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Butter for Heart Health?

Since we got a head start and talked about health benefits of dark chocolate just the other day, we’re moving on to a new "heart healthy" food — butter.

Butter????

Yup, you read that correctly … the food that has continually been thrown under the bus and gotten a ton of bad press is now the newest "health food"…

…at least according to a study out in the March 2010 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

OK, OK … I can’t put words in the author’s mouths.  They didn’t quite call butter a “health” food or "heart smart", per se, but their findings were surely interesting.

Here’s the deal.  

Saturated fats have long been thought of as artery clogging, heart disease causing "killers"…eat too many and you increase your risk of heart disease

Butter is primarily a saturated fat. butter is a health food

Therefore, you can draw the logical conclusion that when you eat too much butter … voila, you increase your risk of heart disease.

But then this study comes out of Harvard evaluating if in fact saturated fat truly is associated with heart disease. 

The researchers did what’s called a meta-analysis, or in other words, scoured the available data on this topic (in this case, 21 different studies with a total of nearly 350,000 men and women), pooled the data and analyzed the combined results.

And their conclusions were “….there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk (of heart disease).”

Well this led to a flurry of reports, articles, and press releases suggesting butter is now “healthy.” 

Isn’t the world of nutrition fun?

Butter has about 7 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon.  Now, granted, there are different types of specific fatty acids that make up saturated fat and they have different health properties.   But we won’t go there in this piece.

At the end of the day, I believe the recommendation should not be everyone start adding butter to their daily diet…after all, butter is still a very dense source of calories (same amount of calories per tablespoon as olive oil or even super heart healthy fish oil).

…but will a little bit of butter hurt?  Not in our opinion.  

Worse than the butter itself are the refined carbs you’re spreading it on … the dense, white, doughy bread, bagels, muffins, croissants, etc. 

And, similarly, the processed fat in all those products too (outside of the bagel, which is just a doughy mess).  Leave the processed foods behind and choose REAL foods, with few ingredients.  Buy unsalted and butter has 1 (cream).  

Remember, though, this one analysis doesn’t convince me that we should eat butter (or any fat for that matter) by the spoonful.  And, yes, I’ve had more than one subject in our research studies do that …

Mohr Results Bottom Line: Saturated fat should make up about 1/3 of your total fat intake.  So if some of that 1/3 comes from butter, have no fear. It’s when you’re sitting at home or in a restaurant and putting a giant pat of butter on every bite before you eat it that we have a problem.  Or when you take the “butter is healthy” message that was in the media and use it as an excuse to go hog wild and replace all other fats with butter only. 

Just because a little is fine, doesn’t mean a lot is better.  Just like the dark chocolate is healthy message.  A little is OK, surely don’t live on it.

 

26 Responses to Butter for Heart Health?

  1. Tammi T April 21, 2010 at 7:39 am #

    I really can't stand margarine so I use butter.  I believe that exercising moderation in its use is better in the long run then eating a stick full of butter-like chemicals.
    I find it interesting that saturated fat is now making its way into studies as not being as not being connected to heart disease the way it was first thought to be.  This very same information is being used to tout coconut oil as a healthier alternative.

  2. Kelly the Kitchen Kop April 21, 2010 at 8:45 am #

    I think it's all about common sense.  What have people been eating off their farms for years and years?  A processed margarine full of junk you can't pronounce?  Or just butter/cream?  I don't limit butter or coconut oil or anything with healthy fat (I don't eat it by the spoonful, but I use as much as I want in our food), and I feel great.  High energy, never sick, strong immune system.  I don't buy low fat anything – those are all fake foods.  The whole saturated fat myth was based on bad science.  If they're saying butter is good for us now, give it time, they'll change their mind with the next "study".  I'll just keep eating traditional foods from safe sources and buy as few foods in boxes as I can.

