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Updated 11 March 2013

How smooth is your margarine?

Have you checked your brand of margarine lately? Do you know its percentage of trans fats and whether it's actually good for you?

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Have you checked your brand of margarine lately? Do you know its percentage of trans fats and whether your favourite spread is actually good for you?

The Department of Health, Food Safety Division, has recently published its intention to ban all food products in South Africa with more than 2% trans fats. High levels of trans fats have been linked to breast and prostate cancers in international literature and, according to a Wikipedia statement some margarines can contain up to 15% trans fats.

The Cancer Association of South Africa (Cansa) took on the challenge to analyse the trans fat levels of 40 different magarines available in South Africa.

As far as the ideal composition of margarines is concerned, in terms of fatty acids, Cansa supports the following formula where all percentages are grams per 100 grams margarine:

  • Trans fats below 2%
  • Saturated fats below 10%
  • Omega-3 fatty acid - higher than 4%
  • Omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 2.0 or less

 A total of 40 margarines available in South Africa were purchased by Cansa from commercial outlets and submitted to the CSIR for fatty acid analyses. And, it was found that all of the margarines were below 2% trans fats (2 grams trans fats per 100 grams margarine).

Hard margarine = High saturated fat

“This is really good news,” says Dr Carl Albrecht, Cansa’s Head of Research. “It means that margarines in general do not pose a trans fat health threat as is often the case in other countries where hydrogenated oil, especially soya oil, is used.”

Margarines differ considerably in terms of saturated fat contents - the harder the margarine, the higher the concentration of saturated fat. Saturated fat is not essential to the body and should be taken in moderation. It is known to promote systemic inflammation with is associated with many diseases. 

Margarines also vary considerably in terms of essential fats such as omega-3 and omega-6. Most margarines have a high omega-6 and little omega-3 content.  South Africans in general are omega-3 deficient because they eat little food containing omega-3. An exception is Canola oil which contains 10-12% omega-3.

'Breeding ground' of cancer cells

According to Dr Albrecht, too much omega-6 fatty acid increases systemic inflammation that is the “breeding ground” of cancer cells.

“It is generally accepted that omega-6 needs to be balanced against omega-3 fatty acids in order to counteract inflammation optimally.”  He adds that 28 out of the 40 margarines investigated contained less than one gram of omega-3 fatty acid per 100 grams of margarine.

The two top margarine stars in the study turned out to be Blossom Canola and Blossom Canola Light, manufactured by Epic Foods. “They have the highest concentration of Canola oil in South Africa,” says Albrecht, “which is the main reason why these brands have achieved Cansa’s revered ‘Smart Choice’ accolade.”

So how did your favourite margarine fare in this study? Check it out here:

 List of margarines tested:

(Values measured represent gram/100 grams margarine)
 

 

MARGARINE

Lab.No.

TRANS

SAT

MUFA

PUFA

O-6

O-3

O-6/

O-3

1

Blossom Canola Margarine

3797

0.46

9.43

29.71

13.78

9.50

4.29

2.21

2

Blossom Canola Light

3798

0.72

4.15

21.49

9.54

6.66

2.88

2.31

3

Cardin Tub

3793

0.17

8.58

30.77

15.08

10.75

4.33

2.48

4

Nuvo Canola

3823

1.35

10.60

22.43

11.28

9.29

1.99

4.67

5

Rama Idea

3805

0.05

8.37

6.17

12.44

10.35

2.10

4.93

6

Flora Olive Light

3806

0.10

6.11

11.37

13.71

11.41

2.30

4.96

7

Flora Proactive

3802

0.05

7.65

8.12

16.00

13.65

2.35

5.80

8

Flora Extra Light

3801

0.02

3.57

5.37

8.36

7.16

1.20

6.00

9

Flora Light

3800

0.04

5.44

6.36

11.74

10.18

1.55

6.57

10

Flora regular

3799

0.05

10.57

8.93

23.82

20.74

3.08

6.73

11

Rama Light

3804

0.07

12.50

12.58

18.78

17.06

1.72

9.91

12

Rama

3803

0.06

13.93

12.92

19.34

17.61

1.73

10.18

13

Sunshine D Original brick

3794

0.15

40.09

31.29

10.75

9.97

0.78

12.78

14

Sunshine D Medium fat

3792

0.56

24.80

19.35

6.67

6.18

0.48

12.88

15

Ole low fat brick spread

3813

0.44

15.57

12.77

4.34

4.06

0.28

14.50

16

Wooden Spoon White

3821

0.57

20.85

14.52

4.31

4.04

0.27

14.96

17

Rondo brick

3810

0.12

18.02

12.45

6.92

6.52

0.40

16.30

18

Pick & Pay no name brick

3814

0.88

29.36

25.13

8.30

7.88

0.41

19.21

19

Nuvo Original

3822

1.41

11.82

16.94

16.52

15.71

0.80

19.63

20

Rite Brand medium brick

3791

0.10

21.98

16.60

7.66

7.28

0.37

19.68

21

Checkers Medium spread

3787

0.21

26.99

22.87

7.95

7.59

0.36

21.08

22

Corden Bleu

3811

0.21

22.85

15.90

4.90

4.67

0.22

21.23

23

Blossom lite brick

3818

0.40

16.28

13.58

4.26

4.07

0.19

21.42

24

Stork to bake brick

3808

0.11

23.66

21.46

9.20

8.80

0.41

21.46

25

Rama Brick

3807

0.27

23.34

14.86

7.11

6.79

0.32

21.22

26

Checkers medium fat spread

3786

0.44

18.02

17.44

5.47

5.23

0.24

21.79

27

Spar house brand

3788

0.14

27.31

21.83

7.68

7.36

0.32

23.00

28

Blossom regular brick

3812

0.54

37.11

30.80

10.09

9.69

0.41

23.63

29

Nuvo olive oil

3825

1.28

16.16

26.64

15.26

14.65

0.62

23.63

30

Spar soft margarine

3789

0.00

13.70

21.73

20.59

19.82

0.70

28.31

31

Blossom light tub

3819

0.28

10.65

10.79

16.69

16.14

0.56

28.82

32

Sunshine D lite tub

3796

0.77

8.45

12.61

12.78

12.36

0.42

29.43

33

Stork country spread

3809

0.04

18.25

16.05

7.26

7.04

0.22

32.00

34

Pick & Pay medium spread

3816

1.30

12.66

16.41

17.38

16.87

0.52

32.44

35

Rite medium tub

3790

0.09

11.87

14.97

15.24

14.79

0.45

32.87

36

Nuvo-lite

3824

1.22

8.85

14.35

15.31

14.87

0.44

33.80

37

Sunshine D original tub

3795

1.42

11.57

20.06

20.25

19.75

0.51

38.73

38

Ole low fat spread tub

3817

0.82

8.85

13.15

14.26

13.91

0.35

39.74

39

Pick & Pay tub

3815

1.72

16.47

25.18

27.30

26.63

0.66

40.34

40

Stork tub

3820

0.09

12.16

11.88

17.67

17.28

0.39

44.30

 

-       (Compiled by Birgit Ottermann, Cansa & Epic Foods/Health24, April 2010)

 
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