lowers the risk of heart attack, of course, these companies still like to keep us fearing cholesterol. More worrying is the margarine they want us to eat to benefit our health – so chemically processed, they are a fat that our bodies don’t recognise at all.

The other issue, is the claim that the plant sterol esters in this product actually lower our cholesterol. The adverts make it sound like a magic potion, with the ability to dramatically cut your cholesterol in a matter of days. The reality is that alone, these chemicals can supposedly only reduce cholesterol by a maximum of 10% (average results presumably a lot lower) – and of course that’s assuming reducing cholesterol is a good thing.

All in all I find the advert extremely misleading and think it’s outrageous that they come into our homes every day, suggesting that if you love your family, you need to make sure they eat 25 g of margarine a day – or risk losing them to heart disease.

What do you think about the Flora Pro-Activ challenge and the health commercials that come into your home each day?

Butter-or-Margarine-min

Another Margarine or Butter “Health” Article

I was reading the Summer 2012 edition of “Woman’s Weekly Health” earlier, when I came across this double page spread debating whether Margarine or Butter is better for your health.  Fighting the corner for butter was a cook, Fran Abdallaoui.  Arguing the case for margarine was Barbara Eden, Nutrition Manager at National Heart Foundation of Australia.  I’m not sure how pitching a cook against a nutritionist (especially one representing the national heart foundation) is a balanced debate.  I don’t think they want their readers to side with butter, do you?

Butter-or-Margarine-min

Eden says “It comes down to your health and that’s the main factor your (SIC) considering when choosing between margarine and butter, there’s really no choice to make”.  She also tells readers that “A regular butter is made up of… more than four per cent trans fat”, which I find frustratingly misleading, since natural, completely inert trans fats – as found in animal products – are completely different to the harmful trans fats found in many processed foods.

This is all because Eden believes “It’s the saturated fat and trans fat in our food supply that elevates your blood cholesterol levels which increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, and that’s one of the leading causes of death in Australia”

The article also adds “there is the convenience factor of the immediately spreadable product with a longer shelf life” as another reason we should go for margarine instead of butter.  Well, using that argument, shouldn’t we all have frozen pizza for dinner – it’s a lot more convenient and has a far longer shelf life than whole food…

In a “health” magazine, readers are going to place much more confidence in a nutritionist (especially one representing the national heart foundation) than they would a cook.  If they really want to present a debate, surely they should present both sides, equally?  Or better still, finally run an article about how wrong they’ve had it for the past few decades.  I must stop reading “health” magazines – they raise my cortisol levels more than almost anything else and that’s definitely not good for my health!

Margarine or Butter paleo diet primal health nutrition-min

Margarine or Butter? Seriously?

I couldn’t help myself.  I read through October’s Issue of “Good Health” magazine today.  Our ideas on what constitutes good health couldn’t be much further apart.

I thought conventional wisdom was starting to come round to realising that natural, animal fat maybe isn’t so bad after all.  Clearly not.

So, let’s compare the ingredients: –

Butter

  • Cream

Margarine (this example is Flora)

  • Water
  • vegetable oils (including sunflower oil) (so other vegetable oils are also in the mix, with a high omega 6 ratio)
  • plant sterol esters (12.5%) (this is an additive that reduces cholesterol, but interferes with absorption of fat soluble vitamins & hormones)
  • modified tapioca starch, salt (1.0%) (this is a chemically altered thickener)
  • buttermilk
  • Emulsifiers: Mono- and di-glycerides of fatty acids, sunflower lecithin
  • Preservative: Potassium sorbate, citric acid, vitamin E, flavouring (often synthetic chemicals), vitamin B6, folic acid
  • Colour: Beta carotene, Vitamins A, D and B12

So, this article specifically mentions trans fats.  Well, as Julianne Taylor clearly explains, “trans fat free” margarine doesn’t sound too great either.  And as for the trans fat in butter – natural trans fats are created in the stomachs of ruminants (like cows) – and have a completely different fatty acid profile to trans fats found in artificial foods.  A lot of evidence suggests that these natural trans fats may actually be beneficial.

Margarine or Butter paleo diet primal health nutrition-min

Margarine, seriously?

Soy, Grains & Margarine for Better Health newspaper Telegraph paleo diet health advice-min

Soy, Grains & Margarine for Better Health!

I really shouldn’t read health supplements any more.  They generally just annoy me.  But I could resist.  I found this gem in the Sunday Telegraph yesterday.

Sunday-Telegraph-Lower-Cholesterol

Just before I ditched Paleo and went out to buy some soy and margarine, I thought I’d see if I could find out a bit more about the study.

So it appears the study split 351 men & post menopausal women into two groups for the six-month period.  One ate low fat, the other low fat – with “special cholesterol lowering foods”.  Hmm, interesting, low fat compared to low fat…  The group with the special cholesterol lowering foods lowered their LDL by 13%.  But then there was also a 22.6% drop out rate.  This is taking me back to Tom Naughton’s Science for Smart People lecture at the AHS…

The group with the “special food” also received sessions with a dietitian.  The other low fat group did not.

They summed up saying that because the diet was complex, researchers couldn’t tell which foods made a difference in lowering cholesterol.  Excellent.  Regardless, write ups of the study, like the one I saw are still identify these foods as being proven to help lower LDL: –

  • Soy proteins such as soy milk and tofu.
  • Viscous or “sticky” fibres from oats, barley and psyllium.
  • Nuts, including tree nuts and peanuts.
  • Plant sterols in margarine.

Whilst Loblaw (a Canadian food retailer), Solae (who sell Soy products) and Unilever (who own lots of products, including margarine) sponsored the study and provided some of the foods used, that obviously had no impact on the study.  Whatsoever.

I think I’ll stick to my high fat diet…

Soy, Grains & Margarine for Better Health newspaper Telegraph paleo diet health advice-min