The British Heart Foundation & Flora pro.activ – an unhealthy relationship

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) describes itself as “a charity that aims to prevent people dying from heart diseases”. Until now, the BHF has remained relatively conflict free – a paragon of virtue in fact when compared with some other ‘heart charities’. Heart UK, for example, calls itself the cholesterol charity (cholesterol should have a charity for having become endangered, but that’s not what they mean!) Heart UK partners with drug companies, the very companies that profit beyond wild dreams from the lucrative war on this life vital substance, as their partner list confirms.

I receive a copy of the BHF magazine, which comes out six times a year. It is called “Heart Matters” and should be commended for having no adverts. It should also be completely ignored because the high carb/low fat/fear cholesterol advice is doing serious harm. However, at least the BHF has appeared free from conflict – until now…

On page 8 of the October/November issue there was an item entitled “Women’s heart health at risk” and the magazine proudly announced “We have teamed up with Flora pro.activ to encourage women to think more about their heart health.” It continued: “This month keep your eyes peeled for the partnership, which will reach women through information on special packs of Flora pro.activ, TV ads and online.” TV ads are seriously expensive – we can guess that Unilever has funded these? “One of the key things the campaign will encourage women to do is to get their cholesterol checked.” And once in the system, no doubt, the women can be frightened into fearing cholesterol and trying to lower it with statins or eating Flora pro.activ gunge or both. A web site has been set up in honour of this new partnership.

I first saw the advert on UK TV screens in January 2013 – you can see it here. A woman confidently asserts “A key risk factor for heart disease is high cholesterol.” My independent, unbiased, not-funded-by-drug-companies study of all 192 countries for which the World Health Organisation has data shows that the exact opposite is true. The higher one’s cholesterol level, the lower one’s risk of heart disease and vice versa. For men and women. For heart disease and all cause mortality. The graphs are on this blog here.

There are three critical things that the BHF needs to know about spreads that lower cholesterol – 1) how they are made 2) how they lower cholesterol and 3) the particular issues with targeting women.

1) How spreads are made

An entire industry, worth five billion dollars in the USA (2008) alone,[i] has been built on the irony of destroying the reputation of butter and then trying to reproduce the substance. The main fat in butter is saturated fat, making it naturally solid at room temperature. Butter also has a natural colour.

The first part of the imitation process is to take liquid oils, usually cheap and low quality vegetable oils, and then turn them into solid fats in some way. The chemical difference between fats solid at room temperature and fats liquid at room temperature is that the solid fats have hydrogen atoms in the right place providing a more solid and stable structure. This is why butter is one of the safest fats to cook with. So the spread manufacturers need to add hydrogen atoms to their liquid oils in some way. We used to hear about hydrogenated fats and then we had partially hydrogenated fats, but whether or not the attempt is to fully or partially hydrogenate liquid oils, the process is the same. If the spreads industry are turning liquid fats into solids in a new/non-hydrogenated way – I invite them to share how. (See Post Script)

In the process of hydrogenation, the oils are heated and pressurised and hydrogen gas is added, along with a catalyst, like nickel, to produce a chemical reaction. The idea is that the hydrogen atoms end up in the gaps where they would be in a more saturated fat. Of course, the hydrogen atoms don’t end up exactly where they ‘should’. Some end up on the wrong side of the structure and you end up not with a saturated fat, but with a completely new fat completely alien to the body. These are what is known as trans fats – some atoms have ‘transitioned’/crossed over and are not where they should be. (Do I think that putting alien chemicals into the human body can cause heart disease, cancer and all sorts of harm? I think that I would be naive not to think this).

The substance at the end of this process is grey, smelly and lumpy, so it is bleached, deodorised and emulsifiers are added to smooth things over. The mandatory vitamins are added in at this stage because none could have survived that process. Finally, the stuff needs some colour to make it look edible, so, of course, the preferred colour is butter colour. (Canada retained the strongest legislative position on not allowing butter colour to be used. As recently as July 2008 Quebec became the last Canadian province to repeal its law that margarine should be colourless).[ii]

The processed spread is much cheaper, despite all the industrial operations needed. Real butter needs to come from a real animal and the best butter is hand churned. I checked an on line grocery store at the time of writing The Obesity Epidemic: What caused it? How can we stop it?, and the cheapest butter that I could buy was nearly three times the price of the cheapest spread. The butter was sold in 250 gram packets. The spreads were sold in 500 gram, or one kilogram, tubs.

To conclude the ‘how to imitate butter’ process, you need a health claim, a name and a marketing campaign. The health claim should be twofold: a) this is not a bad saturated fat (tell them what you are not – don’t tell them what you are); and b) add some plant sterols and then ‘sell’ cholesterol lowering ‘benefit’. The name and the marketing campaign go hand in hand. While welcoming any attack on saturated fat generally, and butter particularly, the spread companies launch products called “Utterly Butterly”, “Butter me up”, “Butterlicious”, “You’ll Mutter It’s Butter”, “Don’t Flutter with Butter”, “You’d Butter Believe”, “You’ll Never Believe It, Believe It or Not”, all spawned from the original “I can’t believe it’s not butter.”[iii]

You just couldn’t make this up.

2) How spreads lower cholesterol

There is nothing in the spread itself that would lower cholesterol (please remember we should never try to lower the body’s own production of cholesterol – but we’re working through this scenario to see what these spreads actually do). It is the plant sterols mentioned above that can impact human cholesterol. These can be obtained in tablet form, so no one needs to consume spreads, even if they are misinformed enough to risk consuming plant sterol. (Why didn’t the BHF tell people this and not go near spreads?)

