Sections

Services

Information

UK United Kingdom

Health Check: what’s healthier, butter or margarine?

Butter gets points for taste; margarine for being easy to spread. But the healthiest option is not strictly called butter or margarine – it’s a “spread”. To improve the health of your heart, choose a spread…

Choose a spread that has the lowest amount of saturated fat and trans fat per 100 grams. www.rowenawaack.com

Butter gets points for taste; margarine for being easy to spread. But the healthiest option is not strictly called butter or margarine – it’s a “spread”.

To improve the health of your heart, choose a spread with the lowest amount of saturated fat and trans fat per 100 grams. You will find this information in the “per 100 grams” column of the nutrition information panel.

Butter contains about 50% saturated fat, while margarine has a maximum of 20% saturated fat. The fat content of “light” or fat-reduced spreads is lowered by replacing some fat with protein and water, meaning many are much lower than 20%.

If you choose a full-fat spread (best for cooking), aim for less than 27 grams of saturated fat and one gram of trans fat per 100 grams. For fat-reduced spreads (best for bread and toast), aim for less than six grams of saturates and 0.2 grams of trans fat per 100 grams.

Ingredients

For a product to be called butter, it must be derived exclusively from milk and ingredients that are obtained from milk, including at least 80% milk fat. It may also contain water, salt, lactic acid producing microorganisms and flavour-producing microorganisms.

When you see products in the supermarket that are packaged up like butter, or use words such as “butter-flavoured” without specifically stating the product is butter, it’s likely they have been altered in such a way that it no longer meets the content requirements above.

Butter must contain at least 80% milk fat to use the name. Rosebud

To call a spread margarine, the product must be a spreadable food made of edible oils and water, containing at least 80 grams of edible oils per 100 grams. It may also include water, edible proteins, salt, lactic acid-producing microorganisms, flavour-producing microorganisms and milk products.

Some margarines contain added plant sterols and stanols, a type of fat found in vegetable oil, nuts, legumes, grains, cereals, wood pulp and leaves, which are able to reduce cholesterol absorption from the small intestine into the bloodstream. If you have high blood cholesterol, you may want to use such a product, though you need to consume 20 to 25 grams per day for the maximum effect.

As soon as the fat content of margarine drops below 80 gram per 100 grams, it cannot technically be called “margarine”. This is why the word “margarine” does not appear on labels for spreads that are fat-reduced. These are the healthiest options if you are trying to reduce your total fat and kilojoule intake.

If you are trying to lower your salt intake, check the sodium column on the nutrition information panel and aim for less than 400 milligrams per 100grams.

Cholesterol and saturated fat

Although the debate rages about the potency of specific fats in raising blood cholesterol, most Australians consume too much saturated fat from animal products. Saturated fat from foods and drinks gets manufactured in your body into low-density-lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, or commonly referred to as “bad” cholesterol, which then appears in your blood.

Excess LDL cholesterol that cannot be cleared by the liver ends up lining your artery walls. This makes your blood vessels hard and inflexible and they gradually become blocked. From there, it is just a matter of time before the blockage triggers a heart attack or stroke.

Saturated fat is a solid at room temperature and is the predominate fat found in the white fat in meat and dairy products, including milk, cheese, cream and butter.

Reduced-fat spreads are the healthiest option. Flickr/mhaithaca

Replacing butter for a spread that has a lower level of saturated fat is not the only change that can help lower your total saturated fat intake. For many Australians, the majority of their saturated fat comes from full-fat dairy, foods processed using palm oil or coconut oil, fried and fatty takeaway food, and packaged biscuits, cakes, pastries and dips.

The healthier fats are monounsaturated (avocados, almonds, cashews, peanuts, cooking oils made from sunflower, canola, soybean, olive, sesame and peanut) and polyunsaturated (omega-6 fats from sesame seed, margarine, linseed or flaxseed, sunflower and safflower oil, pine nuts and brazil nuts; omega-3 fats from walnuts, linseed and oily fish such as tuna, salmon, sardines and blue mackerel).

The one exception is trans fat. Technically it is an unsaturated fat. However, chemically it behaves exactly like saturated fat and increases LDL cholesterol. The problem is that trans fat also lowers HDL, the “good” cholesterol that carries circulating LDL back to the liver rather than it being deposited on artery walls.

In Australia, trans fat levels in spreads are among the lowest in the world. While most nutrition information panels indicate trans fat content of spreads, companies currently do not have to report it. When the nutrition information panel does not report trans fats, check the ingredients list for hydrogenated oil and partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, from which trans fats are derived.

No matter what the type of fat, they all have the same kilojoule value of 37kJ per gram. So, whether you opt for butter, margarine, a fat spread, nothing, or perhaps some avocado, hummus or tahini paste, keep an eye on the total saturated plus trans fat, and the kilojoules. And overall, try to choose foods that have a better fat quality.

Join the conversation

82 Comments sorted by

Comments on this article are now closed.

