..The Intuitive Times
Ask The Expert


Butter or Margarine?

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In our October issue's "What Bugs You" section, Billy from Halifax wrote: I'm confused. I can't figure out if I should eat butter or margarine. We promised to ask the experts in the next issue. Here is their responses.

Response from a Naturopath Doctor: Carolin Galvin, B.Sc., N.D., Fredericton

Butter is made by "Mother Nature" as saturated fat. Although we need saturated fat, we tend to over-consume it. We are always struggling to cut down on it for the sake of our cardiovascular health. So, at first glance, butter seems like an unlikely choice.

Margarine, usually starts out as polyunsaturated fat which, if consumed in moderation, is valuable in preventing heart disease, and most people are deficient in this type. However, polyunsaturated fat is easily damaged by light, heat, oxygen exposure and hydrogenation. When it is damaged, it is converted to a mixture of saturated fat, and trans-fatty acids. Trans-fatty acids are artificially saturated fats that are very damaging to our health and are found in most margarines!

Polyunsaturated fats are liquid, so in order to make them spreadable, they must be "partially hydrogenated" which will make them partially saturated. Since the saturation is created by processing, not by nature, you get trans-fatty acids. A few margarines are made differently. Instead of partially hydrogenating to solidify the oil, some tropical fats are added, which are naturally saturated and, therefore, trans-fatty acid-free. Although preferable as a spread, these should not be used for frying, otherwise, the trans-fatty acids will be formed. Another health issue to consider is that margarines often contain artificial color since they would otherwise be white.

Still confused? Butter is the best choice if used sparingly. Another acceptable alternative is to use a margarine made with polyunsaturated fat plus tropical oil and absolutely no hydrogenated fats, and no artificial food dyes. Avoid "trans-fatty acids" and "hydrogenated fats or partially hydrogenated fats" in any products you consume.

Carolin can be reached at the Fredericton Clinic of Naturopathic Medicine (506)450-9440

Response from a Certified Nutritional Microscopist and Registered Nutritional Consulting Practitioner: Dwayne Murphy BASc, RNCP.

Butter has been part of man's diet since the domestication of cows thousands of years ago. The history of margarine is much shorter dating back to when Napoleon III was looking for a cheap source of fat for the 'cheap' classes of people. Degenerative diseases on a large scale are more recent in origin, having risen from rarity to epidemic proportions in the last 100 years, while butter consumption actually decreased.

The most common starting materials for margarines are cheap seed oils: refined cottonseed, soybean, canola and corn oils. These refined oils are chemically unstable. The hydrogenation (injection of hydrogen) process for converting the oil into a solid, margarine produces dozens of non-natural chemicals that are toxins to the body. Margarine contains up to 60 % of trans-fatty acids whereas butter contains up to 6% trans- fatty acids. Trans-fatty acids damage cellular membranes creating harmful free radicals which contribute to degenerative diseases. Margarine is not suitable for frying whereas butter can be used for frying because its mainly saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids that are relatively stable to light, heat and oxygen.

Butter is not without its shortcomings. Butter concentrates pesticides about 5 to 10 times more than vegetable oils. Dairy farmers use antibiotics on their cattle which find their way into butter. Organic butter contains no antibiotics or pesticides. Butter is a neutral fat, not bad, not good. Overall butter wins easily on taste, digestibility, usefulness for frying and naturalness.

Dwayne teaches at The Canadian School of Natural Nutrition in Halifax and operates a private nutritional counseling practice, Dynamic Nutrition Concepts: 902 434-983.


Dear Natural Choice Journal: I have a problem with excess hair and I have tried everything to get rid of it, but, it's just getting worse. I want to try electrolysis but I'm nervous and I want to make sure that the electrologist is good. Can you help? Andrea Milligan, Kinkora, PEI

Response from Certified Professional Electrologist, Donna McAndrew from McAndrew Electrolysis in Kensington, PEI.

Electrolysis is the only proven method of permanent hair removal - it's been in practice for well over one hundred years throughout the world. It is perfectly safe and effective when performed by a properly trained, CERTIFIED electrologist - one who belongs to their provincial and national professional associations which require their members to adhere to the highest standards of sterilization and proper procedures. The Atlantic Association of Professional Electrologists has a toll free number (1-877-232-2273) to call for information and a list of qualified, professional electrologists in your area.

You should be able to arrange a complimentary consultation and demonstration so that the electrologist can thoroughly explain the procedure and satisfy any of your concerns. As is the case with many professions, a specialist is often more qualified, so many people prefer an electrolysis office or clinic which can also be more private and confidential.

Donna can be reached at McAndrew Electrolysis in Kensington, PEI.


Dear Natural Choice Journal I have heard that coffee can increase our stress levels. Is that True?
Johnathan Calvin, Summerside

Response from Naruropathic Doctor: Sarah Baillie B.Sc., N.D., Halifax N.S.

