• November 2014

Is Butter Good for You?

If you have been avoiding butter to stay slim and healthy, you might want to reconsider. A new research study from Lund University in Sweden finds that butter leads to considerably less elevation of blood fats after a meal compared with olive oil and a new type of canola and flaxseed oil. The difference was greater in men than in women.

“High blood-fat levels normally raise the cholesterol values in the blood, which in turn elevates the risk of atherosclerosis and heart attack,” explains Julia Svensson, a doctoral candidate in biotechnology and nutrition at Lund University.

The main explanation for the relatively low increase of blood-fat levels with butter is that about 20 percent of the fat in butter consists of short- and medium-length fatty acids.

Here’s why:

  • The body uses these types of fatty acids directly as energy, and therefore they never affect the blood fat level to any great extent.
  • Health-care workers use these fatty acids with patients who have difficulty absorbing nutritients.
  • The greater difference in men is due to, among other things, hormones, the size of fat stores, and fundamental differences in metabolism between men and women, which was previously known. Researchers note that this difference complicates the testing of women, since they need to be tested during the same period in the menstruation cycle each time in order to yield reliable results.

“A further explanation, which we are speculating about, is that intestinal cells prefer to store butter fat rather than long-chain fatty acids from vegetable oils,” adds Svensson. “However, butter leads to a slightly higher content of free fatty acids in the blood, which is a burden on the body.”

About the Research

  • 19 women and 28 men participated in the study.
  • Each individual ate three test meals containing canola-flaxseed oil, butter, or olive oil.
  • The day before the test, they had to fast after 9 p.m. The following morning, a fasting blood sample was drawn to check their health status and all blood fats.
  • The test meal consisted of the test fat mixed into hot cream-of-wheat, 1.5% milk, blackberry jam, and a slice of bread with ham.
  • The meal contained 35 g of test fat and about 810 Kcal.
  • Blood samples were then drawn 1, 3, 5, and 7 hours after the meal, and all blood fats were analyzed.
  • The participants fasted during the day.

The Bottom Line

The findings provide a more nuanced picture of various dietary fats, Svensson concludes, reminding us: “All fats have high energy content, and if you don’t burn what you ingest, your weight will go up, as will your risk of developing diseases in the long run.”

Sources:

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