Latest USDA Research Confirms Health Professionals' Recommendations to Choose Margarine

Copyright 1998 PRNewswire
September 24, 1998

WASHINGTON, Sept. 24 /PRNewswire/ -- A new study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) confirms what leading health groups have been saying for years -- margarine, particularly the softer varieties, is the tablespread of choice in a heart-healthy diet.

As reported in a USDA release on September 22, 1998, research was conducted by Dr. Joseph Judd, a prominent nutrition researcher at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Services' Human Nutrition Research Center in Beltsville, Maryland. Dr. Judd and his colleagues recently completed a clinical study with 46 men and women that compared butter with two types of margarines (margarine with either a moderate amount of trans fat or no trans fat). Dr. Judd found that even margarines with a moderate amount of trans fat had a much better effect on blood cholesterol levels than did butter. While the margarine that contains the moderate amount of trans fat lowered levels of "bad" cholesterol compared to butter (which is rich in saturated fat), the trans fat-free margarine fared slightly better. Neither of the margarines lowered the levels of good cholesterol, either.

The results of the study were reported in the September issue of Agricultural Research magazine ( and the research will appear as early as October in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

"One reason we saw these results is that, compared to butter, most margarine products contain more poly- and mono-unsaturated fats than trans or saturated fats," stated Dr. Judd. "Too many times, consumers get confused by scientific reports on specific fats; then they translate those reports to changes in their eating behavior," he added. Because this has happened over the past few years, particularly with margarine, Dr. Judd reminds consumers, "We do not eat specific fats. We eat foods such as margarine that contain a wide variety of fats." While he believes that it is wise for consumers to reduce their intake of trans fats where they can, Judd warns, "you should not be overly concerned to the point you substitute saturated fats for trans fats. Saturated fats average about 12 percent of the total calories in the diet and are a major dietary factor in cardiovascular disease risk. Trans fats comprise only 2-3 percent of calories on the other hand."

Dr. Judd's research is the latest of several studies done around the world which demonstrate that margarine can be an important part of a heart-healthy diet. Seven other studies published or presented during the past two years, involving nearly 70,000 people, confirm Dr. Judd's results. And all of these studies support the conclusion reaffirmed this year by the American Heart Association (AHA), recommending the use of the soft and liquid margarine products instead of butter.

"Consumers may not even realize they have been following the advice of these leading heart health professionals," stated Sue Taylor, a dietitian with the National Association of Margarine Manufacturers. "We now know that about 60 percent of consumer purchases today are tub and squeeze products -- the type products AHA suggests consumers use (and have proportions of fats similar to the products used in Dr. Judd's research)." Taylor points out that even when you evaluate the trans and saturated fat in margarine products, margarine always wins over butter. "In fact, the lower fat margarine products contain 50-100 percent less of these two fats," she noted.

"There has been more than a 30 percent reduction in the average fat content of margarine products since 1980, giving margarine products less total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, and fewer calories," Taylor adds. "In addition, many margarine products now are low-fat and some are completely trans-free." For more information about margarine, visit Margarine on the Web at

SOURCE National Association of Margarine Manufacturers
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