Butter Isn't So Bad, Say Scientists

New research suggests that maybe butter isn't so unhealthy after all.

It’s been in, it’s been out, and sometimes, people can’t even believe it. But on Wednesday, scientists announced that you can eat the glorious dairy fat known as butter without feeling much shame.

A comprehensive analysis of all the research on butter and its effect on death and disease has been published in PLOS One by a team of researchers from Tufts University. They found that eating butter wasn’t as unhealthy as previously thought when it came to heart disease or type-2 diabetes, and surprisingly had a (practically) ignorable effect on overall mortality rates.

“This suggests that butter may be a ‘middle-of-the-road’ food,” Laura Pimpin, a public health data analyst for the UK Public Health Forum and a lead author of the paper, said: not necessarily a health food, but definitely not a killer in moderate quantities.

Pimpin and her team found nine studies out of a possible 5,770 that focused on butter’s effects on health that were strong (probably a commentary on why butter is so contentious in the first place). Pimpin’s team then combined and analyzed the total data, which included 636,151 people in 15 countries who collectively ate between a teaspoon to three tablespoons of butter a day for more than three months. Over the course of the observations, there were 28,271 deaths, 9,783 cases of heart disease, and 23,954 cases of type-2 diabetes.

Here’s what they found: Slapping on a pat of butter may slightly raise your risk of death by one single percent. What’s more, butter’s reputation with being a cause for heart disease might be ill-earned, given that there was no correlation at all between the two. And here’s the really surprising stat: Butter actually decreased the risk of developing type-2 diabetes by four percent.

This isn’t to say that you should go out and eat every buttery thing out there, Dairush Mozaffarian, a cardiac epidemiologist at Tufts University and one of the authors, said. “Overall, our results suggest that butter should neither be demonized nor considered ‘back’ as a route to good health,” he noted. “This could be real, or due to other factors linked to eating butter our study does not prove cause-and-effect.”

In other words, while you should probably think twice before slathering butter on everything in sight, don’t cringe and skip the good stuff on toast. Heck, embrace it.