Heart disease was rare in developed nations at the turn of the century. Between 1920 and 1960, the incidence of heart disease rose precipitously to become the number one killer. During the same period butter consumption plummeted from eighteen pounds per person per year to four.
It doesn't take a Ph.D. in statistics to conclude that butter is not a cause. Actually butter contains many nutrients that protect us from heart disease. First among these is vitamin A which is needed for the health of the thyroid and adrenal glands, both of which play a role in maintaining the proper functioning of the heart and cardiovascular system. Abnormalities of the heart and larger blood vessels occur in babies born to vitamin A deficient mothers. Butter was and is still is recognized by many as the most easily absorbed source of vitamin A.
Butter contains lecithin, a substance that assists in the proper assimilation and metabolism of cholesterol and other fat constituents.
Butter also contains a number of anti-oxidants that protect against the kind of free radical damage that weakens the arteries. Vitamin A and vitamin E found in butter both play a strong anti-oxidant role. Butter is a very rich source of selenium, a vital anti-oxidant--containing more per gram than herring or wheat germ.
Butter is also a good dietary source cholesterol. What?? Cholesterol an anti-oxidant?? Yes indeed, cholesterol is a potent anti-oxidant that is flooded into the blood when we take in too many harmful free-radicals--usually from damaged and rancid fats in margarine and highly processed vegetable oils. A Medical Research Council survey showed that men eating butter ran half the risk of developing heart disease as those using margarine. It's not surprising when you see how margarine is actually manufactured.
Study co-author Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Massachusetts, said in a statement that butter should not be demonized. The findings "do not support a need for major emphasis in dietary guidelines on either increasing or decreasing butter consumption," the researchers wrote in their study.
Just like coconut oil, butter is relatively high in saturated fat, which used to be considered a "bad" fat, but that logic is being reassessed by experts around the world. Increasingly, researchers are looking at the overall effects of eating certain foods, rather than focusing on specific nutrients by themselves, the researchers said. That's because the combination of nutrients in a food, like butter, may have a different effect on people's health than any single nutrient alone.
In the new study, the researchers analyzed information from nine earlier studies that together included more than 636,000 people in 15 countries who were followed for 10 to 23 years, on average. During that time, 28,271 people died; 9,783 were diagnosed with heart disease; and 23,954 were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. The average amount of butter that the people in the studies consumed ranged from one-third of a tablespoon daily to 3 tablespoons daily.
A daily serving of butter (14 grams or about 1 tablespoon) was linked with a 4 percent reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.
There was no relationship found between eating butter and being diagnosed with heart disease, the researchers said.
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.
Do You Need Organic Butter?
Yes, absolutely. The quality of your butter is highly dependent on the source. Cows fed GMO grains, drugged, vaccinated and kept in small quarters their whole lives will only result in toxic milk and consequently, toxic butter. If people were willing to pay a good price for high quality butter and cream, from cows raised on natural pasturage and through reputable organic practices, the health benefits are endless.
Since conventional butters often contain dangerous pesticides, antibiotics and added growth hormones, you must pursue organic sources for optimal nutrition.
Indeed, the Pesticide Action Network North America ranked non-organic butter as one of the top 10 foods most contaminated with persistent organic pollutants (POPs), toxic chemicals linked with breast cancer, immune system suppression, nervous system disorders, reproductive damage, hormone disruption and more!
Besides containing toxins, non-organic butter also is less nutritious than organic butter... less creamy... and less tasty. Is there any reason to buy any butter that’s not organic? Well, organic butter is more expensive than conventional butter -- but the difference in a household’s overall budget is truly small, especially now that national grocery chains, such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, are offering their own organic store brands.
Butter's Amazing Compounds
Butter consists of butterfat and trace amounts of milk proteins and water. You may be surprised to hear that butterfat is butyric acid, which is basically the same substance that mothers produce to nourish their babies.
Butter’s beneficial components include...
- Antioxidants. Beta-carotene, selenium and other antioxidants shield the body from free-radical damage.
- Butyric acid. This short-chain fatty acid supports colon health.
- Conjugated linoleic acids. CLAs fight cancer, build muscle and boost immunity.
- Iodine. Butter is rich in iodine, which is essential to thyroid health.
- Lauric acid. A medium-chain fatty acid, lauric acid encourages the body’s immune system to fend off yeast and other infections.
- Lecithin. This phospholipid protects cells from oxidation and may contribute to cholesterol metabolism.
- Vitamin A. Butter contains the readily absorbable form of vitamin A, which is a must for eye and endocrine health.
- Vitamin D. This vitamin helps your body absorb calcium to maintain strong bones and plays a role in reducing your risk for chronic diseases such as osteoporosis, heart disease, and colon and other cancers.
- Vitamin E. Anti-inflammatory vitamin E speeds wound healing, promotes skin health, enhances immunity and may protect against a host of illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
- Vitamin K. Proper blood clotting and bone health are among the benefits offered by fat-soluble vitamin K.
Saturated fat and cholesterol have been falsely demonized by manufacturers of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs. Since butter is typically used in small amounts, this can be a good place to get the fat your body needs, not only for optimal health but for life itself. Every cell in your body contains saturated fat and cholesterol, which contribute to proper digestive function, growth and other essential processes.
Natasha Longo has a master's degree in nutrition and is a certified fitness and nutritional counselor. She has consulted on public health policy and procurement in Canada, Australia, Spain, Ireland, England and Germany.