50 years ago, margarine’s ‘healthy’ reputation began to melt away

Excerpt from the April 20, 1974 issue of Science News

Photo of margarine

Before artificial trans fats were banned from the U.S. food supply in 2018, foods such as margarine (shown) had high amounts of trans fat that posed a risk to heart health.

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Orange 'Science News' magazine from April 20, 1974

Margarine and your heart Science News, April 20, 1974

Hardening of the arteries­ causes 90 percent of all heart disease…. The medical community has encouraged people to eat foods with less cholesterol and with polyunsaturated fats rather than saturated fatty acids. Down with eggs and butter, up with polyunsaturated vegetable oils and margarine!… Now margarine is being accused of being a worse villain … than butter or eggs.


Margarine’s heart healthy reputation melted away because of artificial trans fat. The ingredient, found in processed foods, raises cholesterol levels and was estimated in 2006 to cause up to one in five heart attacks per year in the United States. New York City soon restricted its use in restaurants, which reduced the city’s rate of heart attack (SN: 4/12/17). Eventually, the United States banned artificial trans fat and the World Health Organization called for eliminating it from the global food supply by 2023. The world did not meet that goal, but at least 57 countries have bans or restrictions in place. Today, U.S. margarine has negligible artificial trans fat.

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