Thursday, March 21, 2013

Margarine is toxic

In the 1970s, I was instructed to swap from butter to margarine. Fortunately, I did not like the taste of margarine and, over the years, the more research I conducted on the topic the more I realised that we were being lead astray and even lied to about this. Today, when I ask any of my audiences, sometimes in the hundreds, “Who thinks margarine is better for you than butter?” I rarely get a positive response. It seems most people already know that margarine is a dangerous substitute.
It appears that there is no scientific evidence that margarine is healthier than butter. In fact, evidence suggests the exact opposite is true. This is summed up first of all in one of my earlier articles that showed saturated fat is not the demon it is made out to be and may even be associated with reduced heart attack (another myth shattered). At least that is what the biggest and best studies show. Furthermore, we consume many more Omega 6 (vegetable) oils today than our ancestors did and this is having a negative impact on our health. These oils are not just in our margarine but also hidden in most of our food. We ate margarine for 50 years thinking it was made up of so-called “good fats” only to find out it was laden with the deadliest form of fat: trans fats. Finally, there is emerging evidence that margarine may not be good for our health, with or without trans fats, and is nowhere near a natural food; the push to sell more margarine has come from organisations like the Heart Foundations around the world and branches of margarine companies with strong vested interests in promoting margarine sales.
I think one of the best things to have happened to the Australian cuisine is Master Chef. It has inspired a whole generation to go back to the kitchen and start cooking again. It has also encouraged the increased use of butter over vegetable oils, something the Heart Foundation and the margarine manufacturers did not like so they had to come up with campaigns to sway people back to margarine. Interestingly one of the foundation’s ploys was to create, through a public relations company, a group called “Mums United” which pretends to be a grassroots mothers campaign against evil butter. According to David Gillespe (Sweet Poison) and the “duck test” of inductive reasoning, “It walks like a margarine advertisement and quacks like a margarine advertisement, so guess what it I think it is?” And the margarine companies fund it! Some of the group’s tactics have included offering financial support to people who pledged not to eat butter. So much for it being a grassroots organisation. It seems that margarine interests have taken some of the old tactics taught to us by the tobacco industry and big drug companies.
I want to make it very clear that I have no vested interests in anything other than people’s health and the truth.
Various heart associations around the world recommend increasing Omega 6 (vegetable) oil consumption and reducing saturated fats, based on flawed studies that have been seriously questioned due to data manipulation. This includes the omission of relevant trials with unfavourable outcomes—that is, leaving out any negative studies 1,2,3 and including studies that combine both Omega 3 (fish oils, which are good for you) and Omega 6 consumption together under the title of “polyunsaturated fats.” The associations even included poorly done studies as long as the studies showed the desired results. This type of publication bias is well known in the research literature particularly with big drug companies trying to show that their drugs work better than they really do.
Margarine is far from being a natural product—well, as much as you can claim that plastic is natural. The major components of margarine are “vegetable” oils, obtained from foods such as sunflower seeds, rapeseed, or potentially genetically modified canola and soya beans. These oils are usually extracted using the application of pressure, heat and possibly solvents and then treated with sodium hydroxide to “neutralise” certain fats in the oil. It is then bleached, filtered and steam-treated to produce what is essentially a colourless, flavourless murky looking liquid. The liquid is converted into a solid at room temperature through esterifcation, which uses high temperature and pressure, along with enzymes or acids, to harden the oil—this is also called hydrogenation. Hydrogenation produces trans fats that are strongly linked with heart disease, cancer and other chronic illnesses. The final product is coloured and flavoured with various agents to make it feel and look like butter. Then finally ingredients like plant sterols and stanols and alpha linolenic acid is added to make it appear healthy. The finished product is not natural or healthy.
