In light of discussions on fat and trans fat being presented this week at the American Heart Association Conference on Dietary Fatty Acids and Cardiovascular Health, the margarine industry released a report documenting that fats in margarine products have been dramatically reduced over the last decade.

In fact, the "Margarine Nutrient Consumption Trends" report shows that the margarine industry is leading the effort to reduce total fat, saturated fat and trans fat in the American diet. The report is based on data verified by ACNielsen, one of the country's leading market research firms, and confirms the positive, healthier changes in the margarine category.

"The margarine industry has always worked to produce heart-healthy products and this new report confirms that. The industry continues to be committed toward that goal," said Sue Taylor, a dietitian with the National Association of Margarine Manufacturers.

According to the report, the average fat content of margarine has declined by 40 percent since 1990 (with saturated fat declining proportionately) and trans fat levels have declined by more than half (59 percent). Additionally, consumer preference has moved dramatically from the harder, full-fat stick margarines to lower fat sticks and softer tubs which have lower levels of trans, saturated and total fat.

The new report also clearly demonstrates that not only are shoppers opting for the soft and liquid products, but that reduced fat and reformulated stick products also are popular with consumers. About 2/3 of all margarine products being purchased by consumers are soft or liquid and 1/3 are in stick form.

Taylor advises that there are stick and tub products on the market that contain little or no trans fat at all, and many full-fat sticks are now using more liquid oils than ever before in their formulations. Also, the squeeze and spray margarines, due to their liquid nature, have always been free of trans fat.

Taylor noted that the margarine industry supports the FDA proposal requiring labeling of trans fat content on food labels and that today's margarine products are "not the margarine you grew up on -- they're even better for you."

The American Heart Association and the government's National Cholesterol Education program still recommend margarine instead of butter for a heart- healthy diet. They also stress that consumers are still eating way too much saturated fat, and that should be the key focus of any diet designed to reduce heart disease risk.

"What concerns me the most is that consumers might go back to sources of highly saturated fat just to avoid a small amount of trans fats," says Dr. Barbara Howard, a well-known nutrition researcher and member of the American Heart Association's Nutrition Committee." She adds, "Even in light of new research on trans fat, heart disease experts continue to recommend that margarine be used as a tablespread instead of butter to help reduce the risk of heart disease."

For further information on today's margarine products, visit Margarine on the Web,