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Recently shared throughout the media was a raft of hype on the revival of butter, but is it a food that we can enjoy with abandon? Or should we be avoiding it at all costs?

A meta-analysis recently undertaken may have provided us the answer.

The status on butter

Analysing 9 publications and 15 country-specific cohorts, 636,151 million people were identified as review participants to see if there is a correlation between butter consumption and the incidence of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and total mortality.

Servings on average ranged from 1/3 of a serving to 3.2 servings of butter per day, with one serving equating to 1 TBSP (14g).

Researchers found only small or insignificant findings to correlate increased or decreased consumption of some butter with cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and total mortality.1

The authors state the results do not state a cause or effect, and butter is kinda sitting on the fence.

So, this dairy-based source of saturated and monounsaturated fats mightn’t be a health food, but may not be the nasty ‘unhealthy’ piece of work once thought.

Loving fats

Including some fat in your every day is critical for health. Fats are needed for brain and nerve function, act as anti-inflammatory agents, and are needed for the absorption of particular nutrients such as vitamins A, D, E, and K and phytochemicals carotenoids and lycopene. They can also leave you feeling fuller for longer.

But the type of fat we eat matters.

What the study authors aren’t saying is that we can go hell for leather on butter, but we can enjoy it in moderation as part of healthy, whole food rich diet.

Yes, it is better for you and less processed than a typical trans-fat laden marg. Trans-fats, also known as hydrogenated fats, often begin as polyunsaturated fats that have undergone a lot of processing. Fat molecules when heavily processed or deep fried interact with our cells differently and can encourage inflammation, and less HDL and more LDL cholesterol production.2

On the flip side, consumption of fat-rich whole foods, such as fish, olives and nuts, that contain polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and some saturated fats, and have been correlated with positive health outcomes, especially when replacing heavily refined and processed grains, sugars, and trans-fat oils.

Ultimately, we want to relish a variety of foods that are minimally processed and as close to their original form as possible.

So butter may be enjoyed in moderation, but remember the other great whole food options out there too! For example, use avocado or a nut butter as spreads, and olive oil in cooking. All satisfying, equally yum, and each can offer additional health benefits :)

By Angela Johnson (BHSc Nut. Med.)

 

References:

  1. Pimpin L, Wu JHY, Haskelberg H, Del Gobbo L, Mozaffarian D 2016, ‘Is Butter Back? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Butter Consumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes, and Total Mortality’, PLoS ONE, vol. 11, no. 6.
  2. Gropper, S & Smith, J 2013, Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism, 6th edn, Wadsworth Cengage Learning, Belmont, CA.