Is Butter Healthy? No, But It's Not Harmful Either: Study

Yes, this corn could use more butter.
Butter melting on ear of corn, close-up
Butter melting on ear of corn, close-up

It's a food that's been on both ends of the good for you vs. bad for you spectrum, but a new study suggests it's OK to add more butter to your diet (but not too much).

According to a recent report published in scientific journal PLOS ONE, butter shouldn't be dubbed as a health food, but it's not necessarily linked to mortality, cardiovascular disease or chronic disease either.

“Overall, our results suggest that butter should neither be demonized nor considered 'back' as a route to good health,” said senior author Dariush Mozaffarian of the The Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts in a statement.

The Boston-based researchers took a look at nine studies across 15 countries and 636,151 participants, and combined the results to find the effects of eating butter. In terms of health issues associated with the dairy product, the report found the following data:

"Over the total follow-up period, the combined group of studies included 28,271 deaths, 9,783 cases of cardiovascular disease, and 23,954 cases of new-onset type 2 diabetes."

To put things in perspective, Mozaffarian told Time magazine butter "doesn’t seem to be hugely harmful or beneficial."

“In my mind, saturated fat is kind of neutral overall,” Mozaffarian told the magazine. “Vegetable oils and fruits and nuts are healthier than butter, but on the other hand, low-fat turkey meat or a bagel or cornflakes or soda is worse for you than butter.”

Previous studies have found margarine is the real enemy, and saturated fats found in butter are fine — eating trans fats (like those found in margarine) are worse. Others have argued margarine without trans fats could be even better for you than animal fat-made butter. Clearly, there isn't a right or wrong answer.

In simple terms, butter is healthier for you than things like sugar and starch, but not as good for you as things like extra virgin olive oils and other health fats, Mozaffarian's research notes.

“More research is needed to better understand the observed potential lower risk of diabetes, which has also been suggested in some other studies of dairy fat. This could be real, or due to other factors linked to eating butter – our study does not prove cause-and-effect.”


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