"Margarine for the Win," "Renewable Bio-Petroleum," and "Conflicting Health Advice"
Margarine for the Win
For years, people who wanted a heart-healthy lifestyle have had to wade through
confusing and conflicting information
about whether butter or margarine is the
better choice. Now research from the U of
M’s School of Public Health shows that the
answer is . . . margarine.
But only because margarine has changed.
In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration
banned partially hydrogenated oils from
food products to help reduce people’s consumption of artificial trans fats, which raise
bad cholesterol levels (LDL) and lower good
cholesterol levels (HDL). Using information
from the Food and Nutrient Database at
the Nutrition Coordinating Center, U of M
researchers looked at the fatty acid profiles
and vitamin and mineral compositions of 83
margarine and butter-blend products. The
study was the first in the country to examine
the differences between butter and margarine since the FDA banned trans fats.
They found trans-fat-free margarine
now has significantly less saturated fat and
cholesterol compared to butter. And margarines in soft tubs and squeeze tubes contain
less saturated fats than stick margarine.
“The findings are particularly important
for registered dietitians and other nutrition-related health professionals so that they can
update their advice and offer people the best
options in order to promote heart health,”
says Cecily Weber, a public health nutrition
student who is the study’s lead author.
This study was originally published in the November 2021 issue of Public Health Nutrition.
As a growing number of states
and cities ban single-use plastic
bags, chemical researchers at the
U.S. National Science Foundation
Center for Renewable Polymers,
based at the U of M, have invented
a green alternative to the fossil fuels
that are used in everything from
plastic containers and bags to car
tires and soaps.
Using plants as a source for
plastics is difficult because they
are made up of glucose, which has
a different molecular composition
than petroleum. To solve this
challenge, University of California
Berkeley researchers discovered a
new technology that both ferments
the glucose to remove oxygen and
combines molecules together to
distribute olefins, which are the
building blocks of plastics. The
process paves the way for chemical
engineers to “grow” non-petroleum
molecules from sugar.
U of M researchers fine-tuned
these molecules to match those
that occur in polymers used to
make plastic and rubber products.
Moreover, they were able to
combine fermentation molecules
to produce larger ones that can be
used for the soap-like molecules in
This hybrid approach is more
sustainable, environmentally and
economically. It’s also a more
efficient way to make chemicals.
These results were first published in
the November 22, 2021 issue of Nature
Conflicting Health Advice
Researchers have long thought that
conflicting messages confuse the
public, making them less likely to
believe health advice.
Now, researchers at the U of M
have data to back up that hunch.
Using an online survey of 3,000
adults, researchers had participants
view health news about six topics,
including mammography screenings
and whether it’s OK to eat carbs.
Over a month, participants viewed
two different sets of articles. Some
contained information that contradicted what they previously read.
One week after their second viewing,
participants were asked to evaluate
ads for health information for which
there are no conflicting viewpoints,
such as eating fruits and vegetables,
exercising, or being screened for
The results were sobering:
Participants who were exposed to
conflicting messages were less likely
to believe health ad campaigns.
“These results are worrisome,
particularly given a Covid-19
landscape that is increasingly fraught
with seemingly conflicting science,”
says Rebekah Nagler, study lead and
an associate professor in the Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass
Communication. The group is now
working on strategies to better
communicate with the public about
This study originally appeared in the
Annals of Behavioral Medicine in August
Huge thanks as always to the team at the University’s News Service.