Plant stanols and sterols are added to reduce cholesterol. However, overwhelming evidence now shows cholesterol is just a poor indicator of heart attack, not the cause 4. It is just the warning sign or, if I can use an analogy, like a fire alarm in your home, it is not the problem itself, but a warning about the problem. You can get plenty of stanol and sterols in nuts, beans and seeds, which are not only natural but also full of other healthful benefits including vitamins, antioxidants, minerals and so much more and reduce all forms chronic illness. Margarine manufacturers can trumpet the presence of “heart-healthy” Omega 3 fats on the label, however they are putting plant-based Omega 3 fats (alpha linolenic acid) that do not act like Omega 3 from fish sources. They still have to be converted in our body to fish-like Omega 3s. It is also questionable whether they will be oxidised or not and therefore of any value. Adding a nutrient to toxic food does not make it healthy. Do you really believe the advertising?
Margarine is a major source of trans fatty acids, the intake of which has risen since the early 20th century. Trans fatty acids are synthetic fats produced as a byproduct of the hydrogenation of liquid vegetable oils, making them into solid margarine. An abundance of data indicates that consumption of trans fatty acids increases the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), cancer, diabetes and other chronic illnesses. Margarine companies are now obliged to list the amount of trans fats on the side of the packet. Until recently however, margarine has been the single biggest source of these very toxic fats.
In a study of women, long-term margarine and trans fat consumption was associated with a 67% increased risk of heart disease 5. The decrease in intake of trans fatty acids in Denmark saw a 50% reduction in the number of deaths from ischemic heart disease 6. A recent study found that trans fatty acids promote cardiovascular disease by triggering inflammatory processes in the cells lining blood vessels 7. Increased intake of trans fatty acids has also been linked with an increase in the risk of colorectal tumours by about 86% 8. The potentially damaging effects of trans fats may also be passed from a mother to her child during breast feeding and can lead to an increase in cardiac insulin resistance when the kids become adults 9.
During the past 150 years, the Industrial Revolution and the emergence of agribusiness with processed foods, grain-fattened livestock, and hydrogenation of vegetable fats have considerably reduced the available content of Omega 3 fatty acids and increased that of Omega 6 fatty acids. While Omega 6 and 3 oils are considered essential fatty acids, the research is now showing that it is important to get the correct balance of the fats. An imbalance leads to various metabolic diseases. Western diets are now deficient in Omega 3 fatty acids and are laden with excessive amounts of Omega 6 fatty acids compared with the diet on which human beings evolved and their genetic patterns were established. Our diets now have 14 to 20 times more Omega 6 (vegetable oil) than Omega 3 fatty acids. This imbalance is now linked with diseases such as heart attack, stroke, cancer, obesity, insulin resistance, asthma, arthritis, depression, ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease and even premature ageing. The ideal balance is less than 4:1 or even 1:1 Omega 6 and 3, respectively.
Omega 6 oils such as corn, safflower, cottonseed, sunflower, and soya are now in nearly all our foods. Apart from the obvious consumption of vegetable oils and margarine you buy in the supermarket—which I hope you are now not going to buy—Omega 6 oils are hidden in most foods. You will find vegetable oils in just about every processed and semi-processed food including bread, cakes, and breakfast cereals and in lots of the plant-based drinks like almond or soya milk the main ingredient is often vegetable oil. All the takeaway foods, frozen and packaged dinners have Omega 6 oils. Even the “new” Mediterranean diet is laden with Omega 6 oils. When you buy olives, pesto sauce, sundried tomatoes or anything soaking