You are here

Enjoying Our Butter

I know many of you have shared a history with me: quietly enjoying our butter even during the height of the margarine celebration in the saturated-fat-phobic 1990’s and early 2000’s. As is always the case, the paradigm began shifting from the outside. The Weston A. Price Foundation was founded in 1999 and embraced the principles of traditional eating, including many ways to savor butter and other saturated fat. Gary Taubes released his still-best-selling Good Calories Bad Calories in which he suggested that the culprit in our fattening diet (circa 1970 onward) has been the bread, even the whole wheat bread and not the butter. Eyebrows shot through the roof, and the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition  published a meta-analysis AGREEing that the finger-pointing should stay on breads and cookies when it comes to the blame for heart disease. Specifically, the saturated fat of red meat and butter could not be seen to be at blame. Time Magazine came full circle, from its unhappy face of bacon and eggs in 1984 to a well-loved curl of butter celebrated on the 2014 cover.

Continuing to Ponder...

Two recent articles appeared again looking at saturated fat and heart disease. In 2016 in the British Medical Journal, some prominent docs, including cardiologist Dr. Aseem Malhotra said we just have to stop thinking that saturated fat “clogs up” our arteries as if they were an obstructed pipe in your kitchen.

  1. First error: it just doesn’t work that way. When arteries narrow (and cause heart disease) it’s because inflammation thickens the walls of the arteries, which eventually rupture and plaque is the band-aid that can cause the problems.
  2. Secondly, when you actually look at direct pictures of blood vessels of the heart, specifically in postmenopausal women, greater intake of saturated fat was associated with less disease, while carbohydrate and polyunsaturated fat (think canola oil) were associated with worse disease.

Again in the BMJ, Zoe Harcombe writes this year to correct some misunderstandings. While dairy and red meat contain saturated fat, most dietary saturated fat comes from processed foods: meaning the fat has been altered, so the processed foods are akin to the hazardous toast on which the butter has been blamed. 

Dietary bottom line: Eat real food, not processed food, fearing not any food in its natural form, including red meat and butter. Cook at home and avoid processed food, which is likely more problematic from its carbohydrate content than its fats. (And Dr. Weston A Price would tell us that the damage to the fats in the processed foods is likely one of the worst culprits.)

Another Battleground for Butter

This one is almost too silly to report but it’s true, so: a normally esteemed journal, Brain, Behavior and Immunity, has published a study in which poor adult coping skills were blamed on adolescent diets … high in saturated fat! The silver lining is that there have been more people debunking the study than those repeating its findings.

Thankfully, the brilliant Dr. Georgia Ede in her Psychology Today column picks the study apart for us. The research subjects were rats and the harmful diet contained more saturated fat, more monounsaturated fat, more calories, and more than 17 times the amount of sugar as the routine diet. “Hmm, which component should we blame?”

Bottom Line on butter studies often turns out to be the same: the devil is in the design and particularly: the devil is in the disclosures. The study damning saturated fat was conducted at Loma Linda University, an avowedly vegetarian promoting institution.

Please enjoy your red meat, butter, and eggs knowing that they are better for your heart than the toast you can just as easily skip.

Related Articles: