The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Food & Health

October 24, 2013

Herbal remedy requires research


I couldn’t find the news piece you read, but it makes some sense. Health-care providers aren’t immune to losing hearing as we get older, and hearing loss can lead to inaccuracy in blood pressure measurement. Hearing loss can mean an error of several points.

There is abundant evidence that in the vast majority of cases, home and inexpensive office machines are not as accurate as humans.

Dear Dr. Roach: There is much controversy circulating about the healthiest choices available today for butter and margarine spreads made with canola oil, coconut oil, flaxseed oil, grapeseed oil and olive oil.

There are so many choices that it is almost mind-boggling to the average consumer. I keep receiving emails from friends and relatives with articles that state margarine was developed to fatten up turkeys, and when that did not fly, it was marketed to people as a healthy substitute for butter. Yet, I read labels on products claiming much lower saturated fat than real butter contains.

Many articles forwarded to me have a product to sell, and so their claims are used push these products, whether valid or not. — M.P.

Answer: Today’s margarine is not the margarine of the 1950s. Margarines with plant sterols and stanols (sold as Benecol and Smart Balance) reduce LDL cholesterol, although it’s not clear whether they reduce the risk of heart disease. The main advice I give is to completely avoid trans-saturated fatty acids (on food labels as “trans fat”). Most food companies have received that message, and it’s easy to find high-quality margarine. The vast preponderance of the evidence is that margarines are healthier for you than butter.

That doesn’t mean you can’t have butter occasionally. We all make choices that affect our health. The harm you do from a little butter is small. Too much isn’t harmless, though.

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