Contrary to popular belief, consuming butter does not increase a person's chances of developing heart disease, a new study revealed.
However, this does not mean that butter offers any real health benefit, researchers said. In other words, butter is neither good nor bad for the health.
The Effects Of Eating Butter
Butter is a beloved staple in the American diet, but its saturated fats have long been considered as unhealthy for heart health.
In recent decades, guidelines against saturated fats arose from the 1970 Seven Countries Study, which matched high levels of saturated fats with high levels of heart disease. Since then, research has painted a "demonized" picture of saturated fats.
Now, instead of reviewing a broad category such as saturated fats, experts focused on a more specific type of food.
Researchers examined data that were combined from nine separate studies, looking at the relationship of butter consumption with different health outcomes.
Eating butter did not significantly change people's incidence of coronary heart disease, stroke or cardiovascular disease, the study found.
However, it did see a small link between overall mortality and butter: each tablespoon of butter (equivalent to 14 grams) taken daily was associated with a 1 percent higher risk of mortality.
On the other hand, the same tablespoon of butter consumed daily was also linked to a 4 percent lower risk of developing diabetes, researchers said.
There Is A Middle Ground
Epidemiologist Dariush Mozaffarian said butter should neither be antagonized nor considered as the road to good health.
"This is neither a health food that should be sought out, and ... it's not a food that should be avoided at all costs," said Mozaffarian, senior author of the study and an expert from Tufts University.
Laura Pimpin, co-author of the study and also from Tufts University, says their findings indicate that butter is "middle-of-the-road" food.
"[I]t seemed to be pretty neutral overall," said Pimpin.
For instance, butter may be healthier for you than food high in starch or sugar. In contrast, butter may be bad for you compared to other cooking oils and spreads that contain "healthy fats."
These alternatives include canola, soybean, extra-virgin olive oil and flaxseed. Such spreads and oils have more unsaturated fats, which are considered healthier than saturated fats.
Meanwhile, the study has several limitations: it does not prove any cause-and-effect relationship between butter and heart disease as well as butter and diabetes. The results of the research were associations only. Further research must be done to better understand the risks and benefits of butter.
Details of the study are published in the journal PLOS ONE.
Photo: Ben Frantzdale | Flickr