Margarine and Mother Nature

      52 Comments on Margarine and Mother Nature

Let’s go back to the 1970s. If you’ve still got a pair of purple bell-bottoms in your closet, put ’em on … assuming you can fit into them. Comfy? Okay. Time to head down Memory Lane.

If you’re my age or older, you probably remember this commercial for Blue Bonnet margarine:

As a marketing pitch, I guess it worked pretty well. Heck, everyone knows the French are persnickety about their gourmet food. If margarine is good enough for them, it ought to be good enough for ordinary Americans. (Amazingly, the French continued cooking with butter, despite this demonstration.)

But maybe French chefs are a little too effeminate and snooty to convince you to give up that artery-clogging butter. So let’s hear it from a real man’s man:

See? Even real guys are willing to give up all that artery-clogging butter. But wait … it’s the 1970s. We already had our first Earth Day. Shouldn’t we embracing natural foods? Well, fear not. Here’s the margarine commercial I remember best of all:

There you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Chiffon margarine tastes so much like butter, even Mother Nature can’t tell the difference. So stop clogging your arteries with all that perfectly natural butter – industrial food is here to save you!

You may have noticed the singer’s careful diction in the Chiffon jingle: If you think it’s butter, but IT’S NOT, it’s Chiffon. As I recall, the diction wasn’t quite so careful in the jingle’s first version. The result was a generation of youngsters cracking each other up by singing it exactly as we heard it: If you think it’s butter, but it’s SNOT, it’s Chiffon.

I believe our version of the jingle was closer to the truth. Here’s how you make butter:

  • Milk a cow.
  • Skim off the cream.
  • Add salt.
  • Churn the cream until it’s thick and chunky and tastes awesome.

That’s a food Mother Nature would indeed recognize. So how is margarine made? Well, that depends on who you ask. One pro-margarine site describes the process this way:

  • Farmers grow seeds.
  • The seeds are harvested.
  • The seeds are warmed and crushed to extract the oils.
  • Other ingredients are added to keep the margarine fresh.
  • Color and flavor are added.
  • The mixture is cooled to make a smooth margarine spread – perfect for cooking, baking or spreading on your sandwich.

Heck, that doesn’t sound too bad. Gather up some seeds grown right out there in the Great Outdoors, warm them by the wood stove, crush them to extract the oil, flavor it, cool it, and you’ve got margarine. No wonder Mother Nature couldn’t tell the difference.

Now here’s a slightly more detailed description:

  • Farmers grow seeds.
  • The seeds are harvested.
  • The seeds are crushed to extract some of the oil.
  • The rest of the oil is extracted by mixing the seeds with hexane, a chemical solvent.
  • The hexane is (supposedly) all removed.
  • The oil is pumped full of hydrogen gas and nickel powder. (Even the margarine makers know hydrogenated oils are a tough sell these days, so they may skip this step. I don’t know what, if anything, has replaced it.)
  • The remaining oil is subjected to heat and high-pressure CO2 gas.
  • The oil is mixed with sodium hydroxide and passed through a centrifuge.
  • The oil is mixed with water and passed through another centrifuge. At this point, the margarine is a gray, speckled, oily mass that doesn’t smell so good. So …
  • The oil is mixed with hydrated aluminum silicate that binds to and filters out the unwanted pigments.
  • The mix is heated again and the oil is extracted.
  • The oil is passed through a steam distillation chamber to remove unwanted odors.
  • Yellow food coloring and artificial flavors are added.

Yummm … doesn’t that sound just like something Mother Nature would cook up in her kitchen?

Okay, maybe margarine isn’t totally natural. But the anti-fat hysterics still believe it’s better for us than butter. Here’s an example of their reasoning:

Because health experts recommend a diet lower in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol to reduce the risk of heart disease, margarine consumption has become a key part of dietary recommendations made by leading health organizations … Although some margarines contain more trans fat than butter, the total of trans and saturated fat is always less than the total for butter. The total for butter is much higher because of all the saturated fat that it contains.

Allow me to interpret: Thanks to our carefully-planned campaign to demonize saturated fats despite no evidence whatsoever that they’re actually harmful, experts now recommend that you avoid them. This proves we were right and you should eat margarine.

As I said in Fat Head, Mother Nature isn’t stupid. Human beings love the taste of fat because Mother Nature wanted us to eat fat. Our hair, skin, nails and brains depend on fat. Many of our hormones are made from saturated fats and cholesterol.

