Despite New Study on Butter – It’s Still a Treat

Posted 08/02/2016 | By HealthCorps

Research recently published in PLOS One suggests that all saturated fats may not be equal, when it comes to cardiovascular health and saturated fat may help to protect against diabetes.

It has been current opinion by most cardiologists that saturated fat is artery-clogging fat and more than limited consumption is a significant risk factor for heart disease. Dietary guidelines currently suggest restricting sources of saturated fat in your daily diet. Saturated fat largely comes from animal sources. In 2014, the USDA shared data suggesting that consumption of butter was at an all-time high. This may have been in part due to a crackdown on carbohydrate consumption, since processed carbohydrates were implicated in rates of obesity, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes. Consumption of processed carbohydrates had surpassed consumption of healthy fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. With the mandate to “cut carbs” many consumers reintroduced fats back into their diets, including saturated fats like butter. The authors of this new study decided it was a good time to review the available research on butter and its link to cardiac disease.

Some experts have recently been re-thinking their views on singular macronutrients like saturated fat, wondering if the science was really solid on its link to certain chronic health conditions. The perspective fueling this reevaluation is that these macronutrients may also contain other substances that could modify lipid and metabolic effects. So the working question for the researchers was, “Is dairy-based saturated fat somehow different from other saturated fats and does the science clearly show that butter negatively impacts cardiac health?”

Butter clearly contains high levels of dairy fat. Researchers carried out a meta-analysis, looking at the data from 636,151 people in nine research studies in an effort to calculate the risk of consuming butter. The reviewed studies covered fifteen country-specific cohorts and subjects were followed for a term equal to 6.5 million person years. During the follow up period there were 28,271 deaths, 9783 cases of heart disease, and 23,954 cases of diabetes. The researchers used the standard daily amount of butter recommended by the FDA, about 14 grams or one tablespoon of butter daily.

Across the data gathered, average butter consumption actually fell between a third of a serving and 3.2 servings daily. The researchers extrapolated that each daily serving of butter was linked minimally or not at all with cardiovascular disease risk, and inversely linked with diabetes, meaning it may actually offer some protection against this specific chronic disease.

The findings suggest a small or neutral association between butter and mortality, cardiovascular disease, and also diabetes. Still the lead researcher cautions consumers and health professionals to take a middle of the road approach when it comes to butter. It may indeed be a healthier choice than a refined bread roll or a white potato, but it may also fall far short of healthy oils like soybean, canola and olive oil, which actually reduce risk of heart disease (when compared to white carbohydrates or butter). So have a little and enjoy it, but don’t make it out to be a super-health food. It’s not!!

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