Guest article by Sam Hadadi
Is it OK to Eat Butter After All?
For years, butter has been off the menu as scientists, researchers and health bods demonised this beloved spread, making us believe that we needed to bin it in order to stay in shape.
However, it may well be time to put butter right back on kitchen tables up and down the country. In fact, contrary to decades of advice, a major new study has revealed that butter may not actually be all that bad for us – and it doesn’t raise our risk of heart disease.
Flipping popular opinion on its head, the review of nine studies (involving more than 600,000 people) found that butter had ‘no significant association’ with any type of cardiovascular disease, including coronary heart disease and stroke.
However, as a word of warning, researchers working on the study also warned that foods normally dished up with lashings of butter, such as white bread and potatoes, could be bad for health.
Whatever the story, this is just the latest in a long line of research which suggests that butter has been given an unfair rep.
So, what’s the story? In this newest review on butter, researchers analysed nine studies tracking 636,151 healthy adults. In each study, the amount of butter people ate varied and would range from one-third of a serving to more than three servings each day.
Over ten years, less than 10,000 of these adults developed cardiovascular disease, or a similar problem, and just under 24,000 developed diabetes. Based on this, researchers concluded that butter consumption has no effect on cardiovascular problems and, actually, is linked to a slightly lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
The paper concluded: “Together, these findings suggest relatively small or neutral associations of butter consumption with long-term health… A major focus on eating more or less butter, by itself, may not be linked to large differences in mortality, cardiovascular disease or diabetes.
“In sum, our findings do not support a need for major emphasis in dietary guidelines on butter consumption, in comparison to other better established dietary priorities.”
What Does This Mean for Us?
As you probably know, butter is fairly high in saturated fats (one serving contains around 7 grams), which for decades became the enemy of low-fat dieters and the enemy of health experts across the globe.
However, the researchers believe that because we were so hell-bent on demonising saturated fats, we may well have overlooked other beneficial aspects of butter and its overall effect on the body.
When they looked at it like this, researchers concluded that we don’t need to avoid butter altogether. In fact, they described butter as a “middle of the road” food – something which is healthier for our body than sugars and starches but less healthy than alternatives such as olive oil.
Yet before you start adding lashings of butter to your diet, go easy – health experts and charities are still warning that we shouldn’t be eating too much.
Tracy Parker1, Heart Health Dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, told the Telegraph: “Whilst the findings of this review indicate a small or neutral association between butter consumption and increased cardiovascular risk, it does not give us the green light to start eating more butter. More investigations are needed into the effects of saturated fat.
“To protect your heart health we would recommend a balanced Mediterranean style diet rich in fruit, vegetables and pulses.”
Butter: What’s the Story?
For many of us, we grew up with low-fat spreads, margarines and so-called “healthier” options to butter. This creamy, delicious spread plummeted in popularity when it was vilified (along with other saturated fats) way back in the 1950s.
During this time, research suggested a link between high dietary saturated fat intake and deaths from heart disease. However, what we failed to realise is this – the study author based his findings on data from six countries, choosing to ignore a further 16 which didn’t fit with his hypothesis.
While it may sound incredible, butter was branded with a bad rep based on this seriously flawed study and it stuck. In fact, because of this, ever since the 1970s, many of us have been advised to cut down on fat and avoid foods such as butter (and, yep, coconut oil too!) altogether.
Of course, research has come on in leaps and bounds and we now go nuts for coconuts. Yet is it time for butter to catch up? If saturated fats aren’t that damaging, then why should we be avoiding this delicious food?
If you do fancy adding some butter to your life, then make sure it’s with grass-fed, all-natural butter such as Kerrygold. Unlike processed forms of butter, the delicious grass-fed (which, as you can probably tell, comes from grass-fed cows) is higher in heart-healthy omega-3s, CLA (a powerful antioxidant and immune booster and has also been linked to fat burning) and vitamins A, K, D and E.
When it comes to your health, we truly believe that it pays to arm yourselves with as much knowledge as possible. That’s why we’re always keen to update you with the latest food and health research out there. If you want to do some extra reading, here are some of our favourite pieces on saturated fats:
- NHS Saturated Fat and Heart Disease “Link’ Unproven
- Trans Fats and Not Saturated Fats Linked to Heart Disease
- Saturated Fat Advice “Unclear”
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