  1. Claire Hay

    logged in via email @gmail.com

    But what if i don't have any heart problem at all ? Does this imply that hear disease are caused by by saturated fat or cured by unsaturated fat?

    report
  2. Sarah Saxton

    Agricultural officer

    What this article fails to mention is that there is no real link between full fat dairy products and obesity/heart disease: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22810464

    and that the majority of Australians are failing to eat enough dairy: http://www.nutritionaustralia.org/national/media-releases/study-highlights-significant-dairy-shortfall

    Although butter is certainly something to be eaten in moderation I question the blame heaped on full fat dairy by this article.

    report
    1. Clare Collins

      Professor in Nutrition and Dietetics at University of Newcastle

      In reply to Sarah Saxton

      Sarah
      you may like to read the Cochrane Systematic Review "Reduced or modified dietary fat for preventing cardiovascular disease" at the following link;
      http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD002137.pub3/abstract;jsessionid=CA87DD4A48DF7DAACAC8EA8DD740BAF5.f03t04
      The Plain Language Summary is as follows:-

      Cutting down or changing the fat we eat may reduce our risk of heart disease

      Modifying fat in our food (replacing some saturated (animal) fats with plant oils and unsaturated…

      Read more
    2. Rosemary Stanton

      Nutritionist & Visiting Fellow at University of New South Wales

      In reply to Sarah Saxton

      Sarah

      The Dietary Guidelines decided not to use the term 'dairy' because consumer research showed that many people thought this meant foods such as cream, butter, ice cream and cream cheese. Instead the DGs refer only to milk, yoghurt and cheese.

      There is evidence that some Australians fail to include enough calcium in their daily diets. Milk, yoghurt and cheese are significant sources. Cream, butter and cream cheese are not while ice creams vary.

      Those who prefer a plant based diet can find soy, oat and other substitute products with added calcium.

      report
    3. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to Rosemary Stanton

      Rosemary is soy a good choice? I had gained the impression that it was fermented soy that the Japanese favoured and that soy was to be used with discretion, in small amounts and as condiments and not really as a major food as we are finding in the American take on vegetarianism.

      report
    4. Ross Taylor

      Chairman, Indonesia Institute Inc at Indonesia Institute (Inc)

      In reply to Rosemary Stanton

      But Rosemary, but in the meantime The Heart Foundation are 'awarding' their famour healthy 'TICK' to cereals that contain up to 28% pure sugar. No wonder consumers are so completely confused?

      report
    5. Steven Hamley

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Clare Collins

      Clare the Cochrane review also states:

      "There were no clear effects of dietary fat changes on total mortality (RR 0.98, 95% CI 0.93 to 1.04, 71,790 participants) or cardiovascular mortality (RR 0.94, 95% CI 0.85 to 1.04, 65,978 participants)."

      So CVD events, yes. CVD or total mortality, no.

      Also, the only trial that had a consistent positive effect in that meta-analysis was Oslo, which had a number of confounders in favour of the experimental (high n-6) group including: increased intake of omega 3s from fish and cod liver oil, increased dietary vitamin D (probably more important for Norwegians), they were advised to eat more whole foods and less refined grains and sugar, and a decreased intake of partially hydrogenated oils*

      * Please don't confuse the effects of trans fats that are a product of partial hydrogenation with those found naturally in ruminant animal foods, you'll find they are quite different

      report
    6. Shane Barrett

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Steven Hamley

      Steven,

      According to nutritionist Bill Shrapnel, natural and artificial trans fats have the same effect on the body.

      "‘Natural’ versus ‘artificial’ trans fats

      Trans fats in meat and dairy foods are sometimes referred to as ‘natural’ trans fats to distinguish them from the ‘artificial’ trans fats made in a factory. This is just a public relations exercise. The majority of the trans fats found in hardened fats are also found in meat fat and dairy fat. So-called ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’ trans fats are basically different combinations of the same substances. And they have the same effect on the human body."

      http://scepticalnutritionist.com.au/?p=313#sthash.GeMNwFRA.dpuf

      report
    7. rory robertson
      rory robertson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      former fattie

      In reply to Shane Barrett

      Shane,

      I'm not sure what Bill Shrapnel says is a good resource for our group. Bill works for the food industry, including the added-sugar industry: http://www.srasanz.org/about-us

      You would know that added sugar is a menace to public health, for all the obvious reasons: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xDaYa0AB8TQ&feature=youtu.be

      Meanwhile, Bill is one of the few people who hasn't run a mile from the University of Sydney's extraordinarily faulty Australian Paradox paper: http://scepticalnutritionist.com.au/?p=514

      He should have: http://www.australianparadox.com/pdf/quickquizresearch.pdf

      Shane, let's try to restrict this conversation on diet, science and public health to sources of information without obvious conflicts.

      report
    8. Shane Barrett

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to rory robertson

      Rory, why would working for the sugar industry influence anything he has to say about trans fats?

      report
    9. rory robertson
      rory robertson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      former fattie

      In reply to Shane Barrett

      Shane,

      I wrote "...works for the food industry, including the added-sugar industry". I'm saying we should keep such obvious conflicts in mind when we assess what he and others have to say in every aspect of the debate on diet, science and public health.

