Lower Cholesterol With Margarine

By / Food / June 23rd, 2010 / Like

Health Canada is now allowing some food producers to make claims about their products typically associated with pharmaceuticals. I’m completely in agreement with the argument that states that food can be as powerful as medicine at times — for better or worse. Full of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, there’s good reason why fruits and vegetables should take up more plate space, especially when we’re not feeling so great. And allowing a company, like Becel, to claim that its Pro Active Calorie-Reduced Margarine can help lower cholesterol may, in fact, encourage consumers to become more aware of what’s in the products they buy before they develop serious health problems.

The alternative to products like this is that individuals with high cholesterol, for example, would just have to completely abstain from butter and margarine. We’re a society that has a very hard time abstaining from anything that’s pleasure-inducing. And there are few things that are as pleasurable

as butter spread over hot toast. So why not indulge in a product that can provide the best of both worlds — taste pleasure and health benefits?

But, like anything, moderation is a good thing. The only problem I have with claims like Becel’s is that it’s easy to overindulge. It’s also very easy to forget that the same cholesterol fighting sterols can be found in foods that haven’t been processed at all. Sometimes, when a product has been processed to death, what nutrients it has are difficult to absorb.

For the first time, Health Canada has approved the sale of foods fortified with plant sterols and allowed claims to assist consumers to understand the role and function of sterols in their diet. Am I the only one who finds this fact a tad problematic? By what criteria is Healthy Canada allowing this? How many plant sterols does a product need to have before it will actually start fighting cholesterol? Who’s checking the claims? I bet you can think up a few of your own questions. Apparently more than 40 per cent of Canadians aged 20 to 79 have unhealthy levels of total cholesterol. I wonder if they’ll find these claims useful.

Health is no joking matter, is it? Every seven minutes in Canada, someone dies from heart disease or stroke. High cholesterol is a main risk factor for heart disease, and according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, a one point reduction in total cholesterol can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by 25 per cent. So, kudos to those companies who are trying to make a difference. But, please, check the claims and eat lots of fresh, natural products along with the processed stuff.

“Costs associated with managing chronic diseases like heart disease are among the biggest challenges facing this country. We need to be aggressive in bringing options to Canadians that will enable personal health decisions associated with significant public health implications.”said Dr. Peter Jones, a nutrition researcher from the University of Manitoba who has studied plant sterols for 15 years.


Rosemary Mantini has always loved words. When she isn't working as the Associate Editor at Tidings Magazine, she's helping others achieve their writing dreams, and sometimes she even relaxes with a good book and a glass of wine.

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