How many times have you heard this one, usually from some “Good Samaritan” on Facebook, looking to protect your health? “Did you know,” they say “that margarine is only one molecule away from being plastic?!?” It’s been around for a long time, almost as long as it takes for bubblegum to pass through your digestive tract. You see what I did there?
It made the rounds in the mid 90’s when anything we received in e-mail form HAD to be the truth. Rumors that margarine was made to fatten up turkeys, but instead it KILLED them! Hey if that’s the case, let’s feed it to people, right? Wrong! This ridiculous chestnut got dug up and posted on the new hub of helpful fallacies: Facebook. Your elderly cousin, or helpful grand-dad posts it, because anyone who takes the time to make a jpg file from something has to be telling the truth, otherwise why would they make the effort.
Here is the truth though, so brace yourself, for disappointment.
Margarine is NOTHING like plastic. On a molecular level, or otherwise.
Let that one sink in, and I’ll go prepare my notes.
First of all, lets tackle the easier of the two. Margarine. For those of us who don’t know margarine has three main ingredients: Vegetable oil, Milk, and Water. Those three items are whipped mixed and chilled to achieve a stable mixture we know as triglycerides. Wanna see what a margarine molecule looks like?
Oh man, you’re thinking, why are there two molecule there….
One of them is plastic isn’t it?!? No, sit down, listen to me. We remove a few carbon double bonds on the one below because it raises the melting point of the margarine so it remains a semi-solid at room temperature. This way it doesn’t pour out of the tub, it spreads, like a fine schmear on bagels with lox….
Second, plastic. Plastic is a polymer, made mostly of synthetic (and now occasionally semi-synthetic)
materials. Widely used as a mold-able fabricating material, plastics are derived from petrochemicals like oil (dead dead dinosaurs). I like to think some of the plastics in my house were from Tyrannosaurs, it makes using plastic cutlery much more fun.
So here is where you get scared. Vegetable oils have lots of carbon bonds in them, petroleum products have lots of carbon bonds in them. But just because they both have carbon, doesn’t mean they are the same thing. All things that live on our planet have carbon in them. I have blood inside of me, but that doesn’t mean I’m one molecule away from being a pygmy marmoset…
Remember folks, Correlation does not imply Causality…. just because two items contain carbon does not mean they are the same.
So eat whatever you want. But don’t think that margarine will keep you skinny folks, fats are still fats, and calories still count!
P.S. the margarine fattens up the turkeys just fine people….. gobble gobble!