With products like “I can’t believe it’s not butter!” and other such substitutes lining grocery store shelves, it’s no surprise that butter has become taboo. We see saturated fat as the ultimate culprit in the fight against weight gain. However, recent scientific studies show that butter’s health benefits are numerous and may in fact help prevent coronary heart disease, a greatly increasing issue in American society with the drastic rise in adult obesity.
According to studies compiled by the Weston A. Price Foundation, from the turn of the century to the 1950s, coronary heart disease, or CHD, jumped from causing less than ten percent of deaths, to being the leading cause, at more than thirty percent. This was in part a result of the increase in myocardial infarctions (MIs), massive blood clots that lead to the blocking of a coronary artery. By 1960, MI had caused at least 500,000 deaths per year in the US, dramatically rising from the less than three thousand deaths per year in 1930. Based on data found by the Department of Agriculture, the main cause of this increase was the reduction of butter consumption in Americans’ diets.
Consumption of vegetable oils, such as margarine, rose rapidly in order to replace butter. The obvious conclusion to return to normal levels of coronary heart disease would be to decrease the use of vegetable oils in foods and return to traditional products. However simultaneously, the Kritchevsky articles were published which proved that saturated fat and cholesterol from animal products, such as butter, developed fatty deposits throughout the body, namely in the arteries. For this reason, Americans remained convinced that polyunsaturated oils from vegetable sources were advantageous to their health and helped them to avoid heart disease—and that butter was a villain.
Despite the shift from butter to vegetable oils, heart disease continues to be a problem, mainly as a result of the dramatic increase in obesity in the United States. Studies done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that about one-third, or 34%, of adults in the U.S. are obese. According to collected data, “In 2000, no state had an obesity prevalence of 30% or more. The number of states with an obesity prevalence of 30% or more has increased to 12 states in 2010.” And trends show that the numbers will only continue to grow if dramatic changes to American consumption are not made.
The American public tends to avoid saturated fats, replacing them with vegetable oil substitutes; however, scientific data reveals many key benefits from these fats. The
Weston A. Price Foundation notes several of these benefits: “saturated fats…enhance the immune system, are necessary for healthy bones, provide energy and structural integrity to the cells, protect the liver and enhance the body’s use of essential fatty acids. Stearic acid, found in beef tallow and butter, has cholesterol lowering properties and is preferred for the heart. As saturated fats are stable, they do not become rancid easily, do not call upon the body’s reserves of antioxidants, do not initiate cancer, [and] do not irritate the artery walls.” In addition, vitamin A only exists in animal foods, thus in order to obtain its benefits, one must consume animal products, like butter. What are the benefits of vitamin A? Vitamin A is essential for white blood cells, which increase the body’s immunity to infection. Furthermore, it is vital for healthy eyes, bones, and teeth. It is also a powerful antioxidant, helping to fight disease and cancer.
In order to reverse trends in obesity while still maintaining the health benefits of saturated fats, I recommend replacing vegetable oil-based products with clarified butter. What is clarified butter? It is milk fat rendered from butter to separate the milk solids and water from the butterfat. How do you clarify butter? Typically, it is produced using direct evaporation, which allows all the different components to separate from the melting butter—the water evaporates and the milk solids settle at the bottom. All the benefits of butter, which I have listed above, can be preserved through the consumption of clarified butter, which is why it is my top recommendation. Furthermore, calories in butter and margarine are relatively comparative, so the health benefits should not be overlooked in an effort to cut calories.
Butter has always been viewed as off-limits to the health conscious; however, by utilizing its close-substitute, clarified butter, the many health benefits can be gained.
Yours in Health,
Stella Metsovas B.S., CCN
Staff Writer: Clement Tran