Health Blog – Healthy Aging – What About Butter?


This is one of these confusing topics because of the ongoing argument between health scientists about as to whether eating butter, rather than other processed substitutes is better for your health?

Starting with some basic history, butter has been eaten by people since at least when the Egyptian empire was at its zenith as jars of it were found in their burial sites. Only the wealthy ate it in Europe throughout the Middle Ages and it was also known to be eaten by ancient Middle Eastern and the Indian cultures. In the late 1960s a Finish health study concluded that eating butter, milk and meat were major contributing factors to that country having the highest incidence of Heart Disease in the world. A country wide regime was set into place to cut Heart Disease down by drastically cutting the consumption of these products. Research done after thirty years found that the incidence of Heart Disease in that country dropped by 80%.

But a separate study in the USA concluded that there was no correlation between the consumption of butter and Heart Disease. So what is the truth?

Food scientists say that butter contains 20 types of Fatty Acids which body need for normal function and that children need to eat butter to build up their immune systems during their developmental years. The body needs the fat it contains (82.5 %) to utilize Vitamin D and in other vital bodily processes including the production of sex hormones.

But butter contains cholesterol. 80% of our cholesterol is produced by our body (including the liver, kidneys, bowels and gonnads). So a lot of medical people say that we should not eat any more than 300 grams a day, or less than 200 grams a day for those with Heart Disease and that butter contains a high level of fat and calories (892 in 100 grams!), so we should moderate its consumption by even more than that. There are also individual differences in metabolic rate in how much butter can be safely consumed.

With cholesterol, there are two types – bad cholesterol or low density lipoproteins which enter the blood vessels forming plaque (anthroscerosus) and the good cholesterol or high density lipoproteins which are produced in the blood vessels and are delivered to the liver to be processed. Cutting out cholesterol from the diet drops the cholesterol in the body by 10 – 15% but if the Thyroid gland is not functioning properly the level of cholesterol in the body increases dramatically. Therefore getting proper functioning of the Thyroid is an extremely important consideration in regulating cholesterol. Another fact that need your attention is that cutting down or out cholesterol in the diet hasn’t altered the incidence Heart Disease.

But what about the consumption of butter substitutes such as margarine? Even though these products contain up to 50% of the fat (particularly palm oil) that butter contains, because they are synthetically produced they have a far greater negative impact on health – particularly because they contain synthetically produced trans fats. They are not properly absorbed by the body because they have a higher melt temperature than the natural body temperature (40 degrees compared with 32.5). So there is a greater build up of these trans fats in the body which is obviously very bad for a person’s health and is one of the major contributing factors in the development of cancer. There is also a greater incidence of allergies for babies whose mother eats margarine in pregnancy.

And what about the original Finish study? The great results were as much to do with the push for better lifestyle changes (such as more exercise, cessation of smoking etc.) more than cutting down in the consumption of butter per se.


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