      Shane, the fact he represents the sugar industry and promotes the extraordinarily faulty Australian Paradox paper as reliable (third link in http://scepticalnutritionist.com.au/?p=1093 ) tells us a bit more about how much attention we should pay to your preferred sources.

      Next you'll be telling us we should take seriously contributions in the obesity debate from those who operate the University of Sydney's Gycemic Index business: http://www.australianparadox.com/pdf/AFR-report-investigation.pdf

      report
    10. Rosemary Stanton

      Nutritionist & Visiting Fellow at University of New South Wales

      In reply to Chris Saunders

      Chris

      I know of no evidence that soy (or oat) beverages with added calcium are harmful when used in moderation. There are other ways for those who prefer not to consume dairy products to get sufficient calcium (and other nutrients, although not vitamin B12) but fortified soy (or other calcium fortified) beverages are a convenient product for many people.

      I realise these products are not part of the traditional Japanese (and other Asian) use of soy foods, but there are many paths to an adequate diet.

      An excess of anything is foolish in any dietary pattern and that would include soy products, as well as cow's milk.

      report
    11. Rosemary Stanton

      Nutritionist & Visiting Fellow at University of New South Wales

      In reply to Ross Taylor

      Ross

      I agree that cereals with so much sugar should not be getting a Tick. Before Rory attacks me, note that I have - over many years - done widespread media interviews (TV, radio and print) objecting to the Tick on such products. The Heart Foundation is well aware of my views on this topic - and that of many colleagues.

      report
    12. Rosemary Stanton

      Nutritionist & Visiting Fellow at University of New South Wales

      In reply to Shane Barrett

      Shane

      I think we need to look more carefully at the individual fatty acids in the diet. This applies to those included in the general category of saturated fats as well as polyunsaturated fats. For example, stearic acid, a saturated fatty acid has long been known not to raise LDL cholesterol. However, stearic acid is not found in isolation and the foods that contain it also contain other saturated fatty acids that do raise LDL cholesterol.

      With trans fatty acids, most of the adverse effects…

      Read more
    13. rory robertson
      rory robertson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      former fattie

      In reply to Rosemary Stanton

      Rosemary,

      Yes, I too well aware of your determined efforts on that front: http://www.news.com.au/finance/sugar-trap-heart-foundation-critics-say-tick-deals-with-nestle-uncle-tobys-mcdonalds-aldi-too-sweet-to-ignore/story-e6frfm1i-1226265842672

      To your credit, you were right up there with David Gillespie on that matter: http://www.raisin-hell.com/2011/02/heart-foundation-says-sugar-isnt.html

      For the record, I'm not sure I have ever "attacked" you on anything. I certainly have expressed disappointment…

      Read more
  3. Suzy Gneist

    Multiple: self-employed, employed, student, mother, volunteer, Free-flyer

    My main criteria for food is how close the product is to its natural state and when it comes to that, I'd always pick butter/avocado/mayonnaise or nothing at all over artificially created and coloured margarine - I don't classify it as a food - maybe a lubricant at most and who eats those?

    report
    1. Shane Barrett

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      I'm not really a fan of margarine, but i don't think certain foods are unhealthy solely because they are unnatural, nor healthy solely because they are natural. It's true that margarine is a concoction of chemicals, but so too is butter. So too are all the foods we eat.

      Most people think "natural" is synonymous with "healthy" and it's amazing to see so many products marketed as "natural" when it really tells us not much at all about how healthy the product is.

      Here is a quote from Dr Joe Schwarcz from McGill University.

      "A second widespread myth is that if something is “natural” it is superior to “artificial.” There is no such relationship. The safety or efficacy of any chemical is not determined by its ancestry; it can only be determined by proper testing. Nature is not benign; botulin, for example, possibly the most toxic substance known, is produced by the perfectly natural Clostridium botulinum bacterium."

      report
    2. Suzy Gneist

      Multiple: self-employed, employed, student, mother, volunteer, Free-flyer

      In reply to Shane Barrett

      I did not make a blanket statement about natural versus artificial as you imply. I made a statement about processed margerine in particular and prefer unprocessed or least processed foods instead.
      BTW, are you arguing that because something is made up from naturally occurring single elements (chemicals) it is 'natural'?

      report
    3. Shane Barrett

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Hi Suzy,

      you said that your "main criteria for food is how close the product is to its natural state" and I'm sure as a result you eat lots of heathy foods and my point probably doesn't apply to you . However, if someone is eating too much saturated and trans fat, it is irrelevant to the body whether these fats come from a natural source (butter) or an artificial source (margarine). Therefore, for them, i think "which spread has a better fat quality" is a more useful criteria than "which spread is closer to its natural state".