And while Mother Nature might not be fooled by Frankenfats like margarine, our bodies unfortunately are. Our taste buds sense what they think is saturated fat and tell us to eat it. Our cells grab the stuff and pack it into our cell walls, where saturated fat is supposed to go.

But of course, Frankenfat isn’t saturated fat and doesn’t do the same job. Saturated fats strengthen our cells and make our brains happy. Frankenfats weaken our cells, screw up our brain chemistry, and cause inflammation throughout our bodies – including the walls our arteries.

In retrospect, it’s amazing that doctors and scientists ever thought (and some still think) margarine is better for us than butter. A hundred years ago, Americans ate a lot more lard and butter, but few people died from heart disease. Most doctors didn’t even learn about heart disease in medical school; it wasn’t considered a big problem. (See the charts below.)

But by 1950, heart disease was the leading cause of death. That’s also the first year that margarine, which was becoming more and more popular, finally out-sold butter.

No, it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature. Too bad we ever tried.

(Note:  This is total pounds sold.  The population was growing, so the per-person consumption dropped even more dramatically.)

(Note: This is total pounds sold. The population was growing, so the per-person consumption dropped even more dramatically.)

Deaths due to Coronary Heart Disease, 1920-1960

Deaths due to Coronary Heart Disease, 1920-1960

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52 thoughts on “Margarine and Mother Nature

  1. pj

    What’s the source of the deaths due to coronary heart disease chart? That’s a much more extreme rise than I can find in my sources, e.g. Historical Statistics of the United States.

    I grabbed the chart after finding it, but neglected to bookmark the page. I believe the original source cited was the CDC.

    Post a link if you’ve got it. I’ll bookmark it this time.

  2. Gerard Pinzone

    The reason I believe in low carb / high fat dieting is because of the scientific evidence. It’s not due to an aversion of technological progress in the food industry. The same kind of bad “science” used to promote the use of so called “frankenfats” like margarine over butter was (and is) also used against saccharin, aspartame, and now even sucralose. Artificial sweeteners are safe and are used by many low carb dieters to satiate carb cravings. The groups against these products use scare tactics and buzzwords to get their point across. Yeah, food coloring and preservatives weren’t part of our ancestors’ lives. But neither was penicillin, refrigerators, and antiseptic. The paleo diet is a beginning, not a destination. We should base what is safe and healthy on what our ancestors ate, but we also should not immediately disapprove of advances in food technology simply because they are modern.

    I’m not against using technology to improve food production. Without technology, the world couldn’t support the current population. But I definitely avoid frankenfoods that my body doesn’t recognize and can’t deal with.

  3. shaf

    Funny as always! But to play devils advocate here, don’t we also like the taste of “sweet”?……… mother nature wrong on this? (I am a VLC’er, so that’ll tell you my viewpoint!)

    No, nature is right on that too. Sweet tells us to eat fruit when we find it. But pre-agriculture we only found wild fruits in season, and they weren’t as big and sugary as fruits today — today’s fruits are the product of genetic engineering.

    Fruits and starchy vegetables that might’ve tasted good to humans tend to become ripe and edible in the autumn. That may have been nature’s way of fattening us up a bit for the winter. Unfortunately, we now fatten ourselves up the winter all year long.

  4. Carl Nelson

    I just wanted to say that I look forward to your blog posts every week, and this was a great one!

    I can actually recall looking at margarine, then butter, and deciding that margarine was “better” because it contained less saturated fat. That, in addition to having “zero” trans-fats (per “serving”) convinced me that I was making a better decision.

    Of course the time, I weighed about 215 lbs. Something obviously wasn’t right!

    Looking back, after learning about weight training, and the nutrition related to it, along watching Fat Head and learning yet more from the likes of Dr Eades and Gary Taubes, I just feel like such an IDIOT for thinking the way that I did.

    I feel even stupider for eating huge mixing-bowls full of Cinnamon Toast Crunch as a skinny teenager. I sure paid for that later on!

    You weren’t an idiot; you were just believing what the supposed experts told us. I did the same, and worse: I wrote a few magazine articles reminding people to avoid saturated fat.

  5. Beatle

    I knew I recognized hime from somewhere (Vic Tayback) The voice gives him away.

    Great post…. as always.

    Very memorable voice, and a very enjoyable actor to watch.

  6. Brian

    Those commercials brought back memories. It made me feel old. I hate you.