Think of plant sterols as plant cholesterol – just as we humans have human cholesterol. There are several types of plant cholesterol; together they are named plant sterols. A typical Western diet contains approximately 400-500 mg plant sterols, but little is taken up in the gut. Human and plant cholesterol compete for uptake in the gut. So, if too much plant sterol is consumed, human cholesterol falls.

I don’t know about you but I assume that my body is making the cholesterol that it needs and a plant is making the cholesterol that it needs. If we were supposed to be replacing human cholesterol with plant cholesterol I figure that there would be a natural process for this. But then ‘natural’ is rarely lucrative.

So yes, human cholesterol, which is what our blood test measures, will fall if we consume plant sterols but a) this is not natural b) we have no evidence that replacing our cholesterol with plant cholesterol will lower heart disease and c) we have no evidence that replacing our cholesterol with plant cholesterol is safe.

As Dr Uffe Ravnskov, founder of the International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics and author of several books about fat and cholesterol, says: “It is correct that cholesterol goes down if we eat much plant sterol, but that doesn’t mean that it is able to prevent heart disease, because no one has ever tested that in a scientific experiment. What happens is that our own cholesterol is exchanged with a foreign type of cholesterol, not only in the blood but also in our cells and cell membranes. Is it really a good idea? Isn’t it likely that the molecular differences between animal and plant sterols have a meaning? I think so, and science is in support of my view.”

Dr Ravnskov has led the way in trying to investigate what happens if we unnaturally ingest large quantities of plant sterols. He notes that David Jenkins and 16 colleagues had an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association raving about the ‘benefits’ of consuming plant sterols.

Ravnskov uncovered their conflicts of interests as follows: “According to the Conflict of Interest Disclosures ten of the authors were supported financially by Unilever and several other producers of the food types used in the trial. Here is for instance Dr. Jenkins´ list:

“Dr Jenkins reported serving on the Scientific Advisory Board of Unilever, Sanitarium Company, California Strawberry Commission, Loblaw Supermarket, Herbal Life International, Nutritional Fundamental for Health, Pacific Health Laboratories, Metagenics, Bayer Consumer Care, Orafti, Dean Foods, Kellogg’s, Quaker Oats, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, NuVal Griffin Hospital, Abbott, Pulse Canada, Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, and Canola Council of Canada; receiving honoraria for scientific advice from the Almond Board of California, International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research and Education Foundation, Barilla, Unilever Canada, Solae, Oldways, Kellogg’s, Quaker Oats, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, NuVal Griffin Hospital, Abbott, Canola Council of Canada, Dean Foods, California Strawberry Commission, Haine Celestial, and Alpro Foundation; being on the speakers panel for the Almond Board of California; receiving research grants from Loblaw Brands Ltd, Unilever, Barilla, Almond Board of California, Solae, Haine Celestial, Sanitarium Company, Orafti, International Tree Nut Council, and Peanut Institute; and receiving travel support to meetings from the Almond Board of California, Unilever, Alpro Foundation, and International Tree Nut Council.” 

In addition Unilever Research and Development provided the donation of margarines used in the study.

Without the luxury of being funded by spread makers, Dr Ravnskov has found that “several studies have shown that even a mild elevation of plant sterols in the blood is a risk factor for heart disease”. (Further information and references for these studies can be found in Dr Ravnskov’s September 2012 newsletter ).

Ravnskov gives this as a particular example: “Statin treatment lowers blood cholesterol, but at the same time it raises the level of plant sterols. In the 4S-trial [one of the best known statin studies] about 25 % of the patients had a mildly elevated level of plant sterols before treatment. In this group statin treatment resulted in a further increase of plant sterols and the number of heart attacks was twice as high compared with the patients with the lowest plant sterol levels. This means that for about 25% of the many millions of people on statin treatment, their risk of heart disease may increase, not decrease. ”

In spite of that, Unilever still advertise their margarine and other food products with high contents of plant sterols as “heart healthy” and now the British Heart Foundation is part of this scandal.

3) The particular issues with targeting women

Q) Why do eggs contain a lot of cholesterol?

A) Because it takes a lot of cholesterol to make a healthy chicken.

For women to make a healthy baby, they need a lot of cholesterol. The blog showing that high cholesterol is associated with low heart deaths and low overall mortality has details about the functions performed by cholesterol and why it is so utterly life vital to humans. When you understand the vital role that cholesterol plays in every single cell of the human body, not least the reproductive system, you can start to understand why cholesterol is so vital to all humans, and to women having or intending to have children especially. (You may also wonder why on earth such a critical substance for human health has been demonised so comprehensively – the next paragraph will give you a clue.)

Lipitor is the most lucrative of all statins. It has earned Pfizer in the region of $125 BILLION since 1997. The patient leaflet can be accessed here. The leaflet states “Do not take Lipitor
− if you are a woman able to have children and not using reliable contraception
− if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant
− if you are breast-feeding.”

So, even the drug companies know that cholesterol should not be lowered in pregnant women, breastfeeding women or women who could conceive. What about cholesterol lowering products, as opposed to cholesterol lowering drugs? When Flora pro.activ replaces human cholesterol with plant sterols, what are the consequences? When the pregnant woman’s cholesterol level is lowered by taking Flora pro.activ, what are the consequences? Should cholesterol lowering spreads come with a health warning for pregnant women? Breastfeeding women? Women of childbearing age? Are they safe? Let alone healthy? Does Unilever know? Does the BHF know? Do they care? Do you know? Do you care?

Nature makes a natural product for using in any and all circumstances when Unilever would no doubt prefer people to use one of their processed products instead. The natural product is called butter, but then there’s no money for Unilever or the BHF in promoting butter. Shame on both of them.

