Margarine is touted as a healthful alternative to butter, but it may be dumbing down our kids. According to researchers at Auckland University in New Zealand, children who ate margarine every day scored three points lower on IQ tests at the age of three-and-a-half than children who did not.
Further, the study showed that by the age of seven, children who were underweight at birth had scores that were even lower—up to six points lower than those of children who did not eat margarine on a daily basis.
A difference of six points or even three points in a child’s IQ could easily make a difference between being classified as “mentally retarded,” which is an IQ score of 70-79 on some charts, instead of “dull normal,” a score of 80 to 90.
“The impact of regular margarine consumption on intelligence now warrants further investigation in order to replicate these findings and to identify possible mechanisms that may underlie this association,” the researchers said.
What lies behind the link? The researchers are not sure—even when socioeconomic factors such as the occupations of the parents were considered, the link still held. They speculate, however, that trans fats may be the culprit.
Trans fats are formed when vegetable oil is solidified, as in the case of margarine, and they raise “bad” cholesterol and lower “good” cholesterol. They have been associated with memory problems in tests with animals, and they make it more difficult to process healthier fats.
Experts caution that because of the high fat content of both margarine and genuine butter, both should be used sparingly.
Margarine vs. Butter Fact: Margarine consumption in the United States overtook butter in the 1950s.