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August 9, 2014

Butter versus margarine

by Helene van den Berg

A cow is more trustworthy than chemists!!


  • Butter is loaded with saturated fat and dietary cholesterol, which DOES NOT HARM THE BLOOD LIPID PROFILE. They raise the HDL (good) cholesterol and change the LDL cholesterol (from small dense LDL to large LDL), which is benign and not associated with heart disease.

NOTE: With a medical condition, like familial hypercholesterolemia, butter should be avoided.

  • Butter contains about 9% stearic acid, 19% oleic acid and 38% palmitic acid, a total of 66% of it’s total fat content. These three compete for the enzymes that metabolize LA and ALA and in excess, can interfere with the functions of EFA’s, especially if the latter makes up less than about 5% of total fat content.
  • Butter contains up to 6% trans fatty acids. They are produced by the bacteria in the stomach of cows. They are mainly trans-vaccenic acid, which is more easily metabolized than most trans fatty acids found in hydrogenated oils, fats, shortenings and margarines. Therefore, they constitute a minor risk to health.

Butter from grass- fed cows contains much greater amounts of heart-healthy nutrients than butter from grain-fed cows:

  • Vitamin K2 – prevents serious diseases like cancer, osteoporosis and heart disease.
  • CLA- this fatty acid can have anti-cancer properties and help lower body fat percentage in humans.
  • Butyrate – this short-chain fatty acid in butter, is easy to digest. It can fight inflammation, improve digestive health and may help prevent weight gain.
  • Omega 3 – grass-fed butter has less omega-6 and more omega-3, which is important, because people are already eating way too many omega-6 fatty acids. (Butter is generally low in essential fatty acids).

The health effects of butter can vary drastically depending on what the cow ate!


  • Margarine contains few short-chain easily digestible fatty acids. The oils from which margarines are made (soybean or safflower oil), contain ample EFAs, but partial hydrogenation (exposing the oils to high heat, high pressure, hydrogen gas and a metal catalyst) destroys many of these EFA molecules and changes them in altered substances. The finished product is LOW in EFAs and contain TOXIC molecules. Margarine is advertised in a misleading way as high in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), which the public equates with good health, because EFA are polyunsaturated. However, margarine’s PUFA are non-natural, chemically altered PUFAs that are bad for health.
  • Margarine contains up to 60% TRANS-fatty acids.

Trans-fatty acids properties are different to natural cis-fatty acids:

  • interfere with EFA functions,
  • are concentrated in heart tissue,
  • burn slower than cis-fatty acids
  • help cause cardiovascular disease.

There are some trans-fat free margarines available, but be aware that manufacturers can label their products trans-fat free, as long as there is less than 0.5 grams of trans fats per serving. Therefore read labels. If it uses the word “hydrogenated” anywhere on the ingredient list, avoid it!

  • Hydrogenation produces dozens of non-natural chemicals and many are toxic. Margarine is a source of aluminium (and nickel) in our food, which is associated with senility, osteoporosis and cancer.
  • The vegetable oils used in margarine, such as soybean and safflower oils, are the richest sources of omega-6 fatty acids in the diet, which we’re already eating too much of.
  • Some of the margarines (enriched with plant sterols or stenols), does lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol in the short term, but they also decrease HDL (good) cholesterol. Reducing cholesterol doesn’t necessarily reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Margarine is not suitable for frying, because the double bonds (unsaturated fatty acids) it still contains are further denatured by heat, light and oxygen.
  • The water present in margarine (20%), slowly destroys double bonds, creating altered products during storage, transit or display.

In a Sydney Diet Heart Study done on 458 men, who recently had a cardiac event, showed that those increasing their margarine consumption was 62% more likely to die and 70% more likely to die of heart disease.

Conclusion: Avoid processed pseudo-foods like margarine. Use real, grass-fed butter instead!

Read more from Fats

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