Ahh…the smell of freshly brewed coffee…the knowledge of the burst of energy and alertness that will follow…the ritual of taking that first morning sip. Caffeine has become a staple source of energy in our stressed out and exhausted society. What we do not think about in that short-term moment of renewed alertness are the long-term, detrimental effects of caffeine consumption.

The artificial burst of energy that caffeine gives us is also associated with eventual exhaustion of the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands help the body cope with the stresses of every day life as well as the major stressful events that we occasionally encounter. The roller coaster ride of energy and fatigue that caffeine consumption results in, reduces the adrenal glands' ability to react to stressful events and leads to further overall exhaustion. Coffee also acts as a diuretic, robbing the body of precious water stores. It also increases calcium loss in the urine, which contributes to the risk of osteoporosis. Caffeine is a stimulant, and thus creates in many, an underlying anxiety level and possible insomnia.

Finally, if you are going to drink coffee or tea, it is important to buy organic products, as both are highly sprayed with pesticides, making your hot drink essentially a source of poisons. If you are going to reduce caffeine intake, do it slowly in order to reduce the risk of rebound headaches.

Sarah can be reached at Stillpoint Naturopathic Clinic, Halifax N.S., (902) 425-0542


Response from a Certified Nutritional Microscopist and Registered Nutritional Consulting Practitioner: Dwayne Murphy BASc, RNCP.

Coffee seems to have become the beverage of choice for a growing number of people. Most people feel that a cup of coffee a day is relatively harmless.

Coffee intensifies stress, causing an average 40% increase in adrenaline resulting in increased blood pressure, heart rate, perspiration, muscular tension, nervousness, and irritability. Coffee stimulates the pancreas and adrenals, intensifying hypoglycemia, low blood sugar and weakening the adrenals ability to respond to stress. Coffee increases intellectual speed, but not power (working faster but not smarter). It causes a significant loss of nutrients, especially magnesium, potassium, calcium, zinc, B vitamins, especially inositol and biotin. Absorption of B vitamins is important in supporting the adrenal glands to better withstand stress of all kinds.

While caffeine acts as a mild stimulant to the central nervous system offering a short-term sense of alertness and well-being, many people have bought into the falsehood that it provides extra energy and a harmless lift. Because it acts like a drug, over time larger amounts are required for stimulation. Read "America's Favorite Drug - Coffee and Your Health," by Bonnie Edwards for more information.

Dwayne teaches at The Canadian School of Natural Nutrition in Halifax and operates private nutritional counseling practice, Dynamic Nutrition Concepts: 902 434-983.


Response from Pharmacist, Derek Trainor, RPh, BScPh, BScBio, Charlottetown, PEI

Caffeine is a potent stimulant of the central nervous system. In relatively higher doses, it can decrease heart rate, and increase blood pressure. However in larger doses - over 250mg, caffeine can cause increased heart rate, and possibly irregular heart beats. It can constrict cerebral (brain) blood vessels, while dilating peripheral (body) blood vessels. Caffeine can also stimulate skeletal muscle by producing an increase in the force of contraction and a decrease in muscle fatigue. Other effects can include increased stomach acid, fluid loss (diuresis) , hyperglycemia (elevated blood sugar levels), and increased triglycerides. Long -term use can cause tolerance to these effects.

Withdrawal symptoms can occur within 12 to 24 hours after stopping a chronic caffeine ingestion (as little as 100 mg per day) and may last up to 7 days. The most common symptom is headache, but may include fatigue, depression, anxiety, and insomnia. During pregnancy, caffeine levels are similar in both maternal and fetal blood. Excessive caffeine intake, over 600 mg per day, has been weakly associated with low birth weight, premature deliveries and decreased fetal heart rate. However, when used in moderation, there is no association with these effects.

Toxic symptoms can be produced in adults who consume more than 1000 mg of oral caffeine. The acute lethal dose of caffeine ranges from 5,000 to 10,000 mg or over 1750 mg/kg. Initially, toxic symptoms are insomnia, dyspnea, and excitement, and can progress to mild delirium.

Stress reactions can vary from individual to individual. Many of these reactions overlap with the adverse effects of caffeine, i.e headache, increased blood pressure, stomach problems, anxiety etc.. For the individuals that reacts to stress in this way, caffeine may compound or worsen that problem.

Caffeine Content from Various Sources Source Type Serving Size (oz) Caffeine (mg) Coffee Expresso 2 120 Regular 5 - 8 40 - 180 Instant 5 - 8 30 - 120 Decaf 5 - 8 1 - 5 Tea Brewed 5 - 8 20 - 110 Instant/Bags 5 - 8 20 - 50 Soft Drinks Mountain Dew 12 55 Coke 12 47 Pepsi 12 37 Chocolate Baking Chocolate 1 25 - 58 Milk Chocolate 1 1 - 15 Medications Analgesics (pain med) 1 tablet 32 - 65 Cold Combos 1 tablet 30 - 65 Stimulants 1 tablet 75 - 200

Derek Trainor is the Pharmacy Manager at IGA, Charlottetown, PEI and can be reached at 628-6522.


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