Butter takes on margarine

By Judy Buttriss

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition, Fat, Essential fatty acid

Judy Buttriss, director general, British Nutrition Foundation
Judy Buttriss, director general, British Nutrition Foundation
Just as the Department of Health is lining up its new pledges on saturated fat, a study in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) has generated headlines such as 'swapping the butter for margarine may be bad for your health'.

The BMJ paper reported an Australian study conducted over 40 years ago of 458 men aged 3059 who had recently suffered a coronary event. They were advised to reduce their saturated fat intake to below 10% of energy intake and to increase their omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) intake to 15%, by using safflower oil and margarine.

More deaths resulted than in the control group. What the media didn't spell out is that 15% of energy from omega-6 PUFA is very unusual. In Britain, the advice for decades has been to achieve around 6.5% and not to exceed 10%.

So where does this leave us? It confirms that exceptionally high intakes of omega-6 PUFA may not be a good idea but it does not displace advice to cut down on saturated fat to reduce blood cholesterol.

It is also a reminder that manipulation of dietary fat intake is complicated as fat comprises lots of fatty acids each one with its unique effect on disease risk factors and that dietary fat advice needs to be considered in the context of the whole diet.

Related topics: Dairy-based ingredients, Dairy

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