Contrary to the assertion that margarine is a healthy choice and butter is a major culprit causing the high rates of heart disease and cancer plaguing developed countries, the exact opposite is true: Eating margarine (made from polyunsaturated fat) is associated with a wide range of diseases, and butter (made of naturally saturated fats from animal sources) is a healthy food!
The non-profit Weston A. Price Foundation has been a respected source of reliable information about nutrition and a strong voice against imitation foods since 1999. The Foundation is dedicated to “restoring nutrient-dense foods to the American diet through education, research and activism.” (Nienheiser, 2000)
Sally Fallon (author of Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrat as well as Founding President of the Weston A. Price Foundation) and Mary Enig (author of Know Your Fats : The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils and Cholesterol) wrote:
When the fabricated food folks and apologists for the corporate farm realized that they couldn’t block America’s growing interest in diet and nutrition, a movement that would ultimately put an end to America’s biggest and most monopolistic industries, they infiltrated the movement and put a few sinister twists on information going out to the public. Item number one in the disinformation campaign was the assertion that naturally saturated fats from animal sources are the root cause of the current heart disease and cancer plague. Butter bore the brunt of the attack, and was accused of terrible crimes. The Diet Dictocrats told us that it was better to switch to polyunsaturated margarine and most Americans did. Butter all but disappeared from our tables, shunned as a miscreant.
This would come as a surprise to many people around the globe who have valued butter for its life-sustaining properties for millennia. When Dr. Weston Price studied native diets in the 1930’s he found that butter was a staple in the diets of many supremely healthy peoples. Isolated Swiss villagers placed a bowl of butter on their church altars, set a wick in it, and let it burn throughout the year as a sign of divinity in the butter. Arab groups also put a high value on butter, especially deep yellow-orange butter from livestock feeding on green grass in the spring and fall. American folk wisdom recognized that children raised on butter were robust and sturdy; but that children given skim milk during their growing years were pale and thin, with “pinched” faces.
Does butter cause disease? On the contrary, butter protects us against many diseases. (Fallon & Enig, 2000)
Want more information on butter?
HOW BUTTER IS BETTER
BUTTER IS HIGH IN IMPORTANT FAT-SOLUBLE VITAMINS
Butter contains high levels of fat-soluble vitamins, including vitamins A, E, and K2:
The retinoids (biologically active compounds occurring naturally in both plant and animal tissues) together are referred to as VITAMIN A. Vitamin A is necessary for bone growth, as well as reproductive and immune system health. It assists the skin and mucous membranes in repelling bacteria and viruses. A is essential to healthy vision and may slow declining retinal function in people with retinitis pigmentosa. And it is needed for thyroid and adrenal health. Butter is our best and most easily absorbed source of A. (Fallon & Enig, 2000), (Gunnars, 2015), (Weil, 2015A)
VITAMIN E complex (consisting of eight compounds) is a powerful, fat-soluble antioxidant that helps protect cell membranes against damage caused by free radicals and prevents the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Vitamin E is needed for structural and functional maintenance of skeletal, cardiac, and smooth muscles. It also helps in the making of red blood cells and maintenance of the body’s stores of vitamins A and K, iron, and selenium. E boosts immune health and protects against the oxidative damage leading to heart disease and cancers. It helps relieve symptoms of Alzheimer’s and may also prevent diabetes-related damage to the eyes. (Fallon & Enig, 2000), (Gunnars, 2015), (Weil, 2015B)
VITAMIN K2 is an essential nutrient, regulating blood clotting and is necessary for calcium metabolism. Another important role for K2 is activating proteins that control cell grown, meaning K2 is very important in cancer protection. It’s estimated that 80% of Americans get insufficient amounts of K2 in our diets, creating vulnerability to osteoporosis, stroke, heart attack, other forms of heart disease, inappropriate calcification (eg, heel spurs and kidney stones), brain disease, and cancers. Sources of vitamin K2 are fairly rare in modern diets. Butter made from the milk of grass-fed cows is very high in this vitamin. (Fallon & Enig, 2000), (Gunnars, 2015), (Mercola, 2012)
BUTTER FOR GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT
Children born to mothers who are deficient in vitamin A tend to have narrow faces and skeletons, small palates, crowded teeth, heart abnormalities, and abnormalities of the larger blood vessels. Extreme deprivation leads to blindness and other birth defects. Vitamin A is also important in the development of sex characteristics. Cholesterol, found in butterfat, is important in the development of the brain and nervous system. Low fat diets have been linked to failure to thrive in children. (Fallon & Enig, 2000)
BUTTER IS RICH IN HEALTHY, SATURATED FATS
Butter and naturally saturated fats from animal sources in general have never actually been shown to cause harm. In fact, studies have demonstrated that saturated fats RAISE our good cholesterol (HDL) and convert bad cholesterol (LDL) from small and dense particles to large particles, which are benign. Studies have found NO ASSOCIATION at all between saturated fats and cardiovascular disease. And here’s some interesting and excellent news: Butter contains many short and medium chain fats, which lead to improved satiety and increased fat burning.(Fallon & Enig, 2000), (Gunnars, 2015)
BUTTER LOWERS HEART ATTACK RISK. MARGARINE INCREASES THIS RISK.