    I’ve learned not to mention TV shows from my youth to my wife, who’s quite a bit younger — something I occasionally forget. Nothing quite like hearing, “No, I don’t remember that show … probably because I wasn’t born yet.”

  7. Vin - NaturalBias

    Great post, Tom! I love how you always address these controversial issues with a twist of humor!

    If I remember correctly, the yellow food coloring is needed because without it, margarine is a dull, ugly, and unappetizing gray. Personally, as the first version Chiffon kids describe it, I think I’d rather eat snot!

    That’s exactly right: dull, gray and foul-smelling until it’s colored and deodorized. As a kid, I thought margarine was yellow because corn is yellow and there was usually a graphic of corn somewhere on the package.

  8. Laurie

    I heard somewhere that when margarine was invented and introduced it was only hawked because it was CHEAPER than butter. That was it’s original recommendation and claim to fame -solely. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being frugal and economizing, but…….

    That’s true, the lower cost was the initial selling point. Also during WWII, butter was sent overseas for the troops and there was a shortage back home. Margarine became the substitute.

    Interestingly, the first margarines were made from beef tallow and milk and were probably okay from a health standpoint. Then the technology was developed to extract oil from corn, etc. The rest is history.

    1. EST

      This is exactly right. Margarine first began to overtake butter during the Great Depression due to its lower cost. And then when butter was rationed in WWII, margarine intake rose even more. Remember, Ancel Keys’ original study was prompted by growing concern about rising heart disease rates. Doctors everywhere were seeing men suffering, and in some cases dying, from heart attacks in their 30s and 40s, and didn’t know what to do about it. Then, of course, President Eisenhower had a heart attack in 1955. By that time, most Americans had been substituting margarine for butter for the better part of two decades, which, when coupled with the high smoking rates and increasingly sedentary lifestyle brought on by conveniences like autos, radio, and television, caused rates of heart disease to increase dramatically and produce the crisis that began the nutritional mess we’re in today.

  9. Dan

    I too am old enough to remember these ads. Interesting that when people cooked with butter, lard, or bacon drippings, heart disease was rare. The French cook with all that butter and cream, but have lower rates of heart disease than Americans. The standard dietary dogma just doesn’t stand up to the light of reality.

    The makers of modern margerine are lying to us and the government lets them. Just look at the label of a “zero trans fat” margerine and you’ll see “partially hydrogenated ____ oil,” aka Trans Fat. There’s a loophole in the labeling laws that allows you to claim “zero” if it is less than 0.5g per serving. The trick is to list a small enough serving on the label to get under the 0.5g limit. I also hate the “butterton” ads. They claim that now we know better, when their product contains trans fat.

    It is truely not nice to fool mother nature and we are paying for it.

    I always check the labels now, even for “zero trans fats” foods. If I see “hydrogenated” anything, it goes back on the shelf.

  10. Angel

    I remember my mom buying margarine back in the 70s (I was in my single digits then). Just the smell of it made me nauseous. I think she ate the margarine, and the rest of the family got butter.

    Fast forward 20 years, and some margarine actually looked and tasted good, and I bought it for several years. I’m glad the “good” margarine wasn’t around when I was a kid.

    I bought margarine for most of my adult life. I shudder to think …

  11. Dave, RN

    Gerard Pinzone, I have to disagree with your assertion that artificial sweeteners are safe. Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful, and Equal-Measure). Aspartame accounts for over 75 percent of the adverse reactions to food additives reported to the FDA. Many of these reactions are very serious including seizures and death. It’s a well known neurotoxin.
    Splenda and the others aren’t much better. If you want to sweeten your tea or whatever, use Stevia.
    Do a web search on “the dangers of aspartame” or “the dangers of articial sweeteners. Better yet, read “sweet poison”. You’ll never use any of that stuff again. Artificial sweeteners, especially aspartame, are absolutely poison.

  12. Felix

    My great-grandma, after WW2 had ended, decided to never ever eat that nasty margarine again. She lived to be 93.

    My grandmother never bought into the idea that butter is bad for you. She also fried chicken in lard, and man, it was good. She made it to 86. Her father, who never met an egg or a piece of bacon he didn’t like, lived to be 101.

  13. monasmee

    I’ve heard that if you place a stick of margarine in the trunk of your car, it will still be “edible” tens years later, retaining its shape and color. Not sure if such claims were a selling point to the ignorant or a trivial deterrent to those already informed.

    That reminds me, I need to check the trunk of my car. I may have a stick.

