Consumption of butter may not increase the risk of heart disease or stroke, but it might be slightly protective against type 2 diabetes, says a new study. Many studies have linked butter to increased risk of early death, but the increase in risk was extremely small, said the researchers.
"Overall, our results suggest that butter should neither be demonized nor considered 'back' as a route to good health," study co-author Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Massachusetts, said in a statement. The findings "do not support a need for major emphasis in dietary guidelines on either increasing or decreasing butter consumption," said the researchers.
‘Butter may be healthier than foods that are high in sugar or starch. A daily serving of butter was found to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by 4 percent.’
Butter is high in saturated fat, which is considered as a bad fat. But, researchers looked at the overall effects of eating certain foods, than focusing on specific nutrients. The combination of nutrients in butter may have a different effect on people's health than a single nutrient alone.
The researchers analyzed data from nine studies that included more than 636,000 people in 15 countries. On an average, the participants of the studies were followed for 10 to 23 years.
During that time, 28,271 people died; 9,783 were diagnosed with heart disease, and 23,954 were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Butter consumption of people who participated in the study ranged from one-third of a tablespoon to three tablespoons a day.
A daily serving of butter (14 grams or 1 tablespoon) was linked with a 1 percent higher risk of death during the study period. But a daily serving of butter was linked with a four percent reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.
However, there was no relationship found between eating butter and being diagnosed with heart disease, said the researchers.
Laura Pimpin, Tufts University, co-author of the study, said that the findings suggested butter may be a "middle-of-the-road" food. For example, butter may be healthier for you than foods high in sugar or starch, which have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.
But butter may be worse for health than other spreads and cooking oils that are richer in healthy fats, said Pimpin. Healthy alternatives include soybean, canola, flaxseed and extra-virgin olive oil as they contain unsaturated fats.
"More research is needed to understand why consuming butter is linked to a slightly lower risk of type 2 diabetes," said Mozaffarian.
The study looked at the association between people's butter consumption and their risk of heart disease, early death, and type 2 diabetes, so it cannot be proved that butter does or does not cause these conditions. The study did not analyze people's physical activity levels or genetic risk factors which could affect the results, concluded the researchers.
The study is published today in the journal PLOS ONE.