Margarine is a highly processed food invented as a substitute for butter. Its main ingredient is vegetable oil with added emulsifiers, colorants, and various artificial ingredients. Vegetable oil is a liquid at room temperature so margarine is often hydrogenated to give it a harder consistency and extend its shelf life. Hydrogenation turns some of the vegetable oils into unhealthy trans fats.
Butter, which has been eaten for centuries, is made by churning the fatty portion (cream) from mammals’ milk (usually cows but also sheep, goats, buffalo and yaks) until it becomes spreadable. (Gunnars, 2015)
The chart below compares butter and margarine. Butter is the clear winner in health advantages while margarine is deleterious to our health. The last on each list is of particular interest to me since it’s well known that chronic inflammation leads to many serious conditions and diseases: Butter is anti-inflammatory. Margarine causes inflammation.
Butter is rich in selenium, an important anti-oxidant, and the lecithin in butter aids in the proper assimilation and metabolism of cholesterol and other fat constituents. Vitamins A and E, found in butter, are also anti-oxidants. And of course, butter is a good dietary source of cholesterol, which turns out to be a potent anti-oxidant. Surprised? A survey done by the Medical Research Council found that men who consume butter had half the risk of developing heart disease compared to those eating margarine. (Fallon & Enig, 2000)
BUTTER IS A GOOD SOURCE OF BUTYRATE, A HEALTHY FATTY ACID
Dietary fiber exposed to bacteria in the colon gets turned into the 4-carbon fatty acid butyrate. This process is likely the main reason fiber has so many health benefits for humans. Butter, which is 3-4% butyrate, is another good dietary source of butyrate (in fact, butyr-ate‘s name is derived from butter). Research shows that rats consuming an unhealthy diet who were supplemented with butyrate didn’t gain weight. Instead, the butyrate increased their energy expenditure, reduced their food intake, improved mitochondrial function, and lowered fasting triglycerides and insulin. Butyrate is anti-inflammatory and powerfully protects the digestive systems in humans. (Gunnars, 2015)
BUTTER CONTAINS LOTS OF CONJUGATED LINOLEIC ACID
Butter, especially from the milk of grass fed animals, is an excellent source of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), another important fatty acid which has beneficial effects on metabolism (it can lower body fat percentages in humans) and is even available as a weight loss supplement.
Many of the natural saturated fats in butter possess strong anti-cancer properties, including short and medium chain fatty acid chains that provide strong anti-tumor effects. Actually many of the saturated fats in butter have strong anti-cancer properties. Butter is rich in short and medium chain fatty acid chains having strong anti-tumor effects. The CLA in butter also provides protection against cancer. (Fallon & Eng, 2000)
BUTTER IS ASSOCIATED WITH LOWER OBESITY RATES
For decades we’ve been urged by many nutrition authorities to eat low-fat dairy products as a way to get our calcium without all those “bad” fats and calories. But that advice turned out to be detrimental to our health: eating high-fat dairy products is NOT ASSOCIATED WITH OBESITY.
Three respected public health researchers undertook a systematic literature review of observational studies on the relationship between dairy fat and high-fat dairy foods, obesity, and cardio-metabolic disease. They then integrated these findings with data from controlled studies showing effects of several minor dairy fatty acids on adiposity and cardio-metabolic risk factors, and data on how bovine feeding practices influence the composition of dairy fat.
The resulting paper, published in the European Journal of Nutrition in 2013, was titled “The relationship between high-fat dairy consumption and obesity, cardiovascular, and metabolic disease”.
What the researchers found:
In 11 of 16 studies, high-fat dairy intake was inversely associated with measures of adiposity. Studies examining the relationship between high-fat dairy consumption and metabolic health reported either an inverse or no association. Studies investigating the connection between high-fat dairy intake and diabetes or cardiovascular disease incidence were inconsistent.
The observational evidence does not support the hypothesis that dairy fat or high-fat dairy foods contribute to obesity or cardio-metabolic risk, and suggests that high-fat dairy consumption within typical dietary patterns is inversely associated with obesity risk. Although not conclusive, these findings may provide a rationale for future research into the bioactive properties of dairy fat and the impact of bovine feeding practices on the health effects of dairy fat. (Kratz, Baars & Guyenet, 2013)
The cardio-metabolic risks referred to are: high blood pressure, high blood sugar level, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol level. This cluster of symptoms is often referred to as “metabolic syndrome”, thought to be associated with increased risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
So the experts’ advice was simply wrong. Consuming naturally saturated dairy fat does NOT increase risk of cardio-metabolic disease and is actually associated with a REDUCED risk of obesity.
