Ever since the 1950s, when Ancel Keyes published his hypothesis that the consumption of cholesterol – specifically cholesterol from animals – is a contributing factor in the development of heart disease, the consumer public has been afraid of fat. All kinds of fat, but specifically that which comes from animal sources which is high in cholesterol. Eggs have been demonized. Cheese has been a target. Meat still is being discouraged even being the best source of B vitamins and micronutrients any human can consume. And, of course, with the margarine and soft spread manufacturers, butter has been verboten. After all, butter is pretty much a stick of saturated fat.
As the years have gone on, at least in the last ten, anyway, Ancel Keyes’ hypothesis is being systematically debunked. One study after another has demonstrated that natural fats in the form of true extra virgin olive oil, unrefined coconut oil, fresh eggs, and even meat are not the culprits in heart disease. In fact, heart disease did not become a problem on a mass scale until natural fats were replaced in the diet by trans fats, the seed oils that are heated to extremely high temperatures, hydrogenized, and then bleached in the process that keeps these oils solid, smelling less than rancid and increases their shelf life.
Now, it’s butter’s turn to be vindicated. In an effort from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science at Tufts University, researchers combined the results of nine separate studies of people in 15 different nations. Of the 636,000 people’s eating habits data compiled by the Tufts team:
- Butter consumption averaged one-third of a tablespoon to three tablespoons daily.
- 9,783 were diagnosed with heart disease.
- 23,954 were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
- 28,271 died of a variety of causes.
The findings suggested butter may be a “middle-of-the-road” food, said study co-author Laura Pimpin, also of Tufts University. For example, butter may be healthier for you than foods high in sugar or starch, which have been linked with an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes, Pimpin said.
The study actually did show a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes with a single serving of butter (one tablespoon) per day.
Butter is actually similar to coconut oil in fat content. Both are dense sources of saturated fats, but they are also loaded with nutrients. Butter is a rich source of Vitamin A, as well as a source of Vitamins D, E, B12 and K, all necessary for optimal health. And, with such a small number of people out of hundreds of thousands being diagnosed with heart disease, butter on its own is definitely NOT the culprit in the development of arterial plaque that gives us heart disease.
Authors of the study do stress that organic butter is best given the diet most cows in the United States are fed prior to milk production, but the bottom line is that it’s okay to eat butter again.
More and more the “French Paradox” is not so paradoxical at all. They eat far more fresh, natural fats, and have a fraction of the heart disease. Maybe they’ve been right all along.