Anti-cholesterol margarines: what should we think about them?

[Article updated on 19/09/2023]

Cholesterol in France is the cause of one in two heart attacks.

Before reading on

I’m not an expert in this field, but I am passionate about nutrition and health.

The articles you’ll find on my site are the result of in-depth research that I’d like to share with you. However, I would like to stress that I am not a health professional and that my advice should in no way replace that of a qualified physician. I’m here to guide you, but it’s important that you consult a professional for specific questions or medical concerns. Your well-being is important. So be sure to consult the appropriate experts and take the best possible care of yourself.

Nearly 20% of adults have excessively high cholesterol levels, so many of you consume margarine; even anti-cholesterol margarine…

But the question is: is it useful for your health?

What is the difference between butter, margarine, and cholesterol-lowering margarine?

He It’s true that it looks very similar.

Butter is a fat made from milk cream, so it is of animal origin. It will therefore contain animal fats which are not the best for health. When consumed in excess, butter contains, among other things, the famous cholesterol that we often talk about, because cholesterol is only found in things of animal origin!

Margarines are emulsions composed of vegetable fats, most often a mixture of sunflower, rapeseed, corn and sometimes palm oil, which is not what there is. better for your cardiovascular health.

But, as it is of plant origin, no cholesterol in sight!

That said, good to know: Butters and margarines contain exactly the same number of calories.

And then, there are “Anti-cholesterol” margarines which are margarines reduced in fat and enriched with certain natural compounds present in plants which have the particular property of reducing the level of blood cholesterol by reducing its intestinal absorption: these compounds are called phytosterols.

For it to work, you must consume 3 servings of 10g per day, the equivalent of 3 individual pods per day.

The consequence of consuming these “anti-cholesterol” margarines“ would be “ a reduction in cardiovascular diseases.

Is it really effective?

Unfortunately, according to the national food safety agency (ANSES), these “anti-cholesterol” margarines have no proven effect on cardiovascular diseases,

The agency notes in its report that, I quote, “if phytosterols do indeed contribute to the reduction of blood cholesterol, their benefit on the prevention of cardiovascular diseases has not been demonstrated.”

Furthermore, phytosterol hinders the proper functioning of cholesterol and prevents the absorption of vitamins.

It is therefore strictly not recommended to use it for prevention!

In short, there is no study on the effects of phytosterols directly on cardiovascular diseases, we cannot really conclude to this day.

Attention: ANSES recommends that women pregnant or breastfeeding women and children to avoid “anti-cholesterol” margarines and asks people “concerned” about their cholesterol level to consult a health professional.

Should we use them or not then?

There is no advantage in replacing butter with margarine if you do not have a medical condition or a specific diet since margarine, in general, does not help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

In my opinion, you should even prefer butter since it is less processed than margarines, but in moderation: for example, you can consume 10g of it for breakfast, the equivalent of a small piece of butter served in an individual portion at restaurant.

You read correctly, I did say that, even if you have cholesterol, butter can be consumed in moderation when it is part of a balanced fat diet and preferably eaten raw. No point in removing it completely!

In fact, rather than eliminating butter and replacing it with margarine, it is better to ensure that you reduce your consumption of industrial products such as biscuits and prepared meals.

And we will actually take less risk by balancing our sources of fat through oilseed fruits (walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, etc.), and fatty fish and oils rich in Omega-3 (linseed oil, coconut oil). rapeseed) which have the effect of reducing “bad” cholesterol and increasing “good” cholesterol.

What about other dietary measures?

Even if you wanted to use “anti-cholesterol” margarine at all costs, this must be accompanied by other dietary measures:

  • reduction (I didn’t say “elimination” above all!) of: butter, cheeses, cold meats, fatty meats, pastries
  • use of various oils (rapeseed, walnut, olive) in cooking
  • sufficient consumption of fish (at least twice a week), fruits and vegetables (5 per day), whole grains
  • moderate consumption of sugar and salt

In any case, having excess cholesterol is not to be taken lightly and I can only advise you to consult a doctor-nutritionist or a dietitian-nutritionist so as not to do anything with your health.

To sum up:

  • “Anti-cholesterol” margarine could reduce cholesterol provided you take 30g per day
  • Do not use this type of margarine in pregnant, breastfeeding women and children.
  • Parallel dietary measures are essential
  • It is not useful to eliminate butter in case of hypercholesterolemia
  • Too much cholesterol: consult a nutritionist