Heart foundation takes swipe at butter and new study on margarine

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 11th February 2013

Australia’s National Heart Foundation has claimed a recent study published in the British Medical Journal is “misguided.”

The Heart Foundation’s response is part of a broad backlash to the British Medical Journal article which published the new research findings on the National Institute of Health in the United States, which reviewed a 1966 study of the benefits of margarine vs butter.

Contrary to previous information that margarine is the “healthier” choice, the re-analysis of the study found that those who consumed margarine instead of butter were “twice as likely” to suffer from a heart attack or heart disease.

However,  Dr Robert Grenfell, National Cardiovascular Health Director at the Heart Foundation said that the new research from the 1966 study is “misguided” because it is not based on a healthy group of people.

“This was not a study in a healthy population, but a study in a small group of unhealthy middle aged men,” Dr Grenfell said.

“In the 60s and 70s margarine still contained trans fats – which we now know are extremely harmful to heart health. Replacing saturated fat with a product that was high in trans fat would never be recommended now,” Dr Grenfell added.

Meanwhile, the Deputy Chairman of the Sydney University Nutrition Research Foundation, Bill Shrapnel, agreed that the study was not objective because margarine no longer contains the trans fatty acids it did at the time of the trials.

“When this study began, Miracle margarine contained approximately 15 per cent trans fatty acids, which have the worst effect on heart disease risk of any fat. The adverse effect of the intervention in this study was almost certainly due to the increase in trans fatty acids in the diet,” Mr Shrapnel said.

“Recent, well conducted studies indicate that replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fats lowers heart disease risk and this is widely accepted,” Mr Shrapnel added.

However, the Emeritus Professor of Medicine at Monash University, Professor Mark Wahlqvist, supported the findings of the new research and reiterated that the new outcomes from the study were both “welcome” and “disturbing.”

“Linoleic acid has been found not only to increase all-cause, but cardiovascular mortality, and to be consistent with studies of a similar kind. Serious questions must now be asked about why it has taken so long to unearth and publish this crucial information about a major change in the human diet which took place as recently as the 1960s,” Professor Wahlqvist said.

Medical professionals continue to disagree over new research into butter vs margarine.