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Better Butter

Butter may soon be good for you, with a little bit from help from red wine. Auckland University of Technology researcher Mark Duxbury is working on producing a healthy type of butter, by incorporating red-wine tannins into it.

Duxbury and researchers at Auckland University's Medical School have spent the past three years researching natural, phenolic, antioxidant compounds (commonly called tannins), and the benefits they have in preventing heart disease. These compounds come from grape skins and are found in red wine.

Research overseas has shown that drinking moderate amounts of red wine does lower the risk of heart disease. Local researchers have found that New Zealand red wine has beneficial effects because it reduces cholesterol oxidation and increases bloodflow. Duxbury plans to take that research a step further by transferring the benefits of red wine to butter.

"It is well-known that eating butter is related to increased rates of heart disease. So it is likely that by adding red-wine tannins, the negative effects butter has on the heart could be reduced."

"People already cook with wine and butter, so all we are doing is taking two natural products and putting them together, yet it has the potential to make cooking healthier. When you cook with wine, the alcohol evaporates leaving the tannins behind in the butter fat," he says.

By mixing the tannin into the butter before processing, high quantities of tannin can be added. However, the actual amount of wine needed to counteract the butter is not yet known.

"As far as I know there has never been any research into using tannins in butter, so I don't know yet how much will be needed," he says.

Duxbury has just begun the research, and expects to produce an edible, healthy butter that can be tested within two years. Until then, he suggests adding red wine to cooking when using butter, or even better to use vegetable oils and drink moderate amounts of red wine.