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Topic summary contributed by volunteer(s): Jessica

Margarine and Fat

The primary ingredients in margarine are refined vegetable oil and water, resulting in a fat content of around 80%. The trans-fat in margarine is concerning, especially given a study that looked at survival rates in women with breast cancer: those who ate foods with trans-fat in their diets had a significantly higher risk of dying within seven years of diagnosis.

Phytosterols are beneficial compounds occurring in butter or margarine that may help reduce cholesterol levels. However, nuts and seeds are also packed with phytosterols and contain none of the trans-fat that margarine contains, making them a better option.

Effects of Artificial Colors

Another unwelcome ingredient in margarine is color additives, which are responsible for margarine’s yellow hue. Artificial colors are thought to increase inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity in children, to the point that the E.U. requires a label warning of these possible effects placed on all foods with these additives. Such labeling requirements have not made their way onto U.S. margarine packages.

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