British Journal of Nutrition

Research Article

Home use of margarine is an important determinant of plasma trans fatty acid status: a biomarker study

C. Murray Skeaffa1 c1 and Sonya Gowansa1

a1 Department of Human Nutrition, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand


The contribution of the home use of margarines, made with partially hydrogenated vegetables oils, to total trans fatty acid intake is difficult to determine using dietary assessment because food composition databases are incomplete for trans fatty acids; moreover, hidden fats in manufactured foods may be the predominant sources of trans fatty acids. The objective of our study was to determine, using plasma phospholipid trans fatty acid composition as a surrogate measure of exposure, whether the home use of margarine or butter is an important determinant of trans fatty acid status. We conducted a community-based (Dunedin, New Zealand), cross-sectional survey of people who consumed either margarine (n 65) or butter (n 64) but not both for home use. The levels of the 18:1 trans isomers commonly found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils were all significantly higher in the plasma phospholipids of margarine compared with butter consumers, with the exception of 18:1n-7t, which did not differ. Among margarine consumers, the percentage of total fat from margarine was significantly correlated with levels of phospholipid 18:1n−6t, 18:1n-8t and 18:1n-1/t isomers (r 0·57–0·63, P<0·001) but only weakly with 18:1n-7t (r 0·30, P=0·016). The intake of fat from fast foods, bakery products or meat and meat products was not associated with plasma phospholipid trans isomeric composition. The home use of margarine, made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, is an important determinant of trans fatty acid exposure in New Zealand.

(Received July 22 2005)

(Revised December 16 2005)

(Accepted January 06 2006)


c1 *Corresponding author: Dr C. Murray Skeaff, fax +64 3 479 7958, email