in oil it is now vegetable oil in which it is soaked, not olive oil because vegetable oil is cheaper, unless you go to Italy where most foods are still soaked in olive oil. It is almost impossible to get away from the excess of Omega 6 oils. Time to read the labels! Factory produced eggs have 20 times more Omega 6 than Omega 3 compared to free-range eggs, which have a ratio of 1:1. Similarly, grain-fed beef (which I do not recommend you eat) has around 20:1 Omega 6 to Omega 3 oils because the cows are fed grains rich in Omega 6 oils. Alpha linolenic acid is found in the grass and is converted into the important Omega 3 oils by the animals. It is found only in grass-fed animals. Grass-fed cows are also a lot less stressed and have as a result lower levels of inflammation.
On the topic of animals fats, I have highlighted in earlier articles that despite claims by the Heart Foundation there is no scientific evidence to suggest that saturated fat through dairy consumption is associated with increased heart attack. By contrast, in a 16-year prospective study of 1,529 adult Australians, researchers found a possible beneficial association between intake of full-fat dairy and cardiovascular mortality 10. Whoops… the Heart Foundation got it wrong again.
By contrast, the Framingham study, which followed people for 20 years (a very long and comprehensive study) and recorded heart attack incidence, found margarine intake increased coronary heart disease in men 11. The scientists in their very conservative language wrote, “These data offer modest support to the hypothesis that margarine intake increases the risk of coronary heart disease.” Not the opposite. In the second ten-year period of the study, the group eating the most margarine had 77% more heart attacks than the group eating none.
Studies that investigated increasing the amount of Omega 6 without a subsequent increase in animal-based Omega 3 (fish oil) consistently found an increase in coronary heart disease (CHD) and all-cause mortality. In an early study, published in 1965, researchers found that people consuming corn oil, a rich source of Omega 6, had a 4.64 times (over 400%) increased risk for both chronic heart disease and death from all causes 12. In the conservative language of scientists, the authors of the study concluded that corn oil is “possibly harmful.” In another study, in which participants consumed more safflower oil and a safflower oil polyunsaturated margarine, participants had a 49% increased risk of death from all causes including a 91% increase from chronic heart disease and 96% from CVD 13.
In one study specifically on Omega 6 consumption in more than 9,000 people, the risk of non-fatal heart attack and death from coronary heart disease was significantly increased among women consuming the n-6 specific polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) diet for one year or less 14. Women consuming this n-6 specific PUFA diet for any duration had non-significant trends to increased risk of non-fatal heart attack and coronary heart disease and any cardiovascular event including death and stroke 14. In fact the Lyon Diet Heart Study found that after follow up of 27 months, non-fatal heart attack and coronary heart disease death and overall mortality were 73% and 70% lower in the experimental group who consumed lower Omega 6 oils and replaced vegetable oils with olive oil. This study also demonstrated that lowering linoleic acid (Omega 6 vegetable oil) below 50% is not harmful and may even be beneficial, producing a profound risk reduction in coronary heart disease.
A recent meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials investigating polyunsaturated Omega 6 oil consumption (vegetable oils and margarine) found that there is absolutely no scientific justification for recommending the increased consumption of Omega 6 oils 2. Or, to quote their conclusion, “Advice to specifically increase n-6 PUFA intake … is unlikely to provide the intended benefits, and may actually increase the risks of CHD and death.” The study found for non-fatal myocardial infarction (heart attack) and death from coronary heart disease there was an increased risk of 13% for diets with increased Omega 6. The studies that substituted Omega 6 for saturated fatty acids without simultaneously increasing Omega 3 oils also produced an increase in risk of death. It seems the vegetable oils are just as bad as the trans fats and what we are really lacking are the Omega 3 fish oils.

