Dr Rubaiul MurshedMany people enjoy margarine as an alternate of butter. But is margarine good for health? This debate is very hot today.
According to some researchers, after the World War-II the process for making hydrogenated and hardened fats from vegetable oils was widely adopted. As a result, margarines were developed and marketed extensively as alternatives to butter.
Traditional margarines usually spreading on toasts are mostly made from vegetable oils, which we know better than butter. Notorious ‘trans fats’ are created by the hydrogenation of vegetable oil, the very process used to solidify liquid vegetable oil into a spread.
During the manufacture of margarine, some of the unsaturated fats (considered as good fats) may even be converted into saturated fats or ‘trans fats’ which is very harmful for human body.
Use of trans fat is on the rise. This has been indicted as worse for health than even the well-publicised saturated fats in butter and meat. And if there is trans fat present inside margarine, it is as bad as many other harmful food substances.
In recent years, trans-fats issue has risen to the top of the good and bad health topic. General public who are conscious about their diet and health began to realise the negative health effects of trans fats. As a consequence, food manufacturers, governments and consumers are highly concerned of trans fats. Denmark became the first country in the world to ban trans fats from food products over fears of these hydrogenated fats contribute to many diseases.
Trans-fats are more likely to increase bad cholesterol called LDL and decrease good cholesterol termed HDL.
In the west, food manufacturers have created non-hydrogenated margarine. And those margarines contain no trans-fat. Today, this is a new marketing strategy for many food manufacturers in that part of the world.
Margarine, particularly polyunsaturated margarine, has become a major part of the urban breakfast. Although some margarine processing does not now produce trans fats, but many are still harmful for health.
For customers of this subcontinent the situation is very confusing. Most of the margarines on supermarket shelves just show the products as being virtually free of cholesterol; on the other hand products such as cakes and biscuits which include hydrogenated fats in the ingredient lists do not mention neither about trans fats or unsaturated fats.
Traditional margarine is said to be one of the big sources of trans-fatty acids, which are doubles the chance for heart disease. So what to do at this moment in our stores? First check the list of ingredients. If the product contains hydrogenated oil or partially hydrogenated oil or saturated fat, look at the quantity of total fat — that is going to be a significant tips for your initial query.
Source: The Daily Star, February 07, 2009
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