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Margarine Is Better For You. Can We End This Debate Now?

Has a study out of Harvard finally laid to rest the age-old question of whether butter or margarine is better for you?

By Christine Slusser | September 29, 2015

The brains at Harvard have spoken. A new study found margarine is better for you than butter. 

Cue punny headlines like this one: Butter’s benefits melt away!

"I can't believe it's not butter," Fox News host Brian Kilmeade said.

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OK, you get it. Researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health conducted a 30-year study of thousands of people's diets. They published their research this week in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 

They found replacing saturated fats, like butter, with unsaturated fats, like margarine, had "the most impact on reducing the risk of heart disease." 

Saturated fats have been labeled "bad" fats. Eating food with too much saturated fat raises cholesterol levels in the blood. 

Typically, foods with lots of saturated fat are high in calories, too. Which means they're probably delicious, like most bad-for-you food is.

But what you replace those saturated fats with matters. According to a press release, "When saturated fats were replaced with highly processed foods, there was no benefit." 

Past studies have found a correlation between coronary heart disease and eating saturated fatty acids, but this specific study found the replacement of that fat makes a difference. 

Researchers followed nearly 85,000 women and nearly 43,000 men without diabetes, cardiovascular disease or cancer. They also studied around 7,700 people who had coronary heart disease.

The participants provided information about their diet, medical history and any new medical developments every two to four years for 24 to 30 years. That's a long time. 

The questionnaires asked participants what foods they'd been eating and which fats or oils were used for frying or baking, or eaten during meals. 

The researchers found some people replaced calories from saturated fatty acids with calories from carbs, and some replaced them with healthier fats. 

"Replacing 5 percent of energy intake from saturated fats with an equivalent intake from either polyunsaturated fats, monounsaturated fats or carbohydrates from whole grains was associated with 25 percent, 15 percent and 9 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease, respectively."

One such change was saying bye-bye to butter and hello to margarine. 

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