Margarine really IS better for you than butter
EATING margarine instead of butter really does reduce your risk of heart disease, research suggests.
Experts at Harvard University yesterday cast doubt on the results of recent studies that promoted the return of butter and cream.
For decades, nutritionists had warned us to cut down on full-fat milk and other dairy and meat products that are high in saturated fat. But several major studies in recent months suggested that those who do so are no less likely to suffer a range of diseases, including heart disease, than anyone else.
But now the Harvard scientists say their research has shown that saturated fat is bad for our health after all. They said the reason for the other researchers’ findings may be that many of those who cut down on saturated fat then eat more refined carbohydrates such as white bread, which they found was just as big a risk factor for heart disease.
Instead, their study showed that replacing saturated fat with foods high in unsaturated fat – such as margarine, olive oil and nuts – significantly reduced the risk of heart disease.
Study author Professor Frank Hu, of the Harvard School of Public Health, said: ‘Our research does not exonerate saturated fat. In terms of heart disease risk, saturated fat and refined carbohydrates appear to be similarly unhealthful.
‘Our findings suggest that when patients are making lifestyle changes to their diets, cardiologists should encourage the consumption of unsaturated fats like vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds, as well as healthy carbohydrates such as whole grains.’
Professor Hu’s team analysed long-running diet and health information from some 127,000 Americans.
They found that replacing 5 per cent of a person’s energy intake from saturated fat with foods high in polyunsaturated fat – such as fish – reduced the risk of coronary heart disease by 25 per cent.
Replacing the same amount of saturated fat intake with foods that contain high levels of monounsaturated fat – such as olive oil – reduced heart disease risk by 15 per cent.
But replacing saturated fat intake with refined carbohydrates saw no fall in heart disease risk, the Journal of the American College of Cardiology reports.
Fellow researcher Yanping Li said: ‘ Our findings suggest that the low-fat, high-carb trends of the 1980s and 1990s are not effective in reducing risk of coronary heart disease. It means that individuals should not replace saturated fat with refined carbs or vice versa.’
Britons were advised in 1983 to cut their fat intake to 30 per cent of their total energy and saturated fat intake to 10 per cent, while eating more carbohydrates.