Butter's Better For You Than Previously Thought

© John Kernick  
While butter certainly shouldn't be considered a healthy food, its actually better for you than sugar and a host of other common ingredients.

Butter—a favorite toast topper and pan greaser of people world over—has been making a recent comeback, as the public has re-embraced fat consumption and the golden ingredient with it. Now, a study out of Tufts University shows that when it comes to your health, butter is less offensive than you might have thought.

According to the report, while butter certainly shouldn't be considered a healthy food, its actually better for you than sugar and a host of other common ingredients. Although the low-fat craze made butter public enemy number one for a time, researchers say that the previous notion that butter—and its saturated fat—consumption could lead to life-threatening risks was misguided.

The results, published in PLOS ONE, took a look at the connection between butter consumption and a variety of health threats including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic diseases, and mortality. The team at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts analyzed nine previous related studies, including a test group of over 635,000 people from 15 countries, to examine how butter has been linked to these diseases.

The scientists found that butter was not shown to raise the risk of heart disease, and might even be somewhat protective against type 2 diabetes—though the report says more research is certainly needed to back up the latter claim. "Our results suggest that butter should neither be demonized nor considered 'black' as route to good health," says study author Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian.

While the authors aren't trying to claim butter is a health food, they do say when eaten in moderation, it's a "middle-of-the-road" food and no more dangerous than other fatty ingredients. "Even though people who eat more butter generally have worse diets and lifestyles, it seemed to be pretty neutral overall," says study lead Laura Pimpin. She and her co-authors suggest butter is in fact a more healthful dietary pick than sugar or starch, though it's a less healthy alternative to many cooking oils.

The Tufts scientists recommend sticking with the standardized recommended butter consumption amount by the U.S. Department of Agriculture—roughly one tablespoon a day. But when it comes to more serious health threats, you need not worry about slathering it on your morning piece of toast.

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