More research shows that omega 6 fatty acids (vegetable oils-margarine) have no health benefit and in fact might be worse for you than saturated fats. This study showed people on the ‘heart-healthy’ diet were at increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and heart disease (increases of 70 and 74 per cent respectively).

"Advice to substitute polyunsaturated fats for saturated fats is a key component of worldwide dietary guidelines for coronary heart disease risk reduction. However, clinical benefits of the most abundant polyunsaturated fatty acid, omega 6 linoleic acid, have not been established. In this cohort, substituting dietary linoleic acid in place of saturated fats increased the rates of death from all causes, coronary heart disease, and cardiovascular disease. An updated meta-analysis of linoleic acid intervention trials showed no evidence of cardiovascular benefit."

The Heart Foundation continues to educate people to swap to margarine. Why do they continue to do this?
this information is so widespread it is dangerous. I recently spoke to and AFL footballer who was told not to have butter and to use margarine by the club dietician.

The study also found that lower cholesterol as a result of the omega 6 heart healthy diet was also associated with more deaths not fewer. Cholesterol is not the killer. It is just a symptom of an illness.
Arachidonic acid is produced in the body from too much Omega 6 and produces chemical messengers that lead to inflammation in the body called eicosanoids and cytokines. The increase in linoleic acid (Omega 6) has been shown to increase the oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol) 15. There is nothing wrong with cholesterol until it is oxidised. The evidence from animal studies also shows that a high linoleic acid diet can promote certain cancers 16 and other inflammatory diseases. In a study of 203,193 men and women, increased intakes of Omega 6 fatty acid (linoleic acid) doubled the risk of ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease, which has seen a rapid increase during recent decades. By contrast the highest intakes of Omega 3 were associated with 77% reduction in the risk of the disease 17. Omega 6 fatty acids are present in the cell membrane of colon cells in the form of arachidonic acid. This can be metabolised to chemical messengers in the body called prostaglandin E2, leukotriene B4 and thromboxane A2, all of which are associated with inflammation. On the other hand, Omega 3 fatty acids, including docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) may prevent colonic inflammation.
There is also research showing that too much Omega 6 oil is contributing to premature ageing. Telomeres, which are in all our cells, are thought to be markers of our ageing because they reflect cumulative oxidative stress and inflammation. The shorter they are, the more we have aged. Because the metabolites of Omega 6 promote inflammation, it is believed that an increase in Omega 6 fatty acid content in our diet decreases the leukocyte telomere length 18,19 and hence speeds up the ageing process.
It is time to rethink our fat consumption. The research shows that fat in itself is not bad—in fact, it is essential and the move away from fat has lead to a more obese and sicker population. What we need to do however is decrease our consumption of processed oils like margarine and vegetable oils and increase our Omega 3 fish oils along with Omega 9 oils, including olive oil.
1.     Ramsden 2009;
2.     Ramsden et al. 2010,
3.     Ramsden et al. 2011
4.     Dingle 2011 The Great Cholesterol Deception
5.     Willett et al. 1993
6.     Stender and Dyerberg 2004
7.     Harvey et al 2008
8.     Vinikoor et al. 2010
9.     Osso et al. 2008
10. Bonthuis et al. 2010
11. Gillman 1997
12. Rose et al. 1965
13. Woodhill et al. 1978
14. Frantz et al. 1989
15. Tsimikas et al. 1999
16. Welsh 1992
17. Hart 2008
18. Kang 2010;
19. Kiecolt-Glaser 2012

Statin drugs lower omega 3 oils

A recent review suggests that the benefits of taking omega 3 fatty acids (vegetable oils) is cancelled out by taking statin drugs to lower cholesterol.

Omega 3(fish, krill) oils have multiple benefits beyond heart health. Omega 3 oils have been shown to reduce inflammation in various tissues and organs which is associated with almost every form of chronic illness (if not all) including diabetes, cancers, cardiovascular disease, auto immune diseases (including asthma and arthritis) osteoporosis, multiple scelosis, dementia and even depression, obesity and premature aging.

Although inflammation is natural it can be seriously problematic if it is reoccurring as a result of our body being out of balance. Numerous studies have also shown the real problem related to heart attacks is inflammation in the arteries not cholesterol.
In this review they reported

"Recent RCTs (random controlled trials) testing n-3 against arrhythmias suggest that n-3 reduce the risk only in patients not taking a statin. Other recent RCTs in secondary prevention were negative although, in a post-hoc analysis separating statin users and non-users, non-significant protection of n-3 was observed among statin non-users whereas statin users had no effect. Recent RCTs testing statins - after the implementation of the New Clinical Trial Regulation in 2007 - are negative (or flawed) suggesting that the lack of effect of n-3 cannot be attributed to a parallel protection by statins. Finally, statins favor the metabolism of omega-6 fatty acids (n-6), which in turn inhibits n-3 and, contrary to n-3, they increase insulin resistance and the risk of diabetes. Thus, n-3 and statins are counteractive at several levels and statins appear to inhibit n-3.

It seems that we have a choice. Omega 3 oils which make up a natural part of a healthy diet and have multiple positive side effects or statin drugs that have questionable benefits at best and serious side effects.

