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Is Butter Still Bad?

If you watch the news or keep up with the latest stories online, it seems like one day a new study is released finding that butter is bad for you and the next day a different study determines that it is just fine. 

Some experts say eating butter will make you fat, while others point to research that says it can help you lose weight. So what are you supposed to do? 

Does eating butter cause heart disease?

The real issue about eating butter is the saturated fat it contains. A recent study released in Annals of Internal Medicine determined that eating a reasonable amount of saturated fat does not put you at a higher risk for developing heart disease. 

The researchers involved in this analysis gathered data from almost 80 separate studies and determined that the saturated fat from butter and other foods, like oily fish, are not the real culprit. Clogged arteries are actually caused by eating too many sugary foods and carbohydrates, according to Dr. Rajiv Chowdhury, the lead author of the study. 

While this study is not definitive and further research is needed, dairy products, (like butter, cheese and whole milk), that are high in saturated fat are no longer taboo. Some scientists point out that a diet completely free from saturated fat could be bad for you.  

Why we should worry about saturated fats?

While saturated fats do raise low-density lipoprotein (a.k.a. bad) cholesterol levels, it also raises the levels of high-density lipoprotein (or good) cholesterol. The type of low-density lipoprotein that is raised by saturated fat has been labeled by doctors as benign. It is made up of large, dense particles. The type of low-density lipoprotein that is dangerous is the small, dense kind that comes from sugary foods and carbohydrates. This type of low-density lipoprotein clogs the arteries and can lead to dangerous blockages. 

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), you need to be careful with saturated fats, because they can increase the amount of total cholesterol in your blood, leading to heart disease. 

The AHA also points out that foods high in saturated fat often contain correspondingly high amounts of cholesterol, which can also drive up your cholesterol levels. About 7% of your  daily calories, or 16 grams of saturated fat, are safe to eat on a daily basis, according to the American Heart Association.

Should heart disease be treated with a healthy diet or medication?

Many cardiologists and heart-health advocates recommend controlling your risk of heart disease through dietary changes, in conjunction with statin medications if you are at high risk. A Mediterranean-style diet that relies on monounsaturated fats, low-fat or nonfat dairy products, and plenty of fruits and vegetables is recommended for the prevention of heart disease.

Could fat from dairy products help you lose weight?

A recent study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Primary Health Care reported that those who ate high-fat dairy products were at a lower risk of  developing obesity than those who did not. 

Another study reported in the European Journal of Nutrition examined data from 16 previous studies to determine that there is no link between eating a reasonable amount of full-fat dairy products and the development of obesity or heart disease. Ironically, this analysis did find a link between eating full-fat dairy products and a lower risk of developing obesity. 

A study published in Archives of Diseases in Childhood found that children who drank low-fat milk actually gained weight. However,  those who are a high risk of heart disease or who already have high cholesterol should limit the amount of saturated fats they eat according to their doctor’s recommendations.



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