Unclog the arteries of Australians

Leading Australian nutritionist embarks on mission to unclog the arteries of Australians

A new study undertaken by a leading nutritionist, Nicole Senior has found that the Australian public and magazine industry are unaware of current Australian nutrition guidelines surrounding the use of fats in cooking. The overwhelming majority of magazines are recommending butter over margarine spreads in recipes, despite the fact heart health and nutrition experts recommend the opposite.

The study, "Cooking up a Storm: The Health Implications of Fats and Oils Used in Popular Magazines" surveyed national magazine titles spanning mass market, gourmet, health and budget categories. It found that for magazine recipes requiring firm fat*, 97% of the time butter was recommended. For those requiring general fats*, butter ranked second to olive oil - 34% compared to 44%. Margarine spreads were recommended only 4% of the time.

Nicole Senior, leading Australian nutritionist, author and pioneer of the study is undertaking a national public awareness effort to reveal the truth about the health benefits of margarine spreads and other healthy oils. By doing so she hopes to help improve the diet of the nation.

Says Nicole Senior, "Butter is often viewed as a traditional ingredient necessary for many staple recipes, but there are healthier alternatives people can use such as margarine spreads that don't hinder the taste or quality of the final product. Swapping butter for margarine spread has also been clinically proven to lower cholesterol in the blood1 - a leading risk factor for heart disease.

"Current public health nutrition guidelines recommend using a variety of unsaturated oils and margarine spreads as they contain essential fatty acids and Vitamin D and E, both needed for good health and for reducing the risk of chronic disease. They discourage the use of butter due to its high saturated fat content, which increases blood cholesterol levels. In a country where one in every two Australians has above ideal cholesterol levels and heart disease is still the number one killer, this is clearly vindicated."I'm hoping to raise awareness of current public health nutrition guidelines surrounding margarine spreads and other healthy oils so that people will begin to use them as a butter substitute."

In response to the study, leading plant sterol-spread Flora pro-activ® commissioned a national survey through Roy Morgan Research to look at the level of influence magazines have on Australians' cooking habits.

Key findings of interest include:
  • 47% of people turn to recipe pages of magazines, at least monthly, indicating they're a valuable source of culinary inspiration
  • When recipes call for butter as an ingredient 41 % of people say they stick to the recommendation

    When asked why they stick to the butter recommendation:
  • 42% say because it tastes better
  • 28% say because the magazine knows best
  • 13% say butter is a healthier option - in direct conflict with the Dietary Guidelines for Australians (published by the NHMRC)

    In a sign that improved public awareness of the health benefits of margarine spreads and other healthy oils is needed, almost half of all people surveyed who were informed that margarine spreads were better for a healthy heart, said they would make the switch from butter.

    "The findings of the research really do illustrate the influence magazines have on Australians' eating habits" concludes Nicole Senior. "I hope to educate the general public and media that margarine spreads perform similar functions to butter and are often interchangeable. From baking cakes to cooking everyday dinners, margarine spreads are by far a healthier option and will produce a great end result."

    * Firm fats include spreads, margarine and butter

    * General fats include firm fats as well as oils

    "Cooking up a Storm: The Health Implications of Fats and Oils Used in Popular Magazines" surveyed 18 national magazines. Magazines included were monthly magazines with a July 2006 cover date and weekly magazines with cover dates from June to mid July 2006. The research was supported by Unilever Australasia and was presented at Bi-annual Home Economics Institute of Australia Inc. conference 2007

    A copy of "Cooking up a Storm: The Health Implications of Fats and Oils Used in Popular Magazines" is available on request

    Nicole Senior is an Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD) and author of a new book called "Eat to Beat Cholesterol" to be published in March. Please contact Lotta Haeg at New Holland for further information about this title.

    The National Heart Foundation of Australia, as part of their brochure Enjoy Healthy Eating: a guide to keeping your blood cholesterol in check recommends "using margarine spreads instead of butter of dairy blends"

    The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend "as a spread for bread and for baking, choose (reduced salt) unsaturated margarines rich in omega 6 and omega 3, made from canola, sunflower, safflower or olive oil rather than butter. http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/publications/synopses/dietsyn.htm
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