We’ve always been told to stay away from butter, but scientist have found that it actually has little negative impact on total mortality and does not worsen cardiovascular health. In fact, according to research published in PLOS One, it may help to protect against diabetes.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture noted in 2014 that consumption of butter in the U.S. was at an all-time high. Because of this the authors of the current study felt an investigation into the impact of butter consumption would be highly relevant and timely.
Experts have been rethinking the focus on isolated macronutrients, such as saturated fats, and their impact on chronic conditions. Now, there is instead, a call toward food-based paradigms, which might better take into account the fact that the specific fatty acid profile of one food that is rich in dairy fat will be different from the profiles of other foods. A range of items that are similarly high in dairy fats may also contain other substances that could have different lipid and metabolic effects. Yogurt and certain cheese have been found to have metabolic properties that may help to prevent type 2 diabetes, in spite of being dairy fats.
There is a high level of saturated dairy fat content in butter, but how this impacts total mortality, cardiovascular health and diabetes is unknown. Laura Pimpin Ph.D, a former postdoctoral fellow at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Technology, and researchers from Tuft University in Boston, MA, wanted to see if there were any links between butter consumption, chronic disease and all cause mortality. They carried out a meta-analysis, where they systematically reviewed data for 636,151 people in nine research studies, in order to calculate the relative risk of consuming butter. This covered 15 country specific cohorts and the subjects were followed up for a total of 6.5 million person-years. Of this period there were 28,271 deaths, 9,783 with cardiovascular disease and 23,954 cases of new onset of type 2 diabetes. They considered standard consumption varied between 1/3 of a serving per day to 3.2 per day.
The overall finding of each daily serving of butter was linked minimally with a risk of CVD (not all total mortality) and inversely with diabetes, apparently offering some protection against this chronic condition. This suggests there is relatively small or neutral association of butter with mortality, CVD and diabetes.
Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the School of Nutrition Science and Technology at Tufts suggests that butter should not be demonized (nor seen as a route to good health) upon the given results of the study. The good news is that although it is common for those who eat more butter to have less healthy lifestyles and diets, the overall results seem to be fairly neutral. As a result, butter may be a middle-of-the-road food and a more healthful choice than sugar or starch, that might have a higher risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
If you pay close attention to all those cooking shows and experts, they wouldn’t dream of using something other than real butter. So, enjoy that buttered popcorn and don’t feel so guilty. Just remember to use organic butter in moderation and don’t push your luck.
-Dr Fredda Branyon