The latest medical word on heart disease is: if you want to reduce your risk of heart disease, forget low fat margarine, stick to butter, and eat plenty of walnuts.
A study by Harvard Medical school of 85,095 women followed over eight years found that those eating margarine had an increased risk of coronary heart disease. They suggest that the production process used to make margarine hydrogenation creates "trans isomers" of fatty acids, which resemble the configuration of saturated fat.
"Our findings must add to concern that the practice of partially hydrogenating vegetable oils to produce solid fats may have reduced the anticipated benefits of substituting these oils for highly saturated fats, and instead contributed to the occurrence of coronary heart disease (The Lancet, 6 March 1993).
Walnuts which are rich in the omega 3 fatty acids may succeed, it seems, where margarine has failed. In a study (funded by the California Walnut Commission), researchers found that eating nuts can reduce your cholesterol level. "Incorporating moderate quantities of walnuts into the recommended cholesterol lowering diet while maintaining the intake of total dietary fat and calories decreases serum levels of total cholesterol and favourably modifies the lipoprotein profile in normal men," they conclude.