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Margarine Mayhem

Fitness for mind and body.

When margarine first appeared on the market, sales were low. Margarine looked and tasted like lard. Back to the drawing board!

Tub of margarine

Margarine was then sold with a coloring agent for esthetic improvement. But people didn't want to color their own food. Back to the drawing board!

Sophisticated techniques emerged, and with them, margarine that looked, smelled, and tasted like butter. Believe it or not, now it was the butter industry that went back to the drawing board. Today most butter contains color additives to compete with the "Yellowness" of margarine.

Margarine Margarine is a perfect example of a fabricated food, the earliest nondairy substitute. Manufacturers invested large sums of money for research in the technique of "creaming" margarine to increase the public's acceptance of the product. A survey has shown that advertisements have influenced consumers' choices for margarine over butter.

The advertising campaign launched by margarine manufacturers was termed "one of the most unprincipled food promotions in the past quarter of a century", with TV commercials described as "noisy, ubiquitous, and shameless." They have promoted a staple food as though it were a drug. Margarine advertisements were directed especially to physicians. Physicians, lacking information about how the hydrogenation process affects human health, or about the hazards of too much processed polyunsaturated fat, began switching patients from butter to margarine and from animal fats to vegetable oils.

Hydrogenated fats have a higher melting point than fats that are liquid at room temperature. They are less well utilized in your body. They do not circulate in the blood or move through the tissues as liquids. They may disrupt the permeability characteristics of the membranes of the body's cells and prevent the normal transport of nutrients into and out of cells. Hydrogenated fats produce a deficiency of essential fatty acids (EFA) by destroying them, or producing abnormal toxic fatty acids. Deficiency of EFA is a contributory cause in neurological diseases, heart disease, atherosclerosis, skin disease, various degenerative conditions such as cataract and arthritis, and cancer.

The conversion of oils to the hydrogenated form actually prevents the proper formation of bile in the liver from cholesterol, and therefore can elevate blood cholesterol and have adverse effects both directly and indirectly. Margarine can raise cholesterol.

Butter The Butter Information Council, in a campaign to encourage people to eat more of their products, had introduced a booklet on butter, informing the public that:

  • Butter is a natural product-alternatives are different.
  • All butter is made with cream. The ingredients of margarine are varied in individual brands.
  • Butter is a healthful food. There is no evidence to the contrary.
  • Butter has been in the diet for thousands of years so you can have confidence in it.
  • Butter is no more fattening than margarine. This is an important point. The advertising of margarine has been so powerful and misleading that it is surprising how many people still think margarine has fewer calories than butter. Again, the fat content of butter and margarine are identical.
  • Fats are important in a well-balanced diet.

A study reported in the prestigious journal Atherosclerosis reports that neither milk, cream, cheese, nor butter have any consistent effect upon blood cholesterol. George V. Mann, one of the first to call attention to the misleading margarine propaganda, has shown that a change from butter to margarine may be harmful. An article in Lancet reports that most popular brands of margarine are highly saturated and some contain more cholesterol than butter.

In test studies with nonhuman primates fed peanut, coconut, butter, and corn oils supplemented with cholesterol, the most severe atherosclerotic lesions were produced by peanut oil and next came coconut oil, with butter trailing behind.

Trans-fats are formed as a result of chemical hydrogenation. They are artificially created, and margarine may contain up to 45 percent of these deleterious fats. Only in recent years have trans-fats formed a significant part of our diet. Can a food containing this high level of trans-fats be more healthful than butter?

A proliferation of articles express these scientific facts in recent issues of medical journals. But as Voltaire said, "It requires ages to destroy a popular opinion."

Butter (and eggs) are the innocent victims of the fervor of the evangelical zest of the anti-cholesterol establishment which attempts to replace proved foods with untried substitutes.

Margarine is often advertised as being derived "from polyunsaturated oils." Manufacturers neglect to mention that the oil is changed into margarine by hydrogenation - saturating it with hydrogen. Some margarines do contain small amounts of liquid polyunsaturated oil added to a hydrogenated base, but the bulk of the fat must, of necessity, be saturated. Otherwise the margarine would be liquid like any other polyunsaturated oil.

Once a vegetable oil is hydrogenized a new fat has been created. Such artificially hydrogenated vegetable fats were an addition to our diet. Prior, the human body had no experience with them. It seems reasonable to wonder if we have the capacity to deal comfortably with this essentially synthetic food.

In fact, elaborate statistical analysis of the incidence of heart disease and the consumption of hydrogenated fats in England has shown a dramatic and detailed correlation between the two. Where margarine and solid vegetable shortenings are used in significant quantities, the rate of heart attack is always higher than where they are not.

Did you know?

Margarine was a French discovery and takes its name from Mons. Mege-Mouries, the originator. It was the result of the desire to find wholesome food at low cost during the Franco-Prussian war, and patriotism, as well as hope of securing the reward offered, led to exhaustive research by eminent French scientists. Finally it was discovered that the fat of cattle could be churned directly into a pure and wholesome food, without going through the formation of milk in the animal and then being churned into butter. Margarine was the result of these experiments. (Source: Good Luck Recipes, 1916, Jelke Good Luck Margarine)

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