      report
    4. Suzy Gneist

      Multiple: self-employed, employed, student, mother, volunteer, Free-flyer

      In reply to Shane Barrett

      I only speak for myself, not for others, but my reasoning differs because it isn't based solely on science but takes many other things into account (ethics, animal rights, community, personal responsibility, etc). Many of these are not covered when the subject of picking a 'healthy' choice is reduced to such simple parameters as 'fat quality'.

      report
  4. Alison Maxwell

    logged in via Facebook

    Healthiest option - consider if you need to use a spread, butter or margerine at all. They don't offer much to the diet except for fat, and I can't see a lot of Australians with raging fat deficiencies. There's a lot of great unprocessed foods which contain a mix of macro and micronutrients as well as fat (nuts, coconut, avocado, soybeans and soy products) which are a better way to get fat in your diet.

    report
    1. Henry Verberne

      Former IT Professional

      In reply to Alison Maxwell

      I agree Alison. We tend to use spreads such as butter or margarine more out of habit or maybe lack of imagination and should consider alternatives such as avocado or hummus (latter is easily made at home, even by me).

      In most some instances a good bread (eg a rye/wholemeal or sour-dough) does not need saturated fats to make a sandwich tasty or give moistness.

      report
  5. Mark Vincent

    logged in via Facebook

    Can you then explain to me why, after completely changing my eating from Polyunsaturated fats and oils, seed oils and low-fat dairy such as Diet Yoghurt & Skim Milk, and switching to BUTTER, Full Cream Milk, and Animal Fats that my cholesterol went from being high to being perfect within 6 months? I am also completely Fructose Free as well, I don't eat processed foods or anything with greater than 3g/100g of sugar. I think the information in this article is misleading, and fails to include the…

    Read more
    1. Benison O'Reilly

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Mark Vincent

      Interested to know where you got your evidence on the prevalence of breast cancer and type 2 diabetes 150 years ago, Mark. I think epidemiologists were thin on the ground in those days.

      Thanks for your anecdote, but I think I'll take my advice from a Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics.

      report
    2. rory robertson
      rory robertson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      former fattie

      In reply to Benison O'Reilly

      Benison,

      You would do well to read Chapters 5 and 6 of Gary Taubes's profoundly important history of nutrition science, "Good Calories, Bad Calories". As British politicians and soldiers colonised much of the world, British doctors were there looking after the soldiers and settlers, as well as documenting changes in the health of the locals - in Africa, India, Canada, Australia, NZ, the Middle East, etc. That is, epidemiologists were not as thin on the ground in those days as you seem to think…

      Read more
  6. Sue Ieraci

    Public hospital clinician

    Thank you for the article.

    In these times where dietary faddism and pseudo-science are rife, it's refreshing to see a rational discussion, backed by evidence.

    Saturated fat has strong evidence of a specific association with coronary artery disease. The causes of weight gain in general are much more complex. (Thought I'd get that in before the anecdotes start flooding in).

    report
    1. Sharon Potocnik

      HR Officer

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      "backed by evidence". I haven't yet seen any research that demonstrates that saturated fat from dairy contributes to cardiovascular disease. I have tried to find some, perhaps you can help Sue?

      report
  7. Claire Hay

    logged in via email @gmail.com

    It seems that on a matter as complex and unsettled as this one, it would be wise to come back to a bit of 'Asclepian' wisdom:
    1- Family GP are hopefully well place to advised people on dietary changes. People who have no or little issues with Cholesterol or obesity shouldn't self diagnose themselves or shouldn't enter in these type of diets (if any diets).
    2- As it stands 'saturated' fat would be just a tiny part of any obesity or cardiovascular issue...but a - almost overdone - good point of…

    Read more
    1. Paul Rogers

      Manager

      In reply to Claire Hay

      Claire, food patterns are certainly more important than any individual component, especially when eaten in moderation. Modest use of butter as a spread is unlikely to have a dramatic impact on heart disease risk.

      Even so, the parts make up the whole, and recommendations need to start somewhere.

      Other dairy products, milk, cheese and yogurt, may even have have a different risk profile to that of butter.

      I don't agree that "saturated fat is just a tiny part of . . . cardiovascular issue."

      report
  8. Mark Shields

    logged in via Facebook

    Terrible, just terrible.... if anyone thinks having some real butter is going to cause health issues as part of an overall smart dietary pattern, they need to read some nutritional science published after 1985.... get out of here

    report
  9. rory robertson
    rory robertson is a Friend of The Conversation.

    former fattie

    Oh dear: "To improve the health of your heart, choose a spread with the lowest amount of saturated fat and trans fat per 100 grams. ... keep an eye on the total saturated plus trans fat".

    In my opinion, Australians are getting fat and sick in part because high-profile nutritionists somehow manage to equate saturated fats with trans-fats, and equate animal fats with “bad” cholesterol and heart attacks.

    It's been pretty clear for some time that the claim that animal fats are unhealthy is nonsense: http://garytaubes.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/WWGF-Readers-Digest-feature-Feb-2011.pdf ; http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/3876219.htm

    report
    1. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to rory robertson

      Oh dear: Mr Robertson prefers his own opinion to that of a Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics.