    1. EST

      I read something similar in a chain email claiming that margarine is one molecule away from being plastic. I don’t think that’s true, but nutritionally speaking it’s no different from plastic, so the point isn’t entirely inaccurate.

  14. Chris

    I just threw out two tubs of “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.” Now I can’t believe I ever bought “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.” A wise man once said, “Immunity to advertising is one of society’s most comforting self delusions.” The combination of advertising and the crazy advice from the American Heart Association have made big profitable brands out of terrible-for-you products.

    Thanks for the advertising retrospective. But forget about fooling “Mother Nature.”

    It’s not nice to fool with the health of the entire country.

    No matter what you taste buds told you, your cells were screaming, “Hey! This ain’t no @#$%ing butter!”

  15. TonyNZ

    “There’s a loophole in the labeling laws that allows you to claim “zero” if it is less than 0.5g per serving.”

    A serve of arsenic is a pinch. Zero arsenic per serve.

    Reading my butter labels says a serve is 10g. I would eat about 10 serves a day… The idea of arbitrary “serves” is useless when not dealing with discrete items or 1 serve packets (i.e. small bottles of drink).

    You hear the same thing with alcoholics.

    Patient: “I only had 2 drinks, I’m not drunk”

    Doctor: “Show me how big these drinks were”

    *Patient pours vodka*

    Doctor: “So in actual fact, you have had 2 “drinks”, but the equivalent of 8 serves of alcohol”

    Well, I have to confess, that’s partly why I drank Foster’s in college. I could tell people I’d only had two or three beers.

  16. Gerard Pinzone

    I hope I didn’t come across to accusatory. There are a lot of people who could interpret “I definitely avoid frankenfoods that my body doesn’t recognize and can’t deal with,” as a blanket statement that’s referring to things you may not have intended. Case in point, sucralose isn’t digested, which is why it works. Someone could construe that as meaning sucralose is harmful since the body doesn’t “recognize” or “deal” with it like sugar. (It’s a specious argument since the same could be said of fiber, and that’s all natural.)

    Dave, RN,

    The saccharin scare was based on rat studies. Rats who were given extremely high amounts of saccharin had increased incidences of bladder cancer. However, this has never been observed in humans. The causal link appears to be the way that rats metabolize sodium, and bladder cancer which cannot be replicated in other mammals has also been observed with rat consumption of other sodium salts such as sodium citrate and bicarbonate. Aspartame concerns have been debunked for years. People have alleged aspartame to be the cause of multiple sclerosis, lupus erythematosis, Gulf War Syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, brain tumours, and diabetes mellitus, among many others. Virtually all of the information offered is anecdotal, from anonymous sources and is scientifically implausible. I looked up the “shocking” information about Splenda, and lo and behold, it’s another lone rat study claiming “good” bacteria is reduced by 50 percent. This is junk science, plain and simple.

    Not to worry; you weren’t too accusatory. By frankenfoods, I mean foods like margarine that fool the body into thinking it’s processing a natural nutrient like saturated fat but have very different effects.

    I gave up Diet Coke because it seemed to interfere with my digestion. But we still make desserts with Splenda now and then, and I like the occasional bowl of low-carb ice cream, which also contains Splenda.

  17. Ramona Denton

    Great post, Tom. Thanks!! I loved that Mother Nature commercial when I was younger.

    @Richard A or RE: canola oil
    I wouldn’t eat Canola oil either. In my personal experience, all canola I eat somehow oozes out of my pores a few hours/days later. Canola Harvest used to be my favorite non-butter spread, but I always had this yucky layer of oil on my face when I ate it, until I changed to real butter.

    According to Dr. Eades, the oil extracted from rape seeds (canola) has to be heavily processed in order to be edible and to remove an offensive odor. I think the rape seed crops are mostly genetically modified, too, which I’m not too comfortable with. This last part may or may not be true, but for me, there are already two strikes against canola oil. I think it is a total strike out.

    I am searching high and low for affordable mayonaise with no canola oil in it. I have just about given up, and gotten ready to make my own.

    I thought I’d scored when I saw Olive Oil Mayo at the grocery store. Unfortunately, there’s olive oil in it, yes, but also soybean oil. Not quite what I had in mind.

  18. Richard A.

    Ramona Denton,
    If you were to make home made mayonnaise, what oil or oils would you use? I see so-called olive oil mayonnaise in the stores only to read on the label that it’s mixed with soybean oil, which makes me stick with canola based mayonnaise.