Post Script: The wonderful Dr. Malcolm Kendrick has found that there is a way of solidifying liquid vegetable oils without hydrogenation. The process is called Interesterification and Wiki tells us how it is done: “Interesterification is carried out by blending the desired oils and then rearranging the fatty acids over the glycerol backbone with, for instance the help of catalysts or lipase enzymes. Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) decrease the melting point of fats significantly. A triglyceride containing three saturated fatty acids is generally solid at room temperature and not very desirable for many applications. Rearranging these tryglycerides with oils containing unsaturated fatty acids lowers the melting point and creates fats with properties better suited for target food products. In addition, blending interesterified oils with liquid oils allows the reduction in saturated fatty acids in many trans fatty acid free food products. The interesterified fats can be separated through controlled crystallization, also called fractionation.”


(Zoe note – the idea that real saturated fats may not be desirable and these manufactured fats may be better suited for ‘target food products’ may refer to the fact that these ‘fake’ fats are cheaper and have a longer shelf life – fine properties for a ‘food’ company, but not for a human).


[ii] CBC News: 9 July 2008.

[iii] “I can’t believe it’s not butter”, Marketing Week, (29 May 1997).

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75 comments on “The British Heart Foundation & Flora pro.activ – an unhealthy relationship
  1. avatar Joanna says:

    I had a Flora Pro-activ yogurt drink for the first time yesterday. I don’t have high cholesterol but wanted to keep my partner (who has) company. I suffer from IBS but haven’t had an attack for weeks but soon after taking the yogurt drink I was doubled up in pain. Can anyone tell me if these drinks are known to trigger IBS attacks?

  2. avatar Chris says:

    My wife has just been told she has high blood pressure and high cholesterol, she attended a well being session at the local GP. One of the recommendations was to give up animal fats, only eat low fat cheese and eat more flora instead of butter. She came away with a sheet that showed good OK and bad foods, all prepared courtesy of Flora! There continues to be so much confusion and contradictions around our eating and life styles, I remember eggs being bad!
    Good article and helpful

  3. avatar M Smith says:

    Thank you for your very interesting article, which I found whilst searching the Internet for the following reason. Do you think it possible that someone could feel ill taking proactive? the reason I ask is because at the moment every time I use the milk in tea or on cereal shortly afterwards I feel quite nauseous. Many years ago I was put on statins for high cholesterol, felt very poorly on it, mentioned it to the doctors who did all the tests again and decided I did not need to take them after all – aagh! I then read all the hype about proactive products and because I did not want to be put on statins ever again decided to start taking them. I am 67 and take proactive milk, margarine and yoghurt type drinks! I have just assumed because my bad cholesterol hasn’t risen that taking them was working, am I wrong? I do suffer from high blood pressure for which I take medication. I do swim 2/3 times a week.

  4. avatar Hussain says:

    Hi dr Zoe
    Thank you for your quick response… I think the cause for my dads 2 heart attacks was probably more to do with smoking a lot, my mums cholestral is about 10.. The dr has prescribed her statins to reduce this which she took for a while but discontinued due to side affects such as pains in joints… I’ve had another blood sample taken and await for my latest results… Hopefully I will speak to shortly… Once again thank you very much… Sorry for asking again but are you saying 7.9 isn’t high???
    Thank you
    Ps.. Are pins and needles in hands and feet and sometimes numbness or part of arm or hand feeling cold or having a burning sensation due to high cholestral??,,

    • avatar Zoë Harcombe says:

      Hi Hussain – I’m not a doctor and I give my view/ things I have found/point to information, not advice, so please read/ask others/decide what is best for you.

      Your dad smoking is a pretty key bit of information! Hopefully that will make you different and set you down a different path. The risk for heart disease and smoking is so strong that I would find this reassuring if I were you.

      On the chart on the ‘normal is not normal’ link in the previous message, any figure from 3.5-9.5 is on the normal distribution, so, by definition 7.9 is normal. It’s higher than the current average, but the current average has been distorted by statins – 7.9 would have been pretty close to the average 20 years ago. It’s certainly not a number that would concern me personally in any way.

      There are a couple of other thoughts (not advice!)/things to think about in terms of having slightly above average cholesterol…
      1) Vitamin D is a known nutrient of critical importance in many health conditions – including heart disease. Vitamin D is made by the body with cholesterol (it’s one of the many vital functions of cholesterol). When sun shines on the skin – cholesterol in the skin membranes is turned into vitamin D. If you are based in the Northern hemisphere (I’ll assume you’re UK based for this bit) then you have not been exposed to much, if any, sunshine since last September. Your cholesterol is therefore as high now to, say, March/April, as it will be all year round because you have not had the chance to make vitamin D. May I suggest that any harm currently being experienced is low vit D? The ‘high’ cholesterol is simply a marker that vit D has not been made.

      2) There is another area of increasing interest to nutritional researchers and heart scientists – why people of Asian origin are suffering relatively more heart disease than their white peers in the same location. If, as your name suggests, you may have darker skin, you need even more sunshine than I do to make vitamin D. The darkest skin humans have lived nearer the equator – where they are best able to tolerate much sunshine without further impact on skin colour and the fairest skin humans have lived in, say, Scandinavia where they have needed very little sun to start changing skin colour. You may need far more sunshine than I do, to make vitamin D. Your best health tip may be to get plenty of oily fish in your diet (excellent source of vit D) and/or consider taking a supplement of vit (D3) in the winter and/or to get out in the sunshine with bare limbs as much as possible when it does come back to our part of the world.

      More things to think about without worrying about cholesterol hopefully!
      Best wishes – Zoe

  5. avatar brian gibson says:

    sorry, didn’t give my age. I’m an active 65 in february. walk 3 miles every day very fast , makes me and my wife feel great . I had a heart attack in 2000 and then a stent, no heart damage so very lucky.would love to hear your reply, many thanks . B .