Acidosis and chronic illness

Although inflammation, oxidation and acidosis are natural they can be seriously problematic if they are reoccurring as a result of our body being out of balance. Recent studies have established that all three conditions, the triad, are a leading pathogenic force in the development, of chronic diseases, including diabetes, cancers, cardiovascular disease, auto immune diseases (including asthma and arthritis) osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis, dementia and even depression, obesity and premature aging can all be attributed to this triad of conditions. A cancer or CVD does not just happen it is because these conditions prevail in the body over a long period of time and create the preconditions for these disease states. On the other hand if you want to reduce the risk of these disease states you reduce the levels of the disease triad, inflammation, oxidation and acidosis

Acid refers to one of the fundamental principals of science. All chemical reactions require numerous conditions to be present for the process to occur. For example if you warm up the temperature reactions usually go faster. Fever is a classic example of this, whereby the body’s metabolism is running faster as a result of the fever. The same occurs with acid levels. The level of acid, known as the pH (potential Hydrogen) determines the speed at which chemical reactions occur. Some reactions need higher acid levels (lower pH) while most chemical reactions in our body require neutral to alkaline (the opposite to acid) to occur. An example of this is in the stomach which requires a pH as low as 1 or 2 for certain digestive enzymes to work (pepsin the main protein digestive enzyme in the stomach works at a pH  of 1-2.4 that is why the consumption of antacids only reduce digestion and create more digestive problems) but in the small intestine the pH has to be alkaline for the other digestive enzymes to work so the body injects in bicarbonate (HCO3) into the small intestine.

The pH scale ranges from 1 to 14. 1 being highly acidic and 14 being highly alkaline. So the lower the number the higher the acidity. A pH of 7 is neutral. A pH less than 7 is acidic. A pH greater than 7 is basic/alkaline. The pH scale is also logarithmic which means, each whole pH value below 7 is ten times more acidic than the next higher value. Not just one. For example, pH 6 (acidic) is ten times more acidic than pH 7 (neutral) and 100 times (10 times 10) more acidic than pH 8. Similarly a pH 8 is ten times more alkaline than pH 7.

When we refer to acidosis we are freeing to the pH level in the internal body fluids. When the body fluids such as the blood and the fluid between the cells and in the cells becomes slightly acidic it is so smart it sets up a triage system to rebalance the pH (acid/alkali levels) to maintain homeostasis. The pH of the blood is between 7.35-7.45. When the blood pH falls below 7.35, this is called “acidosis,” (too much acid) and our death can occur at a blood pH of 7.0. So we want to avoid this. If the pH varies slightly from this level it dramatically affects many of the 90 or so enzyme functions in the blood. These enzymes literally do all the work, repair, cleaning up, immune function, transport etc in the blood. If they slow down too much we get very sick and die quickly. To make sure this doesn’t happen the body has a few mechanisms to keep the pH in perfect balance. These include buffers, respiratory regulation and renal regulation of pH.

Unfortunately, many of the body’s natural process produce acid waste by products so we have a constant requirement to balance out the pH. Each cell, in the presence of Oxygen performs its task of respiration (the chemical and physical process in which oxygen is delivered to tissues or cells in an organism), it also creates acidic end products that are used for energy and function. The residue of these products and functions is known as metabolic wastes, and these are acidic in nature. This acidic waste must not be allowed to build up as it becomes increasingly toxic to the body. One example of the short term waste build-up is the often painful lactic acid which is created through extreme exercise.

The importance of acid-base homeostasis (balance) in the maintenance of normal cellular responses and physiological integrity has long been recognized. Many cellular responses are diminished at lowered extracellular pH, including intracellular fluid and membrane-associated enzyme activities, ion transport activity, protein and DNA synthesis, metabolism and calcium levels. Even at low levels of acidosis it decreases the body’s ability to absorb minerals and other nutrients, lowers energy production in the cells and the body’s ability to repair damaged cells. Essentially, it stops all the normal functioning, growth and repair in the cells so we slowly start to decay. Acidosis also increases the body’s ability to grow abnormal cells, increases fatigue and susceptibility to infections and also contributes to cardiovascular disease, weight gain, diabetes, kidney and gall bladder stones, hormonal problems, premature ageing and much more. An acid environment is also required for cancer cells to survive and increases the inflammation in the body, which feeds cancers. Dr. Otto Warburg was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931 and 1946 for his studies on how cancer can not thrive in an alkaline medium and the interstitial fluid of tumors has shown pH values of less than 6.0, 0.2–0.6 units lower than mean pH of normal tissues. In fact a major by product of cancers due to their incomplete metabolism is high levels of acid.