  19. Richard A.

    Unlike even the better margarines, butter contains some medium chain triglycerides and also some vitamin K2. This could easily be corrected by margarine manufacturers.

  20. gallier2

    The problem often is over-simplifaction of science. The things are often more complicated than they look, and bad decisions can be taken for this reason. An example I saw recently. Trans-fats are known to be not good so the EU decided that products containing trans-fats have to be labeled that they contain them (and the rounding error trick doesn’t work in Europe, plus the label must at least provide data for a standard quantity, 100 g or 100 ml as a reference, the producer is free to add a column for serving units if he wishes). The consequence was that several margarines did not show any transfats (they were hardened with palm/coco oil blends) but butter showed significant quantities of them (3g for 100g). A simplistic view would tell that butter is therefor bad, but butter contains natural trans-fats, the conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which doesn’t show any health hazard.

    Concerning aspartame, I would not qualify it as safe, one has only to look how chemically it reacts. Here a citation from wikipedia:
    Upon ingestion, aspartame breaks down into natural residual components, including aspartic acid, phenylalanine, methanol, and further breakdown products including formaldehyde,[20] formic acid, and a diketopiperazine.

    The problem formaldehyde poisoning is that it is a cummulative poisonning, a little formaldehyde is not a problem, short term, but if tissue level increasis gradually, it get worse and worse.
    If one looks at the studies done on the safety of aspartame, all that showed no problems were short term studies. The few that were long term were not as clear cut as the producers would like us to believe.
    And btw, only the involvement of that creep of Rumsfeld to force the FDA to approve it in 1981 would suffice to start all alarm bells. Call me a conspiracy nut if you like, but better safe than sorry.

    My mother won’t eat or drink aspartame because if she does, she either gets a headache or some numbness in her fingers or both. Her doctor told her he’s seen a few cases like that, all women.

  21. Holly

    I read somewhere ( that farmers started adding color to the butter as well to make it more marketable – back when butter was popular. The deep yellow color has to do with the vitamin content (A and K2, if I remember correctly). The deeper the yellow, the better the butter… or at least that’s what families thought back then. I’m sure that is another reason they dye margarine yellow – for psychological reasons. It could be purple or blue or whatever other color they wanted!

    If you run out of butter (the horrors!), you can make your own. All you have to do is put cold cream in a food processor, and a little salt (to make it last longer – a week maybe) and pulse it on high a few times. When the blades get harder to turn and the cream is fluffy, you’ve made whipped cream (which if you wanted that to happen, replace the salt with splenda or stevia or something and ta-da!). If you continue to pulse the food processor on high past the whipped cream stage, you get butter. It’ll be really hard to get the blades to turn at that point and the color will be yellow. (I know some people squeeze the buttermilk out, but I just leave it there because there isn’t much to use anyway.) I’m sure you can do this with a blender too, but I think it’s hard to get the butter out of a blender. Besides, food processors are cheap – I got one for less than $20 at Target. I use cream from the farmer, but I’m sure any kind would work.

  22. Anne m

    Nothing could be easier than olive oil mayo.
    1 egg (Free-range from my girls outside)
    1/2 tsp. dry mustard
    1/2 tsp paprika
    3/4 tsp sea salt
    4 tsp white wine vinegar or lemon juice
    Put in container a stick blender just fits into, blend with the blender.
    Pour in (with blender in mixture but off) 1 c. extra-light tasting olive oil
    Turn blender on and slowly draw to top of container.

  23. Anne M

    Mayo from coconut oil works great, but doesn’t store well. In the refrigerator it gets way too hard. If you are going to use immediately I would definitely recommend it.
    The Enig oil blend works well too. Equal parts sesame oil (cold-processed), coconut oil and olive oil. This does get quite hard when stored as well.

  24. TonyNZ

    Re: Butter.

    Breed of cow can have some effect. In New Zealand, the main breeds are Jersey and Friesian. Jersey milk has way more colour than Friesian milk. (Jersey cream is yellow (and tastes awesome), and from memory (haven’t done this in ages) making butter from it is quite a deep yellow. I think most US milk is from Holstein-Friesian, so lighter in colour. This breed shift (plus other breeding factors, genetic drift etc.) may have made your butter less yellow over time. Also the size of the colloid particles in the butter may have an effect on the colour, so changes in the processing methods may have something to do with it.

