Margarine is dead, long live the King Butter

LEP Columnist Barry Freeman
LEP Columnist Barry Freeman
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Take milk. Oscillate wildly in a suitable vessel, tip off the liquid, spoon out the solid, spread it on fresh toast and away you go, ideally with hot tea to hand.

Butter, people; like marijuana a 100 per cent natural font of human happiness over millennia, and now, we learned again last week, not all that bad for one’s health.

Positively healthish, in fact; that is to say not by any means wholly healthy, but moreso than available alternatives (Guinness, for example, is also healthish. Although like all boozes essentially an alcohol and sugar solution, does at least contain traces of iron – which is more than can be said of, say, Kestrel Super).

Healthish, in moderation.

Of course, butter has it far easier than stout in this regard, what with its sole rival of note now recognised as pretty much the spread of all evil.

Margarine. Part of our diet for all of 150 years, ever since Emperor Napoleon III challenged scientists to create a substitute for butter.

Up steps boffin Hippolyte Mège-Mouriès in 1869 with gunk whipped up from beef tallow and milk and the rest is history.

Thus born of tyranny, margarine went on to carve a trail of mayhem across Western civilisation.

In 1871 Mège-Mouriès sold his beefy goo to the Dutch butter giant Jurgens, which duly industrialised production with the world’s first margarine factory that same year.

In 1930 this and another Dutch marge firm merged with William Hulme Lever to form Unilever.

By then, of course, tallow had long given way to ‘trans-fats’, mostly
hydrogenated vegetable oils.

Uncommon in nature, such fats are now known to carry an elevated risk of coronary heart disease, far outstripping that associated with the natural saturated fat of butter.

In 1994 a study estimated more than 30,000 cardiac deaths a year in the US were due to consumption of trans fats. On the back of this wider studies were conducted, which by 2006 suggested the death toll was probably closer to 100,000.

So millions worldwide, most likely, down the decades, while an unholy cabal of witless eggheads, margarine behemoths and Leslie Crowther told us butter was a one-way earlybird ticket to the grave.

Ignorance? Lies? Whatever, news last week a major study had found no link at all between saturated fats and increased risk of heart disease, stroke or diabetes should once and for all nail margarine’s coffin – or other suitable vessel –shut.