The box below sums up why it’s important to consume natural, saturated fats:
Sally Fallon and Mary Enig noted:
The notion that butter causes weight gain is a sad misconception. The short and medium chain fatty acids in butter are not stored in the adipose tissue, but are used for quick energy. Fat tissue in humans is composed mainly of longer chain fatty acids. These come from olive oil and polyunsaturated oils as well as from refined carbohydrates. Because butter is rich in nutrients, it confers a feeling of satisfaction when consumed. Can it be that consumption of margarine and other butter substitutes results in cravings and bingeing because these highly fabricated products don’t give the body what it needs?. (Fallon & Enig, 2000)
BUTTER IS GOOD FOR THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
The vitamin A found in butter is important for a healthy immune system. Butter’s short and medium chain fatty acids also have immune system strengthening properties. In contrast, the hydrogenated fats and an excess of long chain fatty acids found in polyunsaturated oils and many butter substitutes are harmful to the immune system. (Fallon & Enig, 2000)
RAW BUTTER AND ARTHRITIS
Dutch researcher Wulzen found that butter protects the body against degenerative arthritis (calcification of the joints) along with hardening of the arteries, cataracts and calcification of the pineal gland. This ‘anti-stiffness’ effect, called the Wulzen Factor, is unique to butter. Unfortunately, it’s destroyed by pasteurization. Calves fed pasteurized or skim milk develop joint stiffness and fail to thrive but their symptoms reverse when raw butterfat is added to their diet. (Fallon & Enig, 2000)
BUTTER AND GI HEALTH
Glycospingolipids, a special category of fatty acids in butter, protect against GI infection, especially in the very young and the elderly. Children given skim milk suffer from diarrhea at rates three to five times greater than children who drink whole milk. The cholesterol in butterfat promotes health of the intestinal wall, protecting against cancer of the colon. Short and medium chain fatty acids protect against pathogens in the gut and have strong anti-fungal effects, playing an important role in the treatment of candida overgrowth. (Fallon & Enig, 2000)
SOME ADDITIONAL BENEFITS OF BUTTER
OSTEOPOROSIS: The proper absorption of calcium for strong bones and teeth requires Vitamins A and D, both found in butter. Perhaps the plague of osteoporosis in milk-drinking developed countries is caused by our consuming skim over whole milk, low fat yogurts and other low fat dairy products in the erroneous belief that they’re good for us. (Fallon & Enig, 2000)
TOOTH DECAY: The anti-cariogenic effects of butter protect against tooth decay. (Fallon & Enig, 2000)
THYROID GLAND: Iodine in a highly absorbable form is found in butter and its vitamin A content is essential to the thyroid gland’s proper functioning. In mountainous and inland areas where seafood is unavailable, butter consumption prevents goiter quite effectively. (Fallon & Enig, 2000)
ASTHMA: The saturated fats in butter are essential to lung function and protect against asthma. (Enig, 2010)
THEN THERE’S THE FACT THAT BUTTER IS JUST PLAIN DELICIOUS!
And butter from pastured (organic, grass fed) cows is even more delicious and better for you – higher in vitamin content and not full of GMO’s or pesticides. It also has a more satisfying taste.
Also, it’s better to use unsalted butter – unless the salt used is sea salt. The heavily refined table salt added to most salted butter is detrimental to your health. See my piece on The Healing Properties of Unrefined Salts for more info. You can also sprinkle some sea salt on your unsalted butter if you prefer salty butter.
GOOD NEWS AT LAST
The powers that be are slowly recognizing that urging Americans to focus on eating low fat foods and carbohydrates while avoiding high fat meats, eggs and dairy was very bad advice.
From the June 23, 2014 article by Bryan Walsh, featured on the Time cover below:
For decades, it has been the most vilified nutrient in the American diet. But new science reveals fat isn’t what’s hurting our health.
The taste of my childhood was the taste of skim milk. We spread bright yellow margarine on dinner rolls, ate low-fat microwave oatmeal flavored with apples and cinnamon, put nonfat ranch on our salads. We were only doing what we were told. In 1977, the year before I was born, a Senate committee led by George McGovern published its landmark “Dietary Goals for the United States,” urging Americans to eat less high-fat red meat, eggs and dairy and replace them with more calories from fruits, vegetables and especially carbohydrates.By 1980 that wisdom was codified. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued its first dietary guidelines, and one of the primary directives was to avoid cholesterol and fat of all … (Walsh, 2014)
Joan Dye Gussow – professor, author, food policy expert, environmentalist and gardener – has been called the matriarch of the eat locally, think globally movement. This is a nice quote from her on butter vs margarine:
Margarine instead of natural butter, processed table salt in place of unrefined sea salt, GMO foods, pesticides everywhere, low fat processed foods chock full of sugar and chemical additives … we’ve been seriously led astray and our health, along with the health of all the other creatures, the soil, waters, and air on our planet, are paying a heavy price.
Enig, M.G. (2010). Butter is Better! Pamphlet from the Weston A. Price Foundation for Wise Traditions in Food, Farming, and the Healing Arts.
Kratz, M., Baars, T., & Guyenet, S. (2013). The relationship between high-fat dairy consumption and obesity, cardiovascular, and metabolic disease. European Journal of Nutrition, 52:1, 1-24. See: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22810464