    Re: Mayo

    Not a mayo person. Vinaigrette all the way. Extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar is all I need.

    Any idea what kind of cows are milked to make KerryGold butter? The stuff is a deep yellow, and the taste is out of this world. My girls beg me for bites of it if they see the package come out of the fridge.

  25. Halle

    Oh how I used to love those old commercial jingles! I used to love the Chiffon/Mother Nature commercial a lot. Thanks for the memories. But actually my favorite jingle was “‘What’s the best tuna? Chicken of the Sea!” I sure didn’t think tuna fish tasted like chicken, but I loved that jingle.

    Ah yes … and then there was Starkist: “Sorry, Charlie.” As kid, I always wondered why Charlie wanted to end up in a tuna can.

  26. TonyNZ

    From the KerryGold website:

    “Some call Ireland the island of forty shades of green. The winds, the rain, and the warming influence of the Gulf Stream all contribute to the year-round lushness of our homeland. It also contributes to the year-round diet of our grass fed cows who in turn produce the sweetest, richest milk in the world. It’s the reason our butter tastes silkier and creamier and glows a healthy, golden yellow like the sun.”

    Also, Ireland has quite a few Jersey cows (though all the pictures on their website seem to be of Friesians).

    Nora Gedaudas told me it was from grass-fed cows, which is why I tried it. Delicious stuff. I was curious if the color was due to being grass-fed or the type of cow (not that I know one from another). I’ve also noticed eggs from free-range chickens have darker yolks and more flavor. Maybe I should eat some grass and get some color in my skin.

  27. Inga

    My family drinks Meadowfresh Farmhouse milk which is not homogenised. The last month or so, maybe due to it being spring, its had large globs of yellow cream floating in it. Now the race is on with each new carton to see who can open it first to get the good stuff which has stuck to the sides. It looks like an oil slick on your coffee 😀

    By the way, we still cant buy Fathead in New Zealand and I was the only person in this country who didnt watch it when it was on the doco channel. But I love your blog anyway. One day I will get to see the movie. /adds to bucket list

    I hope you get the chance. Our international distributor tells me they’re having more luck selling rights to TV networks than local DVD distributors so far.

  28. Gerard Pinzone


    Aspartame, a dipeptide composed of phenylalanine and aspartic acid linked by a methyl ester bond, is not absorbed, and is completely hydrolysed in the intestine to yield the two constituent amino acids and free methanol. Opponents of aspartame suggest that the phenylalanine and methanol so released are dangerous. In particular, they assert that methanol can be converted to formaldehyde and then to formic acid, and thus cause metabolic acidosis and neurotoxicity.

    Although a 330 ml can of aspartame-sweetened soft drink will yield about 20 mg methanol, an equivalent volume of fruit juice produces 40 mg methanol, and an alcoholic beverage about 60-100 mg. The yield of phenylalanine is about 100 mg for a can of diet soft drink, compared with 300 mg for an egg, 500 mg for a glass of milk, and 900 mg for a large hamburger. Thus, the amount of phenylalanine or methanol ingested from consumption of aspartame is trivial, compared with other dietary sources. Clinical studies have shown no evidence of toxic effects and no increase in plasma concentrations of methanol, formic acid, or phenylalanine with daily consumption of 50 mg/kg aspartame (equivalent to 17 cans of diet soft drink daily for a 70 kg adult).

  29. Paul B.

    I can identify with trying to find health mayo in a store. Same with healthy salad dressing. Can’t be done. Every type of mayo or salad dressing I see in stores, even the ones with “olive oil” on the label, use primarily corn or soybean oil with a small amount of olive oil thrown in as an afterthought. I’ll just make my own, thanks!

    I’ve had the same problem. Makes me wonder how salad dressing was made in the era before industrial processing of vegetable oils.

  30. Wanda

    I just tried some KerryGold cheese last week… i think it was the Dubliner. Sharp and tangy, but finishes with a sweet note… very cool! Anyhow, totally off topic, but i was sent this by my hubby a couple days ago. He says it was buried on the Globe and mail website, and looks like researchers have finally linked higher cancer rates with decreased Vitamin D exposure in northern latitudes:

    Good news for us canuks!

    We’ve started taking vitamin D supplements, especially with flu going around. You saw the DINOMIT video?

  31. Laurie

    Statins degrade the brain and heart.
    table sugar degrades the liver and clogs the arteries
    wheat degrades the digestive system, befuddles nutrient absorption, addicts the brain
    frankenstein fats alter (for the worse) all the membranes of 100 trillion cells and wreck havoc on steroid hormone manufacture and balance.