    • avatar Zoë Harcombe says:

      Hi Brian – you’re not alone in having been conned that emulsified, deodorised, bleached, coloured, hydrogenated (or some other solidifying process), gunge is better than naturally churned butter! Never again hopefully. I personally would never let a statin pass my lips – but – if you’ve been on them for 15 years and haven’t suffered side effects, you may be OK with them. Even the patient leaflet cautions against anyone over 70 taking them, so make sure you re-evaluate at some time. Your walking is awesome – one of the best things you can be doing (and not smoking of course). Sounds like you and wifey are in for good times together :-)
      Best wishes – Zoe

  6. avatar brian gibson says:

    Oh dear , I’ve been worrying about eating flora pro-Active for some time not knowing really what was in it .today i decided to find out some info’ and came across this wonderful article,I’ve been on statins for 15years and thought that giving up butter, although quite difficult would be better for me , not so sure now,! . the flora i have in the freezer is getting the heave ho, have decided to eat butter in moderation , and it does taste good lets face it . thankyou so much for enlightening me ,. Regards B.

  7. avatar Hussain says:

    I am a 41 year old man & have recently had a blood test and was told by the dr that my cholestral level was 7.9… The dr asked me if I have any family members who have suffered from any heart diseases at which I told her that my father had 2 heart attacks at the age of 45… The dr asked me to take statins to which I declined… I have since been eating almonds, nuts, raisins & blueberries & added at least 15 minute jogs to my daily routine… I have read that these foods are good to lower cholestral… I have also started cooking with olive oil… Am I going the right way about it????

    • avatar Zoë Harcombe says:

      Hi Hussain
      This is my view:
      1) 7.9 is entirely normal cholesterol (

      2) There is something genetic/hereditary that should be explored further by docs. I am concerned that they just go for the cholesterol/statin angle without doing proper exploration. This may be of interest –

      You’ve got 2 of the risk factors that you can do nothing about – gender and genetics. You’re young now, but heart attack risk rises with age for everyone. I would be trying to see an open minded cardiologist/heart specialist who won’t just try to put you on statins but will try to understand what you could have inherited because cholesterol has got naff all to do with it.

      3) This may help with the foods that ‘lower’ cholesterol. They replace cholesterol to be more precise and the evidence for the impact of this is not good (

      There’s nothing wrong with the specific foods that you mention but don’t start having these cholesterol lowering spreads as these (as the blog post shares) are not natural and not good for human health. Olive oil is OK to cook with. Like any mostly unsaturated fat, it becomes less stable at high temperatures so if you’re really sizzling a stir fry you may want to use a more saturated fat, like coconut oil. Having said that – we stir fry veg in olive oil because we prefer the taste. We cook fish in butter – more stable.

      The exercise addition is a good one – walking better for joints than jogging – but doing something regularly is great.

      I really would be wanting to understand why my father had 2 heart attacks at 45 and it won’t be cholesterol! If his cholesterol was high (and I mean high – not what docs call high) – it would be a marker that there was damage that cholesterol was trying to repair. The body makes the cholesterol we need for repair – it’s trying to tell us something, not cause something!

      Good luck with your exploration
      Best wishes – Zoe

  8. avatar sona vancova says:

    Hello,luckily,I always used the simple logic that butter,pork fat,goose fat a duck fat are not only
    tastier but natural and I found the taste of margarine strange.I am so happy that we have some brave
    people who also have common sense and tell us the truth about food,the manufacturing processes,additives,the danger of farmaceutical drugs,vaccines etc.The damage which food and farmaceutical industry performs on people is huge and unprecedental in the whole history of human mankind.

  9. avatar juliana callia-long says:

    Hello Zoe,
    I’m a graphic design post-graduate student in London and I’m developing a project on consumer confusion regarding some healthy-claims processed food.
    The margarine vs butter battle is one of my fields of research and your article is very helpful and clarifying.
    I would like to know more about the process of producing margerine, and I would be really interested in talk to someone that could potentially show me this process.
    Would you be able to point me in the direction of someone that would be able to help me in my research?
    I apreciate very much any possible help.
    Many thanks

    • avatar Zoë Harcombe says:

      Hi Juliana – I would start by looking for videos on youtube – not those provided by Unilever and the marg industry. Although those may show you the process – just turn the sound off to miss the hype and PR. You could approach Unilever or other marg makers but they are likely to want to know your end in mind before inviting you in. There’s no way they would invite me in so I sadly have no leads for you!
      Good luck
      Best wishes – Zoe

  10. avatar Paul says:

    Hi Zoe. I am completely and utterly confused about CVD. I am a 65 yr old male. In January this year I had 3 stents placed in my coronary arteries. 2 were 85% blocked and another 60%. I was prescribed an 80mg dose of statin which I stopped after a month because of fairly serious side effects. My muscles all ached and it seemed like my muscles were wasting away. Since then I have been trying to keep my cholesterol numbers down naturally within the prescribed limits but not succeeding. I have now gone back on a low dose of statin (10mg) and immediately my numbers are all great. My doctor is pleased. I have come across your article above and feel completely at a loss again. I don’t know who to believe any more. Since having the stents put in I have taken my health very seriously completely changing my eating habits. I now eat lots of vegetables, lean meat, fish, nuts and fruit. I thought I would help things along by using Flora proactiv ( how I came across your article). I will definitely give it the heave ho now but the issue of high vs low fat and high vs low cholesterol is a big worry for me. I would say in retrospect that prior to getting my stents my diet contained a lot of things like sticky buns, pies, cakes and the like which is what I have thought may have cumulatively over a number of years led to my CVD. I have cut sugar down to a minimum now and exercise every day ( at least one brisk 30 minute walk). My mum is 95 and my dad died at 90 so I should have good genes. I guess to put it in a nutshell I really don’t know if I am doing the right thing or wrong thing with my present regime and I don’t know what caused my CVD. I’d reall appreciate your response to my situation. Best wishes Paul

