Although butter is about 80 percent fat and mainly composed of saturated fat, it is a valued component of many traditional diets. The association between milk fat and blood lipids is ambiguous, and a paradox. Contrary to popular opinion, not all saturated fat is bad for us, particularly a short chain saturated fat, butyric acid which is found in butter and has been proven to provide health benefits as discussed in “Is Your Food Killing you?”. Caproic, caprylic, and capric acids, palmitic acid and stearic acid are other saturated fats in milk and milk products such as butter that have been shown to have beneficial health effects. https://www.neverbashfulwithbutter.com/ Several studies show no convincing evidence that dairy products increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and that milk or milk products like butter is harmful. Some older studies indicated that a moderate intake of milk fat may reduce the risk of cardiac diseases but this has been ignored. In support of these studies, a recent Swedish study (October 2009) which looked at the effects of eating fruit and vegetables to prevent heart disease, found that eating fruit and vegetables is only of benefit when combined with a medium or high intake of dairy fat (butter and cream and full fat milk). Without the dairy fat, not only was there little or no benefit from eating your 5 portions, the fruit and vegetables but actually increased risk of a heart event by 70%!
There have been many studies that demonstrate that saturated fat is not nearly as bad as it has been made out to be and that the supposed causal relationship between saturated fats and heart disease may actually be a statistical bias. If saturated fat consumption caused heart disease then eliminating it from the diet would prevent the illness. Before 1920 coronary disease was rare in US. Today heart disease causes at least 40% of US deaths. In the US, the intake of saturated fats decreased by 7g/day per person whilst vegetable oils increased by 39g/day between 1900 and 1972, a period when heart disease went from being virtually unheard of to becoming the number one killer in the USA. From 1910 to 1970, the proportion of traditional animal fat in the US diet declined from 83% to 62% and butter consumption declined from 18 to 4 pounds per person per day. In comparison the percentage of dietary vegetable oils in the form of margarine, shortening and refined oils has increased about 400% while the consumption of sugar and processed foods has increased about 60%. If eliminating saturated fat didn’t stop heart disease from developing, it is logical to assume there is another cause or that if saturated fat plays a role in heart disease, it is in combination with other factors.
Recommendation to lower saturated fat intake was based on a single marker of health outcome-a correlation between dietary saturated fat and the incidence of coronary heart disease, with blood cholesterol being the indicator of potential disease. The fact that cholesterol may not be the main predictor for risk of developing heart disease has been ignored. In reality, dietary saturated fats may not contribute to increased risk of cardiovascular disease as the review from numerous studies that have been conducted on cholesterol and saturated fats are inconclusive. A recent study (European Journal of Nutrition, 2009) cautions the recommendations to reduce saturated fat in the diet below current guidelines and in context, because replacement with dietary carbohydrate can confer to an increased cardiovascular disease risk.
Margarine’s lesser amount of saturated fat is good, but its hydrogenated oils or trans-fats (TFA) are not. In clinical studies, these trans-fatty acids fats tend to raise total blood cholesterol and participate in increasing the risk of heart disease along with other diseases and cancer. As food manufacturers, bakeries and restaurants move away from TFAs because of laws banning its use, interesterified oils replace TFAs (see the health implications of interesterified oils in “Is Your Food Killing you?”). Interesterified product may be TFA-free, but it will still contain chemical residues, hexanes and many dangerous breakdown products full of free radicals during the processing of the interesterified oils. As there is no guarantee that “no trans fats” in margarine means margarine is safe as labelling regulations allow manufacturers to label as “No Trans-fats” or “Zero Trans-fats” if less than 0.5 grams of TFA per serving. Taking into account the naturally occurring TFAs consumed together with these “zero-trans fat” meals very quickly achieves the daily recommended limit of 2 g per day as recommended by the American Heart Association.
Which would you consume, butter or margarine? Of course, the best option is to not to spread your toast with anything! Unfortunately, it is very difficult to have dry toast. There is not harm in consuming butter as long as it is not excessive and as long as you have a balances diet also containing unsaturated fats. What a lot of us do not know is that butter actually has 30% monounsaturated fat, which is the same fatty acid in Olive oil. Butter also has polyunsaturated omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids although these occur in small but nearly equal amounts. This excellent balance between omega-3 and omega-6 acids prevents the kind of problems associated with over consumption of omega-6 fatty acids. Butter is rich in selenium, lacking in most foods and which is essential for DNA repair. Butter, besides being rich in beneficial fatty acids, is also an excellent source of vitamins A, D, E and K. Vitamins A and D are essential for growth, for healthy bones, for proper development of the brain and nervous systems and for normal sexual development. Vitamin E is an antioxidant and its presence in butter makes it unnecessary to add synthetic and poisonous preservatives such as sodium benzoate, which are commonly added to margarine and other spreads.
Vitamin K is a family of fat-soluble compounds including the naturally occurring phylloquinone (vitamin K1) and menaquinone (vitamin K2). Recently, it was reported that vitamins K1 and K2, exerts a variety of biological effects including being cardio protective, essential for blood clotting and for bone maintenance. These compounds are expected to be candidates for therapeutic agents against various diseases. A recent study (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2009) showed a link between aging and vitamin K in mice. Another study (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2008) suggested an inverse association between the intake of vitamin K2, but not that of K1, and prostate cancer. Vitamin K1 is found in the green tissues of plants. Humans appear to have a finite ability to absorb vitamin K1. Vitamin K2 can be further subdivided into menaquinone-4 through -14. Many bacteria that populate the microbial ecosystem of the human intestine synthesise vitamin K2 (MK-5 through MK-14). While this synthesis of vitamin K in our digestive tract can contribute to our vitamin K requirements, this contribution is less than previously thought. When animals e.g. cows consume vitamin K1, part of it is converted into vitamin K2 (MK-4) and this vitamin is found in the butterfat of milk and the organs and fats of animals. Consuming milk or butterfat milk products of these animals is a good way of obtaining natural source of Vitamin K2. Foie gras or fatty goose liver is widely consumed in France, a country well known for having the lowest rate of cardiovascular mortality. It turns out that foie gras is the richest known source of K2. Natural forms of vitamin K have no proven toxicity. Interactions between the vitamins mentions above exist to maintain a healthy lifestyle.