Arthur Schopenhauer famously said that all truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed; second, it is violently opposed, and third; it is accepted as being self-evident.
Back in 2009 as the above article from the New York Daily News shows, eating butter was still being ridiculed and a mix of poor research and industry lobbying was keen to keep things that way.
I suspect that now, when it comes to eating butter, we have left that phase but are still somewhere in the second phase of acceptance – for butter will, over time, surely be found to have been heart and cancer healthy all along. Yet the leading luminaries of the nutrition world oppose butter and still prefer ‘marge’, as long as the trans-fats have been removed.
Walter Willett, Chair of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health admits that as a physician back in the 1980's, he was telling people that they should replace butter with margarine because it was cholesterol free. Today he’s shifted his position a little: he imagines a spectrum ranging from super healthy foods such as blueberries to toxic ones (like a 20-oz Coke, he says) and would put butter “close to the middle, but maybe a little closer to the Coke”.
Dr. David Katz, Director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center still “avoids butter, opting instead for olive oil.”
Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, Dean of the School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University says there is “No evidence it’s good for you, yet little evidence for major harm.” A not very subtle put-down.
Dr David Ludwig also of Harvard is a little more positive with: “The next time you eat a piece of buttered toast, consider that butter is actually the more healthful component.”
Butter is after all about 50% saturated fat and there the Harvard scholars feel even more sure of their findings. Frank Hu professor of nutrition and epidemiology says “In terms of heart disease risk, saturated fat and refined carbohydrates appear to be similarly unhealthful.” Pretty damning; And a fellow Harvard researcher, Yanping Li points out: “Dietary recommendations to reduce saturated fats should specify their replacement with unsaturated fats (such as vegetable oils) or with healthy carbohydrates, such as whole grains.”
For now, butter sales are slowly rising so consumers are voting with their taste buds. But it may be some time before the Harvard team in particular, staunch supporters incidentally of eating whole grain carbohydrates, remind us that they always knew butter was really good for you. Yet, watch this space: in the world of nutrition, stranger things have taken place.
"FAT IS OUR FRIEND" ADVOCATES A DIET:
Sammy Pepys was the pseudonym used by James Capon when writing this book. He is not a doctor or a nutritionist but has studied nutrition and holds an MPH from Edinburgh University. Over the years, he has become increasingly suspicious of today's conventional wisdom about diet and health. When it comes to what we eat, he has helped many learn to eat more healthily.