  11. avatar Chloe7 says:

    Alas, nothing again, about us who have HeFH. I think I was the only person with the disease in the whole world who went onto LCHF with dramatic results which astounded my doctors. My numbers halved on a HIGH FAT, very low carb diet, but alas, for the last year I have become despondent. None of the information ever feature us and we are a fantastic group for a scientist with a pioneering spirit. We would give you all a very good idea about LCHF, but no-one wants to take a chance with us. I’m a bit sick of the whole thing. Doctors frown when they hear I eat high fats, without giving any heed to my wonderful results – so y’know I reckon we, we SHOULD be looked at, are not. I don’t think I care anymore. I have the proof from lancet but cardiologists become so mean spirited and look at me as if I’m the class clown.

  12. avatar Gordon Allen says:

    Hi Zoe, interesting article. Leaving aside if high cholesterol is good or bad, and whether Companies are making huge profits etc”….”…

    You state “your body is making the right amount – food has nothing to do with it and never has”

    Two points:

    (1) there is a view that the body is ‘poor’ at regulating the amount of cholesterol both in evolutionly terms and with regard to mordern the ‘fast food’ culture and associated intake of fat.

    (2) my friend who worked in a physical job and got plenty of exercise started to have pins & needles in his legs and dizzy spells when bending down. His GP discovered his cholesterol level was at 9.6 and established that his diet was predominately ‘pork’ based (particularly his lunches). On changing his diet to a predominantly fish based one plus reducing his alcohol intake, in just 3 months he reduced his levels to 4.6 and all his symptoms disappeared completely (no statins used).

    This is ta very practical illustration to me that the food you eat does/can impact your cholesterol levels.

  13. avatar P.C says:

    What amazes me here is that none of you have been to med school or are medical Doctors,yet you seem to have it all worked out ?.The most logical thing here is not to spread any kind of oil or fat at all on anything,it’s a disgusting habit in the first place

    • avatar ChrisWynter says:

      Well, P.C., it’s called common sense. NOt having been to medical school is a good thing!

      So you avoid fat of any kind? What does your body use for energy? Sugar?

  14. avatar Dave Fiske says:

    Its been pointed out to me that even *flies* don’t partake of margarine. When you consider all the other things that they do eat……. I am a BUTTER man because of that.

  15. avatar P. Young says:

    Thank you for this timely article, Zoe.

    I came here when I saw a Flora-Proactiv ad on YouTube. I was fuming. The industry is still pitching the big lie about how healthy margarine is. It is not only fraudulent, it is deadly. How can a company get away with making such false claims about therapeutic benefits. If this were a drug there would be disclaimers galore and hell to pay for deceptive practices.

    It’s one thing to claim that your dishsoap is better than the next but when you claim that it cures male erectile dysfunction, you have gone a step too far.

    Mind you, I am sure ladies would love a dishsoap which actually DID that. It would give a whole new meaning when the wife says, “Why don’t you wash the dishes and I’ll take a nice long bath”.

  16. avatar jackie says:

    I have just had the worst 4 weeks of my life with unexpected health problems and believe it all started when I started using Flora Proactiv for the first time in my life, combined with soy yoghurts & so called healthy Burgen Bread containing flax. I have been post menopausal for 15 months and in the past few weeks I have felt sick, dizzy,ill,bloated,developed enormous painful breasts and now have the start of a very weak period after feeling ovulation occur! I have STOPPED eating all these products and symptoms are dying down although this forced me to go to the doctor (I am not a regular) who has referred me for a womb scan etc.,etc.. which has now thrown me into a panic!My cholesterol as 6.5 by the way which is why I decided to do all this. Good grief I am off to have a slab of toast with healthy unadulterated BUTTER!

  17. avatar Michael Cosky says:

    This is really confusing as Flora Australia says on their website that it actually helps lower cholesterol, wouldn’t BHF like that?

    • avatar Zoë Harcombe says:

      Hi Michael – Flora does lower cholesterol but why would you want to do that? (Links in the post above) and you need to know how Flora lowers cholesterol (also above). Not sure what you’re confused about.
      Best wishes – Zoe

  18. avatar Naomi Rosenberg says:

    I “can’t believe” you missed out my favourite example! Available in Netto, it went by the name of:

    “What, not butter?”

  19. avatar sabelmouse says:

    i’m thanking my lucky stars that i listened to my body when i was pregnant despite low fat vegan leanings.

  20. avatar Liza Scrivens says:

    The Flora advert is just pandering to the worried ‘well’, what is wrong with a cholesterol level of 6 anyway ?
    By the time we’ve finished taking multi-vitamins, mineral supplements, vitamin D in our fat-free yogurt we will have topped up the turnover of so many vested interests at the expense of our farming community producing real food.

  21. avatar Patricia Smart says:

    Hi Zoe,

    I’ve just come across this site while looking for somewhere to complain about Flora Pro- Activ’s latest advertisement which I saw in the press this weekend (11 Jan 2014)- the one about the whole county of Rutland being subjected to this product. I was absolutely appalled – how do they get away with stating so blatantly, several times, that high cholesterol is a risk factor in the development of heart disease when this has never been proved and as is now known, over a certain age you lower your cholesterol at your peril. Not to mention the fact that statistics show that most people who die from CHD actually have ‘normal’ to low cholesterol! Apart from being downright dangerous, does this not contravene the Advertising Standards?