      Prof Collins, again, thank you for your rational article.

      report
    2. rory robertson
      rory robertson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      former fattie

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Dear Sue,

      You have been unable to acknowledge the difference between up and down in a simple chart for over a year and a half, so I'm afraid I do not take your contributions here seriously: (Q4) http://www.australianparadox.com/pdf/quickquizresearch.pdf

      Moreover, I have shown readers that at least one high-profile Professor of science at a Group of Eight university has "peer reviewed" and other claims that are based on complete nonsense: http://www.australianparadox.com/pdf/AFR-report-investigation.pdf

      Read more
  10. Paul Rogers

    Manager

    Excellent summary of the science, Clare.

    As you can see, the 'usual suspects' are here in dispute, but none of them have a valid professional criticism of any standing whatsoever.

    Keep up the good work.

    report
    1. rory robertson
      rory robertson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      former fattie

      In reply to Paul Rogers

      Paul,

      I've seen no-one convincingly invalidate the top-3 conclusions of Gary Taubes's profoundly important history of nutrition science "Good Calories, Bad Calories". After over a decade of painstaking research, he wrote:

      "1. Dietary fat, whether saturated or not, is not a cause of obesity, heart disease, or any other chronic disease of civilisation.

      2. The problem is the carbohydrates in the diet…

      3. Sugars – sucrose and and high-fructose corn syrup specifically – are particularly harmful...[as…

      Read more
    2. rory robertson
      rory robertson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      former fattie

      In reply to Paul Rogers

      That's the spirit, Paul. Journalists know nothing, even after reading thousands of scientific references and interviewing thousands of scientists on the detail of their "findings". Ignorance may not be bliss, but I guess for some it's one way of getting through the day.

      report
    3. Paul Rogers

      Manager

      In reply to rory robertson

      I've no problem with Taubes' position on excesses of refined carbohydrates and sugar, and neither do most nutritionists, but his position on saturated fat, cholesterol and heart disease is clearly not supported by evidence.

      report
    4. rory robertson
      rory robertson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      former fattie

      In reply to Paul Rogers

      Paul,

      Perhaps Gary Taubes's most-important observation is that much of what passes as modern nutrition science is faulty. Summarising his decade or more of research, he wrote: "I had no idea that I would find the quality of the research on nutrition, obesity, and chronic disease to be so inadequate; that so much of the conventional wisdom would be founded on so little substantial evidence..." (p. 453).

      That too has been my experience: http://www.australianparadox.com/pdf/AFR-report-investigation.pdf

      report
    5. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to rory robertson

      Perhaps the problem shared by both Taubes and RObertson is a lack of understanding of the significance of scientific research, how a body of evidence is assembled in a specialised area, and how that knowledge is applied in practice.

      A journalist could read however many articles on bridge-building that they could find, but I would not trust them to design and build one.

      report
    6. Shane Barrett

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Well said, Sue.

      It seems like Taubes also ignores any evidence that contradicts his position and misquotes researchers to make it appear as if they support his position.

      Bonnie Liebman wrote an article in 2002 that was critical of Gary Taubes New York Times article "What if it's all been a big fat lie"

      http://www.cspinet.org/nah/11_02/bigfatlies.pdf

      ""He knows how to spin a yarn," says Barbara Rolls, an obesity expert at Pennsylvania State University. "What frightens me is that he picks…

      Read more
    7. rory robertson
      rory robertson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      former fattie

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Dr Sue,

      The world has been getting fatter and sicker for over thirty years. It is not as if the generation of scientists, nutritionists and public-health workers who have overseen that disaster have been building bridges that didn't fall over.

      Perhaps it's time to have another look at the evidence on why people get fat and sick, rather than continue to pretend that the basis of current anti-obesity efforts is not hopelessly flawed?

      Readers, the tragedy of the current situation is that a…

      Read more
    8. rory robertson
      rory robertson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      former fattie

      In reply to Shane Barrett

      Shane,

      The various comments you cite come five years before "Good Calories, Bad Calories" was first published in 2007. Perhaps you should read the book itself, and then provide readers here with a careful assessment of Taubes's evidence and arguments.

      report
    9. Shane Barrett

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to rory robertson

      My point is that I don't think Gary Taubes can be trusted. Why not read one of Rosemary's books?

      report
    10. rory robertson
      rory robertson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      former fattie

      In reply to Shane Barrett

      Shane,

      I have read a couple of Rosemary's books. In general, I think they are top of the range in that space. Indeed, I have cited some of one: http://www.australianparadox.com/part-2

      Unfortunately, Rosemary has not published a tour-de-force history of nutrition science. (Please correct me on that if I am wrong.)

      Gary Taubes has, and in my opinion "Good Calories, Bad Calories" is a profoundly important and ridiculously under-read book.

      Again, Shane, if you think Gary Taubes's book "Good…

      Read more
    11. Paul Rogers

      Manager

      In reply to rory robertson

      You need to give it up; Rory. But then that seems to be your preference . . . unreliable sources.

      report
    12. rory robertson
      rory robertson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      former fattie

      In reply to Paul Rogers

      Paul,

      I'm genuinely unsure exactly what you are talking about.