    Other than that, they’re good products.

  32. Debbie

    I’ve given up on even trying to find mayo or salad dressings in the store. I don’t think any are *made* that would contain the ingredients I would like to eat. I only make my own these days exclusively. Lately I’ve been making mayo using half coconut oil, half light olive oil – though I through some bacon grease into the last batch too as I had some in a pan from bacon I had just cooked. I really like it, and it stays a perfect texture and consistency in the fridge.

    I hear you on the Kerrygold butter too. I started buying it when I heard it came from grass-fed cows. That stuff is so good I can eat it right off the knife when cutting off a pat or two. The Kerrygold cheeses I’ve tried have also been excellent.

    Boy those commercials sure brought back old memories! We used to have margarine all the time when I was a kid. I think that’s all my mother ever bought. Though as an adult I could never bring myself to buy it, and when my son begged for “soft spreadable” margarine in a tub I used to make my own by mixing a softened stick of butter with an equal amount of olive oil in the blender, and then scooping it into a tub. It tasted good and it stayed a nice soft consistency in the fridge. It made my son happy.

    I think I have actually seen a product like that in the supermarket not long ago. I should have patented the idea and made my fortune. 🙂

    I didn’t know KerryGold made cheeses. I’ll have to look for those. At least I can buy raw-milk choose locally now.

  33. Sara

    There’s a description in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods of coloring butter — it says that the cream in the winter was white, and so her mom would use carrot to add yellow color to the cream before churning during the winter. I first read that over 32 years ago, and as soon as I read this post, it’s the first thing I thought of — amazing what sticks in your head.

    Interesting … I wonder how it tasted.

  34. Katy

    Back in the ’50s and ’60s, my grandparents were on the fringe as they followed Adele Davis and popped supplements (nothing too exotic–Theragran vitamins, iodine ration, and vitamin C). My sister and I lived with them when we were young and we were the only children in the school who took vitamins and ate sardine sandwiches and sunflower seeds for lunch. Yet, my grandparents succumbed to the anti-saturated fat propaganda and my grandmother became a devotee of that “heart healthy” Mazola corn oil, along with Chiffon margarine. Then it came in rectangular tubs and the company made chrome serving containers to put the tub into to make it attractive for the table. Very fancy. As more and more of their friends dropped dead of heart attacks, the more they became terrified of consuming saturated fat. My grandfather’s best friend died of a heart attack, and of course the saturated fat he ate was to blame. Never mind that lots of sugar went along with it, or that he was a heavy smoker of cigars. He also had a stressful job and a perfectionist wife. In retrospect, I now see that for my grandfather, suffering with eczema, allergies, a lung condition, and finally Parkinson’s, the refined industrial oils were certainly not healthful in the least, and most likely caused or aggravated much of his misery. Ironically, he ate more margarine than my grandmother did (she was battling a weight problem and thus heeded the low fat diet advice of the day) because she thought he needed the fat for his skin.

    My parents did the same thing because my dad has familial hyperlipidemia. Corn oil margarine, corn oil for cooking, corn oil for oil-and-vinegar dressing. I think that has something to do with all my dad’s health problems.

  35. mezzovoice

    How privileged we seem to be in old Europe. Occasionally I nip over to Switzerland where you can buy prime butter from cows that spend the whole summer up on the mountains. Even Kerrygold looks and tastes pale compared to that.
    But I had my share of margarine horror when I was young – my parents had very little money (house payments) and went on an economy drive. I always insisted, that marge tastes nothing like butter in spite of my mother’s attempts to convince me otherwise. The worst I remember is Buttercream cake made with margarine. I had a sickly yellow colour and as for the taste….

  36. Katy

    An amusing piece about oleo and food coloring during WWII. At the end the author supplies two lessons:

    “I learned two things living through this oleo adventure. The first was that it is important to have choices, and that as long as you know what is fake and what is real, you can make up your own mind as to which you prefer.

    The second was that one person can make a difference, and if enough people agree, eventually those people in charge (the ones we elect) have to listen.”

    Now if we can only apply this to the saturated fat fearmongers.

  37. Barry Groves

    Hi PJ

    The source of the ‘deaths due to coronary heart disease chart’ is my website at The reason you can’t find it in your sources is because it is a UK chart, not a US one.