    At the age of 70 I am slim, fit and healthy with cholesterol of 5.9. I only wish I could increase it!!! Needless to say I am continuing to eat cream, lard and butter and will not be touching statins or Flora Pro-Activ with a bargepole.

  22. avatar Lyn says:

    Having had a stent put in a 96% blocked artery and also having a heart murmer, you can understand my concern about the tablets I am taking and my diet. I take Simvastatin, bisoprolol fumerate, aspirin and perindopril (relatively small doses). I do get patches of tiredness and my bones seem to ache a lot but I have been putting it down to my age.

    Having been a smoker, one thing I found out before I quit was that smoking interferes with the production of HDL cholesterol (good). Higher HDL cholesterol helps to balance out LDL cholesterol (bad). Wish I had known that years ago. Apparently, it is the balance between the two which is more important rather than the overall cholesterol figure. Is this the case? Do statins target both types of cholesterol or just the bad?

    Where can I find out about this as all the mixed messages we get today are confusing and worrying. By the way, I love butter and really want to get off the Flora junk I have been eating for so long.

  23. avatar larry says:

    Hi Zoe I am 6 ft slim 73 kilos had an event 17 years ago, fixed with angeo plaste no stent, have been on statins ever since. At time of the event cholesterol was 13 has been about 3 ever since then. I am active exercising, walking and golf twice a week. Now I feel pretty good, and very lucky to be having good health. I don’t want to go off statin in case my cholesterol sky rockets and I have another event. I can see merit in your theory but there is also merit in my history. What To Do ?

  24. avatar elaine says:

    P.S. Forgot to say I have been on Flora Pro activ Spread for 3 years no Butter or Margarine !!!!!
    Thanks Elaine

  25. avatar elaine says:

    Recently I had my first ever Cholesterol Test at 67 ,Sainsbury were doing the Flora Pro activ free test
    I have never smoked or drank ,I weigh 9st 10 lb am 5″4 ” I swim 4 times a week at 7am 32 lengths ,I walk at least 3 miles a day look after 3 horses & a dog ,run a house & garden 2 acres !
    I never eat meat ,just Fish ,chicken Turkey ,Follow a low fat diet as I have had gallstones for 20 years ,I only ever drink Skimmed or 1 % milk
    So probably not your typical candidate
    I happened to be in Sainsbury’s at 8.30 am after getting up at 5.30 as usual doing my horses ,driving 10 miles swimming 32 lengths then driving 35 miles to arrive in Sainsbury’s at 8.30 & noticed their Free testing ,I was told they could fit me in then as I had only had a coffee at 6am ,so was OK .
    After 4 attempts to get blood which was coagulating in the machine I finally got the result 5.80 !!! and advised to return after Christmas for a retest .
    What am I to make of that ,cant be more active ! Cant eat more healthily .Wish I’d never had it done !

  26. avatar James says:

    Hi Zoe,
    I found your article very interesting. I was on statins for about 2 years with varying side effects.The first statins made me very dizzy after a few days so I was put on a different make.The side effects of these were very subtle and took a period of time to appear. I nearly gave up my job as I was so tired/fatigued all the time and then my shoulder joints started to ache. I made several trips to my doctors who did several blood tests which revealed nothing. At this time neither of us suspected the statins. After some research on the internet where I found that my symptoms could be side effects of the statins I returned to the doctors as we decided that I would stop taking the statins and reduce my cholesterol by diet and exercise. Within a week the tiredness and joint ache disappeared.
    So I then decided to use a cholesterol reducing spread which seemed ok.The first spread I used was Benecol light and then changed to Flora pro active light. Just recently my joint aches came back. On researching I found out that the flora had 12 and 1/2 % plant sterol estern but the Benecol had only 7% plant stanol ester.
    After reading your article I have decided not to use these spreads at all. I will let you know if my aching joints disappear.
    Thanks again.

  27. avatar Lucy says:

    Now I might have got this wrong, but as far as I understand, high cholesterol isn’t a ‘major risk factor for developing heart disease’, it is an indicator you ALREADY HAVE IT, and it is doing its darndest, despite your doctor’s best effort to stop it, to put that disease right again. A bit simplistic maybe, but is this wrong?

  28. avatar Joe Courtney says:

    Hello Zoe, been on statins (low dose) for years my level is. 4.2′ should I come off them and should start on butter after being on pro active for years

  29. avatar julia smees says:

    Hello. Have just come across this site, interested as I have been refusing to take statins as no family history of heart problems, have low blood pressure and no other health issues at the age of 76. I do have serum cholesterol level 7.74, serum triglycerides 0.97 and serum HDL 2.12.
    Nurse at a heart review worked out a ratio of 3.7 and 7/8 risk .Dr. still wants me on statins, she believes my body makes high level of cholesterol not my food. The article seems to suggest the body knows what is good for it. At height 5foot, weight 56.5 I am considered borderline overweight.

    • avatar Zoë says:

      Hi Julia – you sound like you’re doing pretty marvelously! Even your weight is great for your age – it is ideal for humans to be carrying some in reserve for situations of illness. The scrawny died young in times gone by – those with some coverage survived the harsh times. My 79 yr old mum had an emergency appendectomy in January and lost about 20lb during the crisis. Thank goodness she had about 20lb to lose!

      You may find this post interesting too: The higher your cholesterol, the lower your risk of death – from heart disease and all causes of mortality. The graphs are particularly striking for women. Show that to your nurse.

      Your nurse is shockingly unaware of studies showing that cholesterol is particularly important in older people – lower cholesterol is strongly associated with higher deaths for good reason – because cholesterol is so utterly life vital. Your body is making the right amount – food has nothing to do with it and never has. Since cholesterol is the essence of every cell in the body, as we age, we need more to repair and protect. If you had surgery or an injury, your body would make more cholesterol to heal you.

