Is Butter Really That Bad?

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Thursday, 30 June 2016

New research has found that butter have little to no link with heart disease and can actually protect against diabetes.

The researchers believe that butter should not be ‘demonised’ and went as far as to suggest that it could be healthier than the potatoes or white bread we often spread it on.

Findings from the study showed only a weak link between butter and total mortality and that butter is not linked to heart disease. The researchers found that it even offers a positive effect in the prevention of diabetes.

Centred on a potential search of numerous online medical and academic databases and a systematic review, the researchers recognised nine eligible research studies. These included 15 country-specific groups that represented 636,151 individuals with an overall total of 6.5 person-years of follow up.

Throughout the entire period of investigation, the combined group of studies included 23,945 new-onset cases of diabetes, 28,271 deaths and 9,783 heart diseases cases. The researchers combined the studies into a relative risk meta-analysis.

Across all nine studies, consumption of butter was standardised at 14g a day, which works out roughly as one tablespoon

On the whole, average butter consumption across the studies varied from around one third of a serving each day to 3.2 daily servings. The study found mostly insignificant or minor associations of each daily butter serving with total mortality, diabetes and heart disease.

Dr Laura Pimpin, study leader and former postdoctoral fellow at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University said that although people who eat a lot of butter tend to have worse lifestyles and diets in general, overall it seemed fairly neutral.

Now a public health modelling data analysist at the UK Health Forum, Dr Pimpin went on to say that the study suggests that butter could be a ‘middle of the road’ food – healthier than starch or sugar, for example the potato or white bread we commonly spread our butter on (these have been associated with a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes), but a worse choice than margarines and cooking oils. Examples include those that are risk in healthy fats, such as canola, extra virgin olive oil, flaxseed or soybean. Dr Pimpin said theses would be likely to lower the risk in comparison to butter, sugars, starches or refined grains.

The study’s senior author, Dr Darius Mozaffarian, said that on the whole, the results recommend that butter should not be thought of as a bad food, nor should it be considered a path to good health.

He said that more research is necessary to gain a better understanding of the perceived potential lower diabetes risk, which other studies of dairy fat have also suggested. Dr Mozaffarian said that this could be a real link or caused by other factors linked to consuming butter. He concluded that their study does not evidence cause and effect.

The findings of the study are published in the PLOS ONE journal.