Once and for All, is Eating Butter Bad for Your Health?

It is important to note that butter has started with a bad reputation. So much so that it was considered a staple food among peasants in the Middle Ages. However, a new study emerged in 2014 disproving the long-established myth about the bad effects of butter or saturated fats. It has been the cover story for various media outlets. “Butter is Back,” said The New York Times.  Another headline from the Daily Mail in February 2015 made butter lovers ecstatic, “Butter ISN’T bad for you after all…”

Journalist Nina Teicholz even launched a book about it (The Big Fat Surprise), and further claimed that “There has never been solid evidence for the idea that these [saturated] fats cause disease.” Let’s take a trip down memory lane and look at the various scientific studies and dietary advice that either demonizes or exalts butter to healthy status.

1901 New York Times advised the public to consume salted butter because the unsalted variety has a lot of bacteria.

1913 Butter was banned from an all-girls’ school because they are bad for the health.

1923 A study conducted on pigs revealed that butter and margarine prevent Vitamin A and Vitamin D deficiency.

1924 The sale of butter substitutes like oleomargarine was forbidden by law in the Dominion of Canada because the latter was chemically-treated and as such was a low-grade product compared to butter.

1948 A survey from the Journal of the American Medical association revealed that butter and margarine have equal nutritional value.

1950s A popular research indicated that diets high in saturated fat are linked to higher deaths from heart diseases. Many experts believed it was flawed because the author only gathered data from six countries that fit his hypothesis and ignored the data from 16 other countries.

1983 National guideline advised that overall fat consumption must be reduced to 30 percent. Furthermore, a $150 million study concluded that reducing fat and cholesterol consumption cuts heart risks.

1998 Margarine with low trans fat is better than butter, according to a research conducted by Dr. Margo Denke of the University of Texas of Southwestern Medical Center.

2015 According to a meta-analysis of 15 randomized clinical trials conducted by Cochrane Collaboration, replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat is useful in reducing cardiovascular risk. Replacing saturated fat with carbs and protein has no significant effect.

2016 The latest study published in the BMJ (British Medical Journal) showed that replacing saturated fat with vegetable oil (linoleic acid) lowers cholesterol levels in the body, but doesn’t lower the mortality risk from cardiovascular diseases.

The verdict: If the lessons of saturated fat in history teach us anything, it’s that experts are still split about the effects of butter on our health. The American Heart Association and other health authorities still recommend replacing saturated fat such as butter with polyunsaturated fat alternatives. So, though butter may not be as harmful as what recent studies claimed, the consensus still points that moderation is the key to healthy eating.

About the Author - Aileen Barro

Aileen Barro holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology and loves to educate people about health and diseases through writing.
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