Butter is it “Back”
Despite the media hype in publications like Time magazine, the statement “butter is back” is misleading. The meta-analysis by Mozaffarian did not compare butter to margarine or olive oil, it looked at the whole diet over a period of time. The challenges faced by researchers when reviewing observational data is that it’s difficult to assess what people actually eat vs what they report to have eaten. Randomized clinical trials are the most reliable studies but many aren’t long enough with large enough subject numbers.
What we do know is that science changes and new information is discovered and the research on saturated fats is changing. Different saturated fats are metabolized differently. When lumped together, all saturated fats appear to increase LDL cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is associated in numerous studies to heart disease. However, we can’t just look at LDL we need to look at LDL particle size. The large fluffy LDL particles, increased by some saturated fats don’t appear to increase cardiovascular disease risk whereas the small LDL particles increased by sugars and refined carbohydrates are associated with CVD. Moreover, saturated fats increase the good cholesterol HDL.
There is strong evidence that replacing saturated fats with refined carbohydrates and sugars increases CVD risk and mortality. There is also strong evidence that replacing saturated fats with omega 3 and polyunsaturated fats reduces risk.
Additional research has focused on the saturated fats in dairy which appear to be associated with a decreased risk of CVD and CHD. Moreover, dairy foods, regardless of their fat content are associated with a reduced risk of CVD and obesity.
Butter may not be the villain that it once was, but current evidence does not say that it is a health food, at most it might be neutral. If you are trying to choose between butter or olive oil, certainly the liquid oil has more health benefits. Eating nuts and seeds and more fish are also healthy habits to maintain.