    • Tracy April 21, 2010 at 12:23 pm #

      You have to think about the lifestyle of the farmers back in the days.  Yes, they ate butter/cream, big beef steaks, bacon, lots of eggs, etc…., but they also worked.  I mean, worked!!   HARD work, every day!!!   They could afford to eat like that, and they were healthy.   Also, the kids ate like that, but did you ever see any of them sitting around watching tv or playing games on tv or computer??   No, they were outside playing and usually playing hard.  They didn't even know what a couch potato is.    I agree with you, it is about common sense. 

      • Elizabeth @ The Nourished Life April 22, 2010 at 10:01 am #

        Research shows that activity level and hunger are regulatory responses to metabolic function. Basically, if you're more active, you're more hungry and vice versa. So yes, maybe someone who is extremely physically active all day may eat more butter than someone who doesn't, but it doesn't change the fact that butter is a natural, wholesome food that should be part of virtually everyone's diet.
        Also, appetite regulation can be disrupted by hormone imbalances, and butter contains a wealth of valuable fatty acids that promote healthy hormone production. Not to mention healthy fats lower the glycemic index of a meal. Plus, eating real fats can provide energy to cells in the body. So natural fats like butter can actually have a naturally positive effect on hunger regulation and allow the appetite to naturally come into balance with activity levels.

  3. Michele April 21, 2010 at 10:26 am #

    Just out of curiousity, what do you think of the Smart Balance butter blends and the Smart Balance oil/cooking spray?

  4. Michele April 21, 2010 at 10:26 am #

    Just out of curiousity, what do you think of the Smart Balance butter blends and the&nbsp;Smart Balance&nbsp;oil/cooking spray?</p>

    • Kelly the Kitchen Kop April 22, 2010 at 7:33 pm #

      I tried to do a "reply" to Michele's question above but it's not letting me.

      Michele, I know you were asking the authors and not me, but I'll jump in on the Smart Balance question…
      It's a fake food.  Look at the ingredients in the Smart Balance "67% buttery spread":

      NATURAL OIL BLEND (PALM FRUIT, SOYBEAN, CANOLA, AND OLIVE OILS), WATER, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF SALT, WHEY (FROM MILK), VEGETABLE MONOGLYCERIDES AND SORBITAN ESTER OF FATTY ACIDS (EMULSIFIERS), SOYBEAN LECITHIN, POTASSIUM SORBATE, LACTIC ACID (TO PROTECT FRESHNESS), NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS, CALCIUM DISODIUM EDTA, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, VITAMIN B6, VITAMIN B12, VITAMIN D, VITAMIN E (DL-α-TOCOPHEROL ACETATE), BETA-CAROTENE COLOR
      Now look at the ingredients in butter:
      Cream, salt.
      Just eat the real thing and other real foods and see how you feel.

      • Chris and Kara Mohr April 23, 2010 at 7:05 am #

        You also have to think about who eat butter religiously, who may also be overweight/obese, have elevated lipids, etc. In these cases, switching to a trans fat free product that is significantly lower in saturated fat would be a good first step in my opinion.

        • Kelly the Kitchen Kop April 23, 2010 at 7:32 am #

          I completely disagree with your reply on butter above.  That would be true if the saturated fat myth were true, but it's a big farce.
          Watch this:
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8WA5wcaHp4
          Fake foods don't make anyone healthy.
          Kelly

          • Chris and Kara Mohr April 23, 2010 at 8:36 am #

            We also have to look at this from a calorie perspective. I was recently with a NFL player who needs to lose about 50 lbs — he is eating 7000+ calories each day — my position, then, is what are simple steps he can take, for this example, to cut calories without asking him to do a major overhaul at this point because that simply isn’t practical in real life. In an ideal world, yes, that would be great — overhaul the entire diet, focus on local produce, few ingredients, etc, but sometimes clients aren’t so agreeable and make no change. I appreciate your comments and continued feedback! Thanks, Kelly

