Butter Is Not The Enemy

Image Courtesy of MedicalNewsToday.com

Image Courtesy of MedicalNewsToday.com

Sahara Williams, Staff Writer

In the age of molecular gastronomy, lab grown chicken breast and meatless burgers that bleed, the discussion around food is only growing more complex. With veganism and other anti-dairy diets on the risebutter has come under much scrutiny. Not only have less people been consuming the delicious dairy based spread, but many have replaced it with margarine, believing it to be a healthier alternative. Butter has manifested in many diets across the globe for centuries, and the estranged relationship between modern society and butter needs to be mended. 

Butter has been a staple in American diets since the birth of this great nation. In 1911, the average American ate approximately 19 pounds of butter per year and margarine, consumption was virtually non-existent. However, after the start of World War 2 butter shortages began and margarine took its place. And by 1957 Americans were eating as much margarine as they did butter, about 8.5 pounds per year. According to William G. Rothstein, a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland, “The massive advertising of health claims for margarine transformed a generally disreputable product of inferior quality and flavor into a great commercial success.” However, margarine may not be healthy alternative advertisers claim it to be. 

In 2010, The Harvard School of Public Health studied the diets of 130,000 doctors and nurses over 30 years. They found that replacing saturated fatslike those in butter, with unsaturated fatslike those found in margarine, may reduce the risk of heart disease. Nevertheless, this study contained many flaws. Multiple studies of the same kind were being conducted by multiple different organizations and the results differed greatly. Other studies actually concluded that people who reduce the amount of saturated fats they consume do not decrease their risk of getting heart disease. It was later revealed that the Harvard study failed to acknowledge that people who cut down on saturated fat went on to eat more refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pasta, which are key risk factors for heart disease. In addition, Dr Aseem Malhotra, London-based cardiologist and adviser to the National Obesity Forum, states that he “would choose butter over margarine any day of the week and I advise my patients to do the same.” Although Dr. Malhotra‘s claim does seem enticing, butter is not completely innocent.

With the rise in popularity in planted based diets increasingbutter, among other animal products, have come under much scrutiny. The link between chronic illness and consumption of animal products has become increasingly apparent, and butter is no exception. Butter contains high levels of saturated fat which has been associated with increased risk of heart disease. Heart disease refers to a range of cardiovascular problems that narrow or block blood vessels and includes symptoms such as chest discomfort (angina), shortness of breathpainnumbnessweakness or coldness in your legs or arms. But there haven’t been any conclusive studies that prove a link between butter and heart disease. Most studies hypothesize that it’s not the saturated fats in the butter that are bad for you, but the fat in the other foods that you eat butter with. And due to an increase of the want for natural fatsmargarine is starting to be more critically analyzed. 

The British Medical Journal found “increased rates of death” among men with heart disease who replaced butter with margarine. It was also found that margarine contains large amounts of trans fats, which increase blood cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease. Trans fats do not only increase the risk of heart disease, but they also increase levels of LDL, or reduce low-density lipoprotein; a bad cholesterol. And unlike saturated fats, which can be eaten in moderation, trans fats are not to be consumed at all.

Today, the consumption of butter, along with many other dairy products, remains food for thought for many. Nevertheless, “butter consumption is up more than 21% since its lowest reading in 1997; so, it doesn’t seem that Humans are anywhere near ending the ongoing love affair with this diary-based delight.