      In any case, it's interesting that the Heart Foundation is again making a fuss about the ABC's Catalyst programs on the science of fats, carbs and heart disease: http://www.smh.com.au/national/health/catalyst-heart-foundation-survey-raises-more-concerns-over-abcs-controversial-cholesterol-medication-episode-20131210-2z4fz.html

      Beyond those who have apparently decided to be their own doctors, some patients have begun asking their doctors about the extent of genuine evidence behind the health advice and prescriptions they are given. Gasp.

      What if the global low-fat/high-carb and animalfats=heartdisease advice has been a big mistake, as seems to be the case? Oops: http://garytaubes.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/WWGF-Readers-Digest-feature-Feb-2011.pdf

      report
    13. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to rory robertson

      ''The world has been getting fatter and sicker for over thirty years.'' asserts Mr Robertson.

      That is the assertion of someone with a single-minded obsession about sugar and obesity, who understands little about public health.

      In Australia over the twentieth century:
      - Smoking rates have reduced significantly, accompanied by significant drops in lung cancer rates and emphysema
      - Asthma rates peaked in the 1990's and have since fallen
      From the AIHW:
      -The overall death rate for CVD has fallen by about 80% since the 1960s and continues to fall.
      -Death rates for the major types of CVD, such as coronary heart disease, stroke, heart failure, rheumatic heart disease and peripheral vascular disease, have all fallen markedly in the past 20 years

      Also:
      - Life expectancy continues to rise
      - Increasing age is a major risk factor for most chronic diseases.

      There is a lot more to population health than sugar, or indeed diet.

      report
    14. rory robertson
      rory robertson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      former fattie

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Dr Sue,

      Much of what you say about smoking, death rates and life expectancy, etc is true but what about the QUALITY of life of hundreds of millions of obese, diabetic and/or cancerous patients - young and old - and their families? And what about national health budgets going through the roof?

      We can keep the afflicted alive and they will be happy at times - like my old dad - but who is going to pay for all the drugs, all the nursing, and all the specialists to be consulted once the dietary…

      Read more
    15. Rosemary Stanton

      Nutritionist & Visiting Fellow at University of New South Wales

      In reply to Shane Barrett

      Shane

      I hesitate to spend time discussing Taubes when this article was specifically on butter vs margarine.

      However, I happened to be in Walter Willett's office on a day in 2002 when he was most unhappy about Gary Taubes' cherry picking of the information he had given him in an interview.

      Many of the scientists Taubes had quoted were irate that they had been misquoted or their comments taken out of context.

      I don't think that everything Taubes says is wrong, and i don't have any problem…

      Read more
    16. rory robertson
      rory robertson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      former fattie

      In reply to Rosemary Stanton

      Rosemary,

      It's one thing to "cherry pick" aspects of a conversation. We all do that. We grab the interesting bits. What Taubes absolutely didn't do was make up the hundreds of studies spanning more than a century he cited on the way to arguing that excess carbohydrate consumption has been driving excess insulin and (so) excess body fattening.

      Nor did he make up the well-documented history over the past century or two that indigenous populations typically became fat and sick soon after sugar…

      Read more
    17. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to rory robertson

      Mr rory - I have asked you repeatedly to leave me out of your obsessions.

      Isn't there some area within your own discipline that you could spend time improving?

      report
    18. Paul Rogers

      Manager

      In reply to rory robertson

      Rory, it's late, but this is nonsense.

      For a start, from the EPIC web site, Key Findings (colorectal cancer):

      "The hypotheses that consumption of red and processed meat increases colorectal cancer risk while intake of fish decreases risk is strongly supported by the EPIC results."

      More later . . . if you're game?

      report
    19. rory robertson
      rory robertson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      former fattie

      In reply to Paul Rogers

      Paul,

      Regarding the state of the evidence on meat and cancer, Professor David Colquhoun seemed quite formidable, so be careful: http://www.dcscience.net/?p=5935

      Rosemary mentioned to Shane yesterday that Walter Willett was unhappy that Gary Taubes didn't focus on his (Walter's) preferred talking points in 2002. Searching for a particular chart last night, I stumbled into a pretty punchy critique of WW's work: http://eathropology.com/2013/11/15/make-me-some-science-i-cant-refuse/

      But so what…

      Read more
    20. rory robertson
      rory robertson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      former fattie

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      I don't know about "obsession", Dr Sue. One is either interested in scientific integrity and improving public health, or one is not. I turned up here a year and a half ago because it was clear that all was not well on either front. And now I have a much better understanding of why that remains the case.

      report
    21. Heidi Evans

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to rory robertson

      Ah ignore her, I like your passion. You provide a compelling argument.

      report
    22. Paul Rogers

      Manager

      In reply to rory robertson

      Rory, you are doing a "Catalyst". Colquhoun is a pharmacologist and contrarian blogger, but he does not represent mainstream opinion on the risk of red meat consumption and colorectal cancer. (Incidentally, this is not the well-known cardiologist Prof David Colquhoun from Queensland.)

