Malachi Oluwaseyi Israel
Shea butter is the edible fat extracted from the nut of African Shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa). Consequence of having half of its fatty acids saturated, Shea butter melts at a very high temperature and will be a suitable raw material for margarine production. Margarine is a butter mimicry that is produced from vegetable oils and water. The production of margarine requires a solid fat. Hence hydrogenation is employed to “harden” the vegetable oil. However, hydrogenation generates trans unsaturated fatty acids which are more detrimental to cardiovascular health than the highly denunciated saturated fatty acids. Since Shea butter is a stable solid at room temperature and has its saturated fatty acid fraction predominated by stearic acid, the use of Shea butter as a raw material for margarine will not only eliminate trans unsaturated fatty acids from the product but also make use of the least deleterious saturated fatty acid because stearic acid has been reported as the healthiest saturated fatty acid as regards cardiovascular health. Also, the unsaponifiables of Shea butter have been credited for their anti-hypercholesterolemic effects in experimental animals. This increases the healthfulness of dietary Shea butter, and of course, the margarine end product.