  5. Charles Welling April 21, 2010 at 11:30 am #

    Kelly hit a home run in comment #2 above. The only thing I would add to this conversation is that if the butter comes from grass fed cows (which is to say they NEVER eat a conventional diet of corn, etc) then the chemistry of the butter is all the more life enhancing what with it's good balance of essential fatty acids and other healthy attributes. Butter from grass fed cows is the only kind our family eats. Now if you want a true hard-core health food butter — try raw unpasteurized butter from grass fed cows!
    For those still not convinced and who prefer their margarine, try this experiment. Put a stick of margarine and a stick of butter out on the window sill. You will see that the bugs go after the butter but won't touch the margarine. What does that tell you?

  6. Charles Welling April 21, 2010 at 11:31 am #

    <p>Kelly hit a home run in comment #2 above. The only thing I would add to this conversation is that if the butter comes from <strong>grass fed cows </strong>(which is to say they NEVER eat a conventional diet of corn, etc) then the chemistry of the butter is all the more life enhancing what with it's good balance of essential fatty acids and other healthy attributes. Butter from grass fed cows is the only kind our family eats. Now if you want a true hard-core health food butter — try raw unpasteurized butter from grass fed cows!</p> <p>For those still not convinced and who prefer their margarine, try this experiment. Put a stick of margarine and a stick of butter out on the window sill. You will see that the bugs go after the butter but won't touch the margarine. What does that tell you?</p>

  7. Debby April 21, 2010 at 1:13 pm #

    Kelly took the words right out of my mouth.  :)  Couldn't have said it any better.
     

  8. Debby April 21, 2010 at 1:14 pm #

    <p>Kelly took the words right out of my mouth.&nbsp; :)&nbsp; Couldn't have said it any better.<br /> &nbsp;</p>

  9. Carrie Grant April 21, 2010 at 2:41 pm #

    I love butter the way some women love shoes!  I just don't like the taste of the fake stuff.  But I do have to be careful about too much of a good thing.  What is you favorite tasting butter alternative (or do you have one)?

  10. Trina April 21, 2010 at 4:51 pm #

    My favorite butter alternative?  Depending upon what it's being used for, it'd be olive oil, coconut oil, or lard.  The only downfall about butter for me, is that I eat more bread and crackers, because I LOVE the flavor of grass fed, churned butter.  Oh, SO good! 

  11. Trina April 21, 2010 at 4:51 pm #

    <p>My favorite butter alternative?&nbsp; Depending upon what it's being used for, it'd be olive oil, coconut oil, or lard.&nbsp; The only downfall about butter for me, is that I eat more bread and crackers, because I&nbsp;LOVE the flavor of grass fed, churned butter.&nbsp; Oh, SO good!&nbsp;</p>

  12. Kim April 21, 2010 at 5:43 pm #

    I was a vegan for years and suffered from tremendous health problems. I added coconut oil and, yes, butter from pastured cows, to my diet and voila…I didn't feel like an 80 year old trapped in a 28 year olds body.
    My dietary theory? Don't eat anything that was created in a lab in Boise (or any other place) and if a great-grandmother couldn't have given the definition of an ingredient- stay far, far away.

  13. David April 21, 2010 at 6:18 pm #

    I would like to see a blog post with your thoughts on Conjugated linoleic Acid (CLA) and if it has any effect on reducing abdominal fat or if it is even close to some of the marketing claims.  I really appreciated your review of the literature on Green tea and its effect for fat metabolism.  Based off of your review I have stopped taking the pill form and drink about 3-4 cups a day.
    Thank you for your time.
    Sincerely,
    David
     

  14. ivy April 21, 2010 at 8:03 pm #

    <p>There is always 'too much' of a 'good thing'. That's the definition of 'too much'. However, most people could stand to increase their consumption of butter and other good (saturated) fats by quite a lot. We go through a couple of pounds of butter a week in our house (as well as all that meat and eggs tracy was talking about) And no – we're not farmers – we sit at a desk like most people these days and don't even go to a gym. We need to put the idea to bed that 'everyone' was 'hard working farmer' in 'those days' or that plain decent food like whole milk,  cream, eggs, cheese and meat is the cause of weight gain and poor health</p>