    Thanks for the clarification, Barry. I believe I picked it up somewhere else, didn’t know it was U.K. I’ll see if I can find a U.S. version somewhere, since the lard and butter figures were also U.S.

  38. Francoise

    Vitamin D: good stuff. As an MS patient I take it daily under orders of my doctor. But the “recommended” doses on the bottle are a waste of time. Take 1000, 2000 units, even 3000. But the 100 or 200 on the label is a waste of time.

    Great article. I was just directed to your website and I’ll be back. We are dedicated consumers of sweet (unsalted) butter in our family. Margarine is a sin of major proportion.

  39. Rabbi Hirsch Meisels

    What is the best answer to give to someone stating: “Death rates from heart attacks is declining” and they contribute it to us following the cholesterol lowering propaganda. what is the best and accurate answer to give?

    The disease rate and the death rate are two different statistics. People with heart disease are less likely to die from it now because of stents, pacemakers, defibrillators, and better emergency-room treatments. More people get heart scans and receive some kind of intervention before having a heart attack (my Dad had stents in his arteries, and probably would’ve died years earlier without them), and more people survive a heart attack if they do have one. Thus, the death rate is down.

    The disease rate has gone down as well, but nearly all of that drop can be attributed to the sharp decline in smoking, which happens to be the single biggest risk factor for heart disease.

  40. Sarah

    Hey Tom, I was wondering where your source was for how margarine is REALLY made? I’d love to share it with some of my friends who actually prefer it to butter, even though something tells me someone that full o bologna won’t be swerved by facts, but it’d still be a great resource 🙂

    Remind me after Thursday and I’ll see if I can find it. I’m on the low-carb cruise now without my usual links to sources.

  41. Mark. Gooley

    Probably too belated, but: yellow in butter and egg yolks is largely from carotenes from fresh green plants. Maybe in egg yolks, some compounds from insects are partly responsible for color (chickens are omnivores — they will eat small lizards and mice — and do better on weeds and bugs than on those all-grain and “vegetarian-only” diets mentioned on egg cartons and packages of meat). In the winter, cattle browse on dead plants or eat hay or silage, all low in carotenes, so butter can go almost white; similarly, except in warm climates, chickens don’t have green plants to eat and yolks can get very pale indeed.

  42. Bryan

    FYI, most margarine now has NO HYDROGENATED oil!! Country crock has no trans fats (no HYDROGENATED oils at all!).

    The older new margarine had “”””””0″””” grams of trans fats per serving, but still had partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredients. The NEW margerines have no hydrogenated oils, therefore a REAL 0 grams of trans fats!!


    I love margarine!! Screw butter!

    Careful there … margarine will screw you right back.

  43. Milton

    I’m working my way through your blog posts in chronological order, so I’m sorry about the late reply to this. But I am equal parts confounded, saddened, and enraged as I read more and learn more. I spent the first 35-36 years of my life (I’m 42 now) eating the diet that was recommended by doctors, researchers, and government agencies because I thought it was good for me. I thought that my main vice was sweets (which I ate way too often) but comforted myself with the understanding that at least it wasn’t red meat and yucky fats! And all this time I was actually doing long term harm that these same experts and agencies should have known was bad for me. But hey, at least they made lots of money, and now the government is flush with cash! Sigh…

    Six years ago I cut back significantly on sweets and salty snack foods (which tend to have a fair amount of sugar), and after a few years of on-and-off diet/exercise kicks I finally buckled down and decided to stop going on diets and simply change my diet. Cutting back on sugars and carbs wound up having a beneficial effect (feeling better, losing weight, looking better) but I still believed that it was the result of lower fat/meat intake. Happily, I found that despite the lower fat intake, I DO have a functioning brain. Having seen your documentary and catching up on the reading you recommended has been something of a revelation.

    So I am continuing to improve my health and diet, but now instead of being the beneficiary of luck, I’ve got much better control of my diet and metabolism. I’m pretty excited about working to improve my health and possibly undo any health problems that may have been creeping up on me over the years. I’ve been pretty healthy for most of my life, but currently am on blood pressure and cholesterol medication. My doctor has already cut those significantly, and in time I am hopeful that she will take me off of them completely.

    I guess this is a long-winded way of saying thanks, and keep fighting the good fight.

    Thank you.

  44. EST

    Don’t forget the Parkay commercials where the tub of margarine keeps saying, “Butter,” prompting the actors to taste it, declare that it must be butter, and then replying, “Parkay.”

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