      Here is what Cancer Research UK says:

      "At least four meta-analyses have shown a 17-30% increased risk of bowel cancer in relation to 100-120g/day of red meat and a 9-50% increased risk of bowel cancer in relation to 25-50g/day of processed meat." AND

      "In 2011, it was estimated that around 21% of bowel cancers in the UK in 2010 were linked to consumption of red and processed meat."

      LIke Taubes, you are cherry picking again, and rather poorly.

      report
    23. rory robertson
      rory robertson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      former fattie

      In reply to Paul Rogers

      Paul,

      Faulty "mainsteam opinion" based on nothing much is what got us into this self-inflicted dietary disaster of global obesity, diabetes and related maladies including cancer.

      I suggest you look at little more carefully at Professor Colquhoun's skill-set. I described his skills as "formidable". If you want to pretend here that you know what you are talking about, you would do well to think a bit harder before you clownishly dismiss analysis of obvious substance as worthless.

      report
  11. Chris Saunders

    retired

    I would like to suggest that nutritionists look to the quality of hospital foods. A friend just recently on a “soft diet” was handed a scrambled egg sandwich, a jelly, an ice-cream, a low fat fruit yoghurt and an apple juice for lunch and dinner for an overnight stay and then breakfast was rice bubbles and (to his delight full cream milk), one slice of white bread with margarine, honey or jam; vegemite and butter had to have been requested. A cuppa comes with sweet biscuits, they have no savouries…

    Read more
    1. Rosemary Stanton

      Nutritionist & Visiting Fellow at University of New South Wales

      In reply to Chris Saunders

      Chris
      Your comments are spot on. Hospital food is generally abominable. It's also a problem when fast food companies set up premises within hospital grounds.

      I know many dietitians who work in hospitals who continue to try to get the food culture changed.

      There are also some hospitals (usually private) that do serve good food, so it can be done.

      report
    2. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to Rosemary Stanton

      That's good to know that there are examples that could be emulated. That is certainly a second step for as you say there are the dieticians already in place who would work towards improvements. Just a bit of substitution on what constitutes a "soft diet" could be another. These plastic packs of deserts are just too cheap, long shelf live durable and ease of delivery to overcome quickly I would imagine.

      report
    3. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Chris Saunders

      I once went to a meeting about this very topic, where a hospital manager was asked to explain the apparently poor quality of the food.

      The defense included things like:
      - having to cater to many varying tastes
      - economic rationalisation and centralisation, leading to the cook-chill-transport-re-heat method of distribution (there aren't individual hospital kitchens everywhere - cooking is centralised)

      Rationalisation of costs seems to be the answer to the way many things are done - but then costs do need to be contained.

      The best thing for patients with visitors would be to have their fave foods brought in, so long as they are compatible with the patient's condition.

      report
    4. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Many don't have visitors; they are the ones stuck. Next time it will be a matter of being prepared and taking some stuff with him. And of course not many people complain. They are not there for the food. But it is an important issue and any self respecting organisation would make a point of doing it right. It could prove to be a simple matter of letting the dieticians have their head. Maybe they need a study subject in hospital food administration, supply and distribution to give them the confidence to negotiate with the hospital management.

      report
    5. Shane Barrett

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Chris Saunders

      Apparently The Cleveland Clinic has recently changed their junk food hospital environment.

      http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/hwi/downloads/p2p/P2P_Food_Issue1.pdf

      I can't find the link, but i saw a youtube video lecture about these changes, which included not only changing the food, but also not hiring doctors who smoke and firing doctors if they are caught smoking within a certain distance from the hospital (after a warning, of course)

      report
  12. Ross Taylor

    Chairman, Indonesia Institute Inc at Indonesia Institute (Inc)

    We could start by making it compulsory to show the amount of Trans Fats on the label of the product. Secondly, can someone tell me what happens when 'vegetable oils' such as thosed used in margarine, are hydrogenated? My understanding is this heating process turns so - called 'healthy' vegetable oils into fats that block your arteries?

    In my 20 years as a volunteer cancer advocate and mentor (www.lifeforce.com.au) I have suggested that for cancer patients who are wanting to have a piece of toast for example, they use a very light spread of pure unsalted butter. But for those needing a spread on their sandwich or bread, use avocado as the 'butter' and then pack the sandwich or roll with salad. Delicious!!

    report
    1. Rosemary Stanton

      Nutritionist & Visiting Fellow at University of New South Wales

      In reply to Ross Taylor

      Ross

      Hydrogenation converts unsaturated fatty acids into saturated fatty acids. Liquid oils don't have enough saturated fat to be spreadable, so some of the oils were hydrogenated to produce some solidity. Other processes include partial hydrogenation which produces the nasty trans fat called elaidic acid. Partial hydrogenation was phased out of most margarine spreads in Australia after much campaigning by nutritionists so margarine spreads sold in supermarkets now contain minimal trans fat. Sadly, however, some catering spreads - and spreads sold to indigenous people in remote stores in Australia - still contain trans fat.