In the case of chronic acidosis the main mechanism is to allocate or triage alkali minerals like magnesium and calcium from where they should be working in optimal conditions, such as in the muscle cells and in bones, to balance the pH in the blood. Acidosis literally causes physicochemical dissolution of bone and cell-mediated bone resorption (inhibition of osteoblast – which cause bone to be laid down- and stimulation of osteoclast function – which breaks down the bone). While this protects our urgent health requirements and keeps us alive today it increases our long risk of chronic health conditions such as osteoporosis heart attack and cancer as a result of the shortage of these minerals. The body allocates the nutrients for short-term survival, the “essential,” functions are protected from nutrient deficiency over other “nonessential, non immediate” functions needed only for long-term health. As a result acidosis does not refer to the body becoming full of acid but the conditions that are created around the body by chronic low-grade metabolic acidosis.


Under normal conditions the body produces acid as a byproduct of metabolism and breakdown of other molecules. In a healthy body with a nutritious diet and well-balanced healthy lifestyle our body eliminates the wastes. Unfortunately, a nutritious diet and well-balanced healthy lifestyle are relatively rare now.

When food is altered from its natural state, the way it interacts with the body also changes. It is not the organic matter of foods (whether the food itself is acidic or alkaline such as in the case of lemon juice being acidic), but their inorganic matter, how they break down in our bodies into minerals, that determines either the acidity or alkalinity of our internal body. Following digestion, absorption and metabolism, nearly all foods release either acid or base into the systemic circulation. The pH of the body is determined and measured by the mineral residues in the blood and tissue. Acid and alkaline minerals bind to each other to neutralise the pH and bring about balance. If there is not enough alkaline minerals it will draw on minerals from the bone and other organs as described earlier.

Alkalising elements include

Acidic elements include

There is significant differences between modern diets and those typical of our Homo sapiens ancestors. Studies in hunter – gatherer tribes suggest a relatively high intake of plant foods compared with modern-day humans. In a recent study estimating the net acid load 87% of 159 pre-agricultural diets were found to be alkaline compared with the average American diet was acid producing. This represents a major switch from the alkaline producing diet we ate for the majority of our evolutionary history to the acid producing diet we now eat.

The adoption of a diet which is high in alkaline foods has been shown to reduce the occurrence of diseases such as osteoporosis, age- related muscle degeneration, kidney stones, hypertension, asthma and kidney degeneration. The adoption of a predominantly acidic diet can lead to a condition called pathogenic metabolic acidosis which causes degeneration of the kidneys.

Acidic foods include:
Meats and seafood
Dairy products
Drinks:  coffee, tea, alcohol, processed fruit juice
Fats and Oils
Pasta, bread,
Artificial sweeteners

Acidity within the body can also occur as a result of dehydration and/or the quality of liquids we drink. While liquids are needed to flush out the wastes, including the acid wastes the different drinks we consume can have a big impact on our internal pH. Acid forming drinks include coffee, alcohol and soft drinks. The worst of these is without doubt is soft drinks. Not just because of the pH of the drinks but the sheer amount some people use and the fact they are consumed mainly by young people, even infants.

When soft drinks are consumed, pH regulatory mechanisms come into force to reduce the acidity of the soft drink. Soft drinks have a high buffering capacity, which means that more pressure is placed on the body to neutralise the pH, as the soft drink is resistant to small changes in the pH. The lower the pH (more acidic), the more alkaline needed to make the soft drink return to a neutral pH. Therefore not only is the initial pH of the soft drink bad, but also the corresponding buffering capacity results in greater stress on the body. Soft drinks are associated with many adverse health effects as well as osteoporosis and tooth decay. If the minerals are drawn out of the bone they are also removed from the teeth with acidosis, leading to an increased risk of tooth decay. Literally from the inside out.

It is not just our diet. Stress and anxiety are acid generators aside outside of our diet. An over active adrenal gland caused by high levels of stress can release a hormone called aldosterone into the blood stream causing large quantities of potassium and magnesium, alkaline minerals, to be excreted into the urine.