Monday 4 July 2016

It does your heart good

. . . or at least doesn't do it much harm - the butter that is. We've been sold a bill of goods these last 40 years: initially that butter is full of cholesterol and so bad for your heart; and then <nuance> full of bad cholesterol and so bad for your heart. My aged father-in-law Pat the Salt has had butter snatched from his kitchen cupboard and Benecol, a wholly synthetic low cholesterol margarine, supplied in its place. For him, it doesn't matter: when he grew up in respectable poverty, dry bread was a looming presence, so any top-side lubricant was appreciated, be it butter, dripping, margarine or lard. But for the rest of us, butter is the cream. I had an absurd argument with my doctor ten years ago when he tried to convince me that butter was the divil itself and that I was looking at an early grave if I ate it; or proper milk, cheese or rashers.  I expressed some skepticism at the time and afterwards that it didn't seem to be obvious to all thinking people that a) butter was bad for me b) there was a clear connexion between bad cholesterol and heart attacks.

My gut-feeling was vindicated by the news at the very end of last month, from Tufts Nutrition Science and Policy Department in Boston, that there is no association between butter and cardiovascular disease and a weak positive effect on diabetes so that on balance it makes no difference to your longevity/mortality if you slather the butter on your toast. This was a big study, a meta-analysis reconciling 9 different-but-similar studies and finally including 636,000 people, observed for an average of ten years. Of these 28,000 finished up dead; nearly 10,000 developed cardiovascular problems and nearly 24,000 started diabetes.  The dietary intake was cross-referenced to each of these negative outcomes. Original publication in PLOS One.  The dietary intake averaged across the different studies from 7g/day to 45g/day.  That's a bit wimpy: I can knock off 45g on two slices of toast and there's a helluva lot more butter in my famous flapjacks.

What's interesting is the [small] benefit that butter applies to diabetes. It tells me that we have only the haziest notion about the mechanisms of causation (as opposed to correlation) in these diet, studies. Hormones, neurotransmitters, genetics and intestinal flora must all play a part but in a complex of interactions, It also tells me that the best diet is balanced.  A just-right, baby-bear, Goldilocksian feeding schedule is best. Faddy exclusions [contains milk, may contain barley etc.] not only make you an awkwardly unwelcome dinner guest and rapidly empty your pockets but also shorten your life. Or as foodie-guru Michael Pollan said "Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much"

ANNyway, if anyone gives you lip about lipids, tell them to bugger off.



    Fat it would seem became the fall guy from the sugar lobbysts.

  2. I do admit to having a weakness for all things buttery...not healthy, I know.