Saturated fats, the best known being butter, have been vilified as unhealthy food for many years. They have been targeted as the cause of heart disease and the biggest reason for weight gain. In one of the worst dietary mistakes of our time, health officials and advertisements advise us to choose man-made substitutes stamped with the approval of the Heart and Stroke Foundation. In fact, there are a lot of good reasons to bring saturated fats back into the kitchen.
The war on saturated fat and cholesterol started in the 1950s with the publication of a flawed study by an American scientist named Ancel Keyes. The study looked at the association between diet and cardiovascular disease in seven different countries. It revealed that that the countries where fat consumption was the highest had the most heart disease, supporting the idea that dietary fat caused heart disease.
The problem is that he intentionally used data that supported his theory (a process known as “cherry picking”). He left out countries where people eat a lot of fat but have little heart disease, such as Holland and Norway, and countries where fat consumption is low but the rate of heart disease is high, such as Chile. It is this highly flawed observational study that has influenced our dietary guidelines.
Not coincidentally, since the war on saturated fats began, waistlines around the world have been expanding. Putting the cholesterol myth aside, perhaps it is time to look at why saturated fat is not as evil as it has been portrayed and why butter is better.
Saturated fat is an excellent source of fuel and a healthier form of long-term energy than glucose. It builds muscle mass and builds strong, resilient cell membranes.
About 20% of the fat found in butter comes from short and medium chain fatty acids. These fats are a vital source of energy and research has shown that they are used up by the body long before they can impact blood fat levels very much. Also, these fatty acids are antimicrobial, meaning that they kill viruses, parasites and bad bacteria in our body.
Butter is an excellent source of nutrients, including vitamin A, K2 (which is excellent in guiding calcium to your bones and keeping it out of your arteries), E, selenium and even omega-3. It contains the one and only healthy trans fat, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which has some potent anti-cancer and fat loss properties. Natural, unpasteurized butter also possesses an anti-stiffness property that may help protect against arthritis and hardening of the arteries.
Can butter really be better? The latest research is showing that just about everything we have been told about saturated fat is wrong and given the many nutrients butter contains it does appear to be the better choice.