  15. justine April 21, 2010 at 8:07 pm #

    I find it interesting that the general consensus is that people are overweight because they are more sedentary.  What people forget in addition to this, is that the Media, " latest scientific studies" and people in general like to overcomplicate things.  All of a sudden it's like "Newsflash!" butter may not be the bad guy!  I mean seriously? It's nothing new, our ancestors knew that, if only people paid attention.
    Some things to understand in keeping it simple.  Fat doesn't make you fat.  Your phobia of fat makes you fat.  If you want to lose weight, get healthy first.  If you want to eat real food that nourishes your body and your brain – eat BUTTER.  I eat mine with Veggies on the side ;)

  16. Raine April 23, 2010 at 10:00 am #

    Pretein and saturated fat foods from healthy animals raised without chemicals and on pasture are some of the most nutrient-dense in the world – more so than vegetables, which people are always screaming that we must eat more of. Now I'm not saying vegetables are bad, in fact, I believe they are very important, but you need to eat your vegetables, fruits and carbohydrates with saturated fat, because many of those foods contain fat-soluble vitamins that without saturated fat, cannot be assimilated properly into the body. Butter is a traditional food that has been consumed for thousands and thousands of years. By contrast, margarine, vegetable shortening, and all other fake fats are an industrial by-product of the chemical industries. Know how Crisco was invented (not too far from margarine)? The Proctor and Gamble brothers were looking for a cheap replacement for lard and tallow to make soap and candles. The meat industry was monopolizing lard and tallow and driving prices up, so P&G hired a chemist to hydrogenate cottonseed oil for making their products. It looked so much like lard, they decided to sell it as a food. So that's what you are eating when you consume margarine, shortening, and many other false fat products. That's why your arteries are clogging, not because of saturated fat. Which do you think your body can recognize in the digestive process – a nutrient-dense, energy-filled food from the earth or a mass produced, synthesized-in-a-lab through hydrogenation fake industrial by-product? It's pretty simple when put into those terms.
    Being sedentary can cause problems, but not to the extent that has been reported. You should find an exercise you enjoy and do it when you can. By and large, exercise has not been a predictor of weight loss. What you eat is the indicator.
    Eat your butter, abundantly! You should have much more saturated fat, by the way, than most modern advice claims. Remember, Inuit and native people who live near the North Pole have no fruits or vegetables and eat a diet comprised primarily of saturated fat. They have some of the lowest heart disease and blood pressure problems of anyone in the world.

  17. Abigail @ Sugar Apple April 24, 2010 at 4:51 pm #

    Funny, I just wrote about this yesterday.  My answer is, of course, butter.  http://www.abigailblake.com/sugarapple?p=2760.
      

  18. Melissa @Cellulite Investigation April 26, 2010 at 6:32 am #

    Butter from grass-fed cows contains fat soluble vitamins, essential fatty acids, and a good mix of omega-3s and omega 6s, it also contains lecithin, a type of fat emulsifier. I’ve heard from many women who have LOST their cellulite after switching to a traditional diet heavy on the butter, coconut oil, and other natural fats.

  19. Brian Walpole September 7, 2012 at 4:00 am #

    Raw, organic butter balances and harmonises your body ecology, promoting heart health, glowing skin and longevity. Eliminating fat from your diet is definitely not what nature meant for us. It is a nutrient that deserves its due just like all the others. Contrary to all the propaganda linking butter and heart disease, recent studies have concluded that you should indeed eat more real butter as it contains some vital nutrients that actually protect the heart.

  20. ogachris May 18, 2013 at 12:55 pm #

    butter is not bad guys, but as we all knows’ too much of everything is bad…………. So be carefull

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