The butter on your toast is healthier than the bread you spread it on, or the baked potato it melts over, both of which can increase your chances of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Say it loud: Butter’s back, baby.
A new journal article out of Tufts University looked at nine databases of scientific studies, searching for keywords related to butter and cardio-metabolic outcomes. What the team found was that butter is pretty much neutral when it comes to its effects on heart disease, diabetes, and death in general. In fact, butter was found to have a slight negative correlation with diabetes—that is, it may actually protect you.
We already know that butter is better for you than spreads containing trans fats, but that’s no measure of its general healthfulness—pretty much everything is better than trans fats. But this meta-study shows that, consumed in non-excessive doses, butter is neutral, health-wise. This fits with growing evidence, the authors say, that "supports potential metabolic benefits of certain dairy products, such as yogurt and possibly cheese, on risk of type 2 diabetes."
This is part of a shift in the nutritional science world of considering whole foods, not just the individual components that make them up. "This has partly arisen from increasing controversy on the utility of focusing on isolated macronutrients, such as saturated fat, for determining risk of chronic diseases," says the paper, published in PLoS One.
So why is your butter-guzzling cousin, the one who sits around watching TV all day, so overweight and unhealthy? Because he has a terrible diet and gets no exercise. The butter isn’t to blame. "Even though people who eat more butter generally have worse diets and lifestyles, it seemed to be pretty neutral overall," said Laura Pimpin, the lead study author from Tufts University.
So, there you have it. Enjoy slathering on the butter, but don’t start thinking that it’s some kind of "superfood" that will cure all and every diseases, because it won’t. In fact, there’s only one disease that butter is unambiguously known to cure, and that’s melancholy.
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