      The brain uses 25% of the cholesterol of the body so the last thing you want is dementia/to lose your mind because of an ignorant health official!

      As a final thought – you may like to ask nursey why the patient leaflet for the most lucrative statin – Lipitor ( warns against anyone taking the drug over the age of 70?!

      Hope this helps
      Very best wishes – Zoe

  30. avatar Catherine Reynolds says:

    Zoe – I note that the BHF have a new, fund-raising ad. It features a 13 year old girl who died from heart disease, and the footballer, Patrice Maumba (I apologise if that’s spelt incorrectly!). What struck me is that neither of them represent a “typical” victim, i.e. overweight, smoker, drinker, non-exerciser. Perhaps the irony of this ad, compared with the one you have written about, has escaped the BHF?

  31. avatar Joy says:

    Fantastic article. You have put down in words what I have been suspecting and muttering about for some time, particularly when the pro activ adverts come on TV. Have always been suspicious of BHF and Flora, especially as the Flora logo was on the diet sheet a rather zealous nurse recently gave me when she was trying to condemn me to a life of boiled chicken and statins! Thank you

  32. avatar Charlotte Sliney says:

    Well done Zoe – another sensible and revealing article. I do admire your persistence and knowledge. With reference to the comment on Statin side effects I have long proclaimed the same with the dreaded blood pressure tablets and the ridiculous targets set for these. I worry for all those people who don’t realise that the horrible ailments they are suffering are mostly caused by their medications. After severe joint pains, dehydration, headaches, breathlessness, cracking skin and generally feeling ‘one degree under’ I have refused to take BP medication and feel so much better for it. After all it’s only a number and we are all different.

  33. avatar Paul Kayley says:

    Hi Zoe, I too get really pissed off with the misinformation this Charity is ignorantly spitting out! It has so much credibility in the UK too! I am extremely impressed with this heart disease hypothesis by Dr. Chris Masterjohn, who I’m sure you know about. It’s one step ahead of the Lipid Hypothesis, more The Degenerated Lipid Hypothesis. This is well worth the $18 – “Molecular Degeneration: The New Paradigm” available at

    Keep up the great work, Paul

    PS. I hope Dr. Malcolm Kendrick is not recommending the aforementioned unnatural process?

    • avatar Zoë says:

      Hi Paul – absolutely not! He is just one step ahead – as always – for when they say “Ah but we don’t hydrogenated our gunge any more”!
      Top dude!

  34. avatar Paul says:

    Superb Zoe. I wish this blog and message could get a wider audience. Regretfully I suspect that most people will accept the word of the BHF simply because it is the BHF. Disappointingly the BHF should know better, but I realise the Unilever will have donated handsomely! Cynical, moi?!

  35. avatar Wendy says:

    Zoe. A reply to your reply to me on Jan 27th. I have had the ‘Urgent’ messages left on my answerphone..Call Doctor Cholesterol came back at 7.1 ..I must restart taking my statins!! I have not…I have read and watched so much that I am determined to charge of this now. I feel so much better. I have even been in the garden this morning in all the snow flurries pottering about. I’m out of this depressive fog that I’ve seemed to be in for a long time…at 53 everyone told me ”the age thing”…NO I do not believe that any more. There are several other things that I have found much improved but would be ”To much information” on a public site. I have noticed though Zoe that there are a lot more voices out there now that are seriously questioning all this Statin hype….keep up the good fight..i certainly am….

  36. avatar Catherine says:

    Ellie – I agree that perhaps Dwight Lundell might not have been the very best example to use regarding the real causes of heart disease, but what he writes in the article I mention is borne out by quite a number of other sources which are equally easily googled.

  37. avatar Catherine says:

    Hi again, Zoe – as I feared, my husband has been hoodwinked into taking another drug (and it isn’t described as a statin) to lower his already minuscule cholesterol. Ezetrol. He has also been told it won’t give him side effects like the Simvastatin did. Of course, I googled it, and found a great long list of possible side effects!! I’ve printed this list out, because I can guarantee he hasn’t read the leaflet with the drug. He’s waiting on the results of a blood test (yes, they really did prescribe him this before they’d seen his current cholesterol level!!), and I’m trying to persuade him to ask loads of questions when he goes back to the GP. But you know, I’m sure, how difficult that can be! He’s now been diagnosed with osteoarthritis in his knees, and I’m trying hard to persuade him that following a low-carb diet will reduce not only his weight, but the effects of the arthritis, too. If anyone can suggest ways I can convince him, I’ll be delighted!

  38. avatar Paul_UK says:

    Stumbled across your article when looking for a Flora/BHF competition. I was duped by the Flora pro active marketing many years ago and have unfortunately eaten loads of the stuff since. Recently I watched a TV programme titled something like ‘100 things to do to be healthier’ and cutting out hydrogenated fats was one of their 100. Also lambasted the artificial sugar replacements too i.e. aspartame/sacarin/canderel/etc. Have you given your views on these products too? The bottom line seems to be eat natural products that don’t need artificial manipulation – I’m looking forward to a little butter on my toast and little sugar in my tea.

    • avatar Zoë says:

      Hi Paul – you are not alone in having been duped – successive governments have told people to have marg instead of butter! Incredible. Yes – aspartame etc are also pretty bad. Google “dangers of aspartame” and prepare to be worried. Natural is always best. Enjoy your butter!
      Best wishes – Zoe

  39. avatar mike says:

    Heart UK is a rather sad place to visit, with a very small pool of regular commentators/posters and many poor bewildered folk looking for answers. I’ve had deep reservations about their tie in with their sponsors as well, and when the cholesterol hypothesis finally goes down the tubes (sadly not in some time soon) then some folk there will be hurting for a crust:

    From Heart UK audited accounts 2011

    Staff costs: £236,650.
    Staff numbers: 6
    Average renumeration (stated as no individual gets more than £60,000) £39,441.66

    From 2012
    Staff costs £162,370
    Staff numbers 4
    Average renumeration (stated as no individual gets more than £60,000) £40,592.50

  40. avatar Ellie_London says:

    Unfortunately I do have some skepticism about anything written by Dwight Lundell. If you Google him you will see why. Not sure he is someone we should be listening to…..

