Butter Is Still Better

September 6, 2010

If there is anything better than butter in a baked potato or on a scone that I haven’t yet come across it, but I know that the margarine industry has spent a lot of time and money in persuading as that it is bad for our health. As I keep on saying (or nagging, if you prefer) there is nothing wrong with butter it’s all about the quantity you are using and if you want a healthy heart then switching to the new range of margarines that have been enriched with omega-3 fatty acids will not make a difference — in fact could make it worse.

A study carried out by Wageningen University in the Netherlands over a three-year period showed that using such margarines did not prevent second heart attacks in older men and women at risk for worsening heart disease. The initial results appeared to show that switching to such margarines did initially reduce cardiac events, but by 30 months the evidence of that benefit had disappeared, said Daan Kromhout, MPH, PhD, the lead researcher. He reported their results at the recent European Society of Cardiology meeting and their findings were simultaneously published online by the New England Journal of Medicine.

These findings have surprised some cardiologists as most of the data on omega-3 fatty acids come from epidemiologic studies and those were positive. Alfred Bove, MD, of Temple University in Philadelphia has likened the situation to hormone therapy, which had been widely recommended to reduce cardiovascular risk in postmenopausal women based on data from epidemiologic studies. Subsequent evidence however showed that HRT can be a major risk factor for heart attacks in women are relying solely on research — in whatever field — is never a good idea.

The margarines used in the trial were supplied by Unilever, and included the well-known “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter,” which I have to confess I have no trouble believing as I can see no resemblance in taste at all. This research should not be used to downplay the role of Omega 3 in the prevention and treatment of not only heart disease but also Type 2 Diabetes and depression, because it is clearly an important element in our diet. However this definitely indicates that margarine is not the vehicle to introduce it to your diet. Better sources include oily fish such as salmon and Flax seeds and walnuts.


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