      Various other processed can also be used (including interesterification) but margarine spreads have more saturated fat than the oils from which they are made.

      I think your advice is fine. I have also been calling for compulsory listing of trans fat levels on food labels.

      report
    2. david gray

      agricultural scientist & economist at Agriculture

      In reply to Rosemary Stanton

      Rosemary:
      1. What happens to the various vegetable oils upon heating, as in using them for cooking (pan frying or on a hot plate)? Is it true that different forms of fat and other chemicals are produced, and if so, what are they? Are they unhealthy?
      2. Is palm oil the trans-fat culprit in commercial cooking, and what are its fat credentials? My understanding is that it has been a growth product internationally.
      3. I remember reading that, when cooking (frying), butter has a considerably higher temperature at which it becomes volatile, compared to commonly used oils of plant origin. Correct? Is this not important in the tastiness outcome of the cooking?

      report
    3. Rosemary Stanton

      Nutritionist & Visiting Fellow at University of New South Wales

      In reply to david gray

      David

      1. Contrary to some claims, it is not possible to form trans fats during domestic cooking. Nor does cooking turn unsaturated fatty acids into saturated ones. However, with repeated heating, ordinary oils will deteriorate. If heated to their smoke point, the free fatty acids in the oil will turn to gas (ie smoke) imparting an unpleasant flavour to foods. The deterioration increases each time a frying oil is used, with the greatest deterioration usually experienced when foods such as fish…

      Read more
  13. John Newton

    Author Journalist

    Why would you spread a slice of handmade bread with vegetable oils that have been degummed, neutralised with alkalis (caustic soda for example), bleached, hydrogenated to solidify them, then further bleached, filtered and deodorised before having preservatives, emulsifiers and vitamins added? I happen to have seen it made, and that’s enough to turn anyone off. It’s not just bad food, it’s ugly food.

    I'll take the creamy stuff from the cow every time. As French philosopher Michel Onfray said at 28, recovering from a heart attack, and still alive and writing at 48: “I prefer to die eating butter than to economise my existence eating margarine.”

    report
    1. Claire Hay

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to John Newton

      In my family we have been making cheese for 100 years. I say my great-grand ma at 88 enjoying tablespoon of full cream (diguised on a cake: St Honore) with the cardiologist doctor next to her...he was just making sure she wouldnt serve herself twice...because he knew, we all knew how important it was for her. What was in this cream, was history, joy, her life and the feeling to be fully there as always, although she was sick. She didnt die from heart disease. She was not obese.
      How difficult it should be to work on food guidelines and to have to single out 'ingredients'. It makes people distrust the food processing industry...as they tend to forget that before most countries have regulations to make sure that the food publicly commercialised is safe....but the way it's mixed is a different question.
      Anyway, we seem to so much love to believe that food is 'health' that we are forgetting it's a pleasure and a social moment.

      report
    2. Rosemary Stanton

      Nutritionist & Visiting Fellow at University of New South Wales

      In reply to John Newton

      John

      I also saw margarine being made many years ago and decided I would never eat it. The taste is a further turn off.

      I either enjoy good bread on its own, use avocado when appropriate or enjoy butter (in moderation) - for example, on a slice of sour dough toast, topped with my delicious home made marmalade.

      report
    3. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Rosemary Stanton

      I enjoy my home-made bread best either on its own or lubricated with olive oil.

      I've never understood why sandwiches require a ''spread'' at all - why not just bread with some delicious filling or topping? Same with toast - if the topping has some moisture or oil in it, why ''butter'' the toast?

      report
    4. Suzy Gneist

      Multiple: self-employed, employed, student, mother, volunteer, Free-flyer

      In reply to John Newton

      My kids prefer a whole egg organic mayonnaise to keep their salad stuck to sandwiches, I'm the one from European dairy-loving background who enjoys the simple taste of unsalted butter on an occasional slice of 'real' bread - maybe with just a few slices of homegrown tomato added... Food to me is much more than its base ingredients, calories or brands.

      report
  14. Gary Cassidy

    Something I've been wondering is that due to the softness and ease of spreading margarine does that encourage more usage in greater amounts?

    Although I only use butter or margarine sparingly, I much prefer the taste of butter over margarine.

    report
  15. Shirley Birney

    logged in via email @tpg.com.au

    An interesting article to ponder for one who was born in the “dinosaur” era and has always eaten butter, tonnes of fruit but little meat. As of October 2013, my coronary risk ratio was 2.9.

    Of concern is the 2013 health rankings performed by researchers at the US’ National Academy of Sciences:

    New Health Rankings: US: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health. Of 17 peer nations, US came dead last – one of the wealthiest nations on the planet: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13497

    And there appears to be a growing number of younger Australians who have been diagnosed with “pre-diabetic” symptoms. I have a nagging suspicion that we should get tougher on the food industry. After all it’s not altruism that drives them towards their goal of maximum profits.

    report