  41. avatar Wendy says:

    Zoe : I am waiting for the results of my ”Cholesterol” after asking my GP. I want to stop taking the Atorvastatin after an enlightening issue on holiday recently. I had left my tablets at home by mistake. Not worrying that it was anything life threatening I knew I could manage the 2 weeks without them. I was amazed that after a few days all these joint pains and muscle aches that I could never decide whether they were down to the Statins or the Rheumatoid that I have disappeared!! I felt so much better! And what annoys me is that I took some nasty strong medication for the other condition after saying about how stiff my joints etc were…whta have I pumped into my system?? I firmly believe that these symptoms were the Statins! After reading your report I shall be telling my GP I will not be taking them again. My last check was 4.8…. but She says that the EU now want it lower. How can you get the power’s that be to take all these arguments against seriously?

    • avatar Zoë says:

      OMG Wendy – thanks so much for sharing this. One day the medical profession will be sued for what they have done – for people like you that day can’t come soon enough. You will likely have a fight on your hands with your GP – which is additionally horrific. You may like to take him/her a copy of the 2012 Yoseph & Yoseph book “How statin drugs really lower cholesterol and kill you one cell at a time.”

      You can demand the evidence from your GP as to why doctors try to lower cholesterol even to 5 – let alone lower. You may enjoy this presentation ( Watch for 10 mins from 40 mins in if you don’t have time to watch it all. It explains how the committee behind the cholesterol targets is a who’s who of the statin drug industry!

      This really makes John Grisham novels look like Jackanory
      Good luck!
      Very best wishes – Zoe

  42. avatar Catherine says:

    Hi, Zoe – yes, the cholesterol thing is really worrying me. My hubby is also on something called bisoprolol fumarate, and had the dose raised from 2.5mg to 5mg per day back in December by his consultant. He’s now complaining of cold, aching feet, and, if I’m lucky, I get an hour’s company from him in the evenings before he falls asleep in his chair! Tiredness and circulation issues are known side effects of this drug, and it’s only since the raised dose that he’s had these. Thankfully, I think he’s actually listened to my concerns this time, and is going to get on to our GP today to ask about it. I find myself becoming more and more disillusioned about drug treatments, especially those for heart conditions, as with my husband. Dwight Lundell’s article really raised my hopes that perhaps our medical profession will consider taking another look at the “advice” we’ve been given for so long. However, I won’t be holding my breath!!

  43. avatar Catherine says:

    Hi, Zoe – yet another wonderful “stripping bare”! I, too, detest that Flora advert. I was delighted to find this article on Tom Naughton’s website, written by an eminent American heart surgeon, Dwight Lundell. The person who contributed it wonders if he hasn’t been taken out and tarred and feathered by the rest of the medical profession and the makers of Lipitor!! I have decided to print out the article for my husband – he’s being threatened with being put back on statins at the moment, and I really wish he didn’t have such faith in the medical profession. He’ll say to me “You’re not a doctor, how do you know that it would be bad for me?” and I have to remind him how ill he was, and how much pain he was in when he was taking them last year, and how all this disappeared within a couple of days of him stopping them. The stupid thing is, despite him having a cholesterol reading of less than 4 (which as we know means nothing, really!), they STILL want to put him back on the statins.

    That’s an impressive list of companies to whom Dr Jenkins is connected! How could anyone take the man seriously having seen that? But they will.

    • avatar Zoë says:

      Hi Catherine – I actually said “OMG” out loud when I saw your hubby’s cholesterol reading and they want him on statins! That’s why Tom and I do what we do! He’s just much funnier than I am :-)
      Best wishes – Zoe

  44. Unilever used to the “heart healthy” symbol on their products for years in Sweden in a sponsorship/financial deal with the Heart-Lung Foundation, Sweden’s equivalent of the British Heart Foundation. The Heart-Lung Foundation has now terminated their relationship with Unilever because of their concerns over the limited scientific support that margarine is healthier than butter.


  45. avatar Helena Wojtczak says:

    Brilliant article Zoe, thank you. Will be emailing it to my friends. x

  46. avatar sunnystripes says:

    A friend of mine who used to work for the BHF told me that the staff (including non research/medicalstaff) can attend occasional lectures about heart disease. They were told it was best to avoid spreads and eat butter!

  47. avatar Lorraine says:

    Interesting article. It reminds me of companies like McDonalds and Coca Cola sponsoring the 2012 Olympics – also not a healthy relationship. Obviously, as you mentioned difference being that the BHF do not prosper promoting margarine – which makes it more silly advocating a processed food like Flora.

  48. avatar C SWAN says:

    With reference to your point

    “The leaflet states “Do not take Lipitor
    − if you are a woman able to have children and not using reliable contraception
    − if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant
    − if you are breast-feeding.”

    Pretty much most drugs have this warning UNLESS the drugs have actively been studied in those patient groups…….not just Lipitor

  49. avatar Elaine Hamnett says:

    Brilliant Zoe , this advert worries me also. It’s about time that this misinformation was challenged and you have done a great job of explaining it here. The message of how good butter is needs to be proclaimed.

  50. What a fantastic article, thank you Zoe! I’m sharing it with my friends.

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