Study reveals butter is ok, but don't go to town on it

Butter consumption had 'no significant association' with any type of cardiovascular disease, including coronary heart disease and stroke'. Photo / iStock
Butter consumption had 'no significant association' with any type of cardiovascular disease, including coronary heart disease and stroke'. Photo / iStock

Butter is not bad for us and does not raise the risk of heart disease, a major study has found.

Scientists discovered eating one tablespoon of butter a day had little impact on overall mortality, no significant link with cardiovascular disease and strokes - and could even have a small effect in reducing the risk of diabetes, the Daily Mail reported.

The robust research - one of the largest meta-studies to be carried out on the health effects of butter - adds weight to growing calls for the end of the "demonising" of the dairy product and other saturated fats.

It follows reports earlier this month that the Government is reconsidering its advice to restrict saturated fat intake to limit the risk of heart disease, after two recent studies found no link.

In the latest research, scientists from Tufts University in Boston analysed the results of nine studies published since 2005 from 15 countries, including the US, UK and Europe.

Results were based on nearly 640,000 adults with an average age of between 44 and 71 years old, tracked over a combined total of 6.5 million years.

In total, they studies included more than 28,000 deaths, nearly 10,000 cases of cardiovascular diseases and nearly 24,000 cases of diabetes.

By combining and standardising the results, researchers found a daily serving of butter - 14g or roughly one tablespoon - was associated with a 1 per cent higher risk of death.

Butter consumption had 'no significant association' with any type of cardiovascular disease, including coronary heart disease and stroke.

A smaller sample of results indicated a daily serving of butter was associated with a 4 per cent lower risk of type 2 diabetes - although researchers said this needed further investigation.

The paper said: 'Together, these findings suggest relatively small or neutral associations of butter consumption with long-term health... A major focus on eating more or less butter, by itself, may not be linked to large differences in mortality, cardiovascular disease or diabetes.

'In sum, our findings do not support a need for major emphasis in dietary guidelines on butter consumption, in comparison to other better established dietary priorities.'

Senior author Dr Dariush Mozaffarian added: "Our results suggest that butter should neither be demonized nor considered 'back' as a route to good health."

Study researcher Dr Laura Pimpin, now at the UK Health Forum, said: "Even though people who eat more butter generally have worse diets and lifestyles, it seemed to be pretty neutral overall.

"This suggests that butter may be a 'middle-of-the-road' food: a more healthful choice than sugar or starch, such as the white bread or potato on which butter is commonly spread and which have been linked to higher risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease; and a worse choice than many margarines and cooking oils - those rich in healthy fats such as soybean, canola, flaxseed, and extra virgin olive oils."

Commenting on the research, cardiologist and National Obesity Forum advisor Dr Aseem Malhotra said: 'This high quality study clearly reveals that decades of demonising butter has been a huge mistake.

"I follow the advice I give to my patients which is providing you cut the consumption of sugar and other refined carbohydrates the regular consumption of butter can be very much part of a healthy diet."

But Professor Pete Wilde, of the Institute of Food Research, warned the study was not a "carte blanche to consume large amounts of butter".

And Tracy Parker, of the British Heart Foundation, added: 'While the findings of this review indicate a small or neutral association between butter consumption and increased cardiovascular risk, it does not give us the green light to start eating more butter.

"More investigations are needed into the effects of saturated fat.

"What we do know is fat is just one element of our diet. There are many factors which cause cardiovascular disease and no single food or nutrient is solely responsible for this.

"To protect your heart health we would recommend a balanced Mediterranean style diet rich in fruit, vegetables and pulses."

Cardiovascular diseases are conditions such as heart disease and strokes which involve a reduced blood flow to the heart, brain or body due to a blockage or narrowing of the arteries.

And across the globe, heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death, according to the American Heart Association.

High blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, being overweight and a lack of exercise are all risk factors.

- Daily Mail

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