1920-1930 was the year in which the first heart disease epidemic broke out. And currently, heart disease is the major cause of death in the world.
While the heart disease epidemic was ravaging, dietitians, and nutrition professionals thought that foods may play a causative role. Foods such as eggs, meat, and butter were partly blamed for this.
The experts believed that these foods contributed to the high incidence of heart disease due to their high content of saturated fat and cholesterol.
Humans have been eating butter for centuries, long before the first incidence of heart disease was recorded. So, it doesn’t make sense to point accusing fingers at these old foods as being the cause of a relatively new health condition.
The thing is, as the intake of fatty foods is reduced, the incidence of chronic health conditions like type II diabetes, obesity, and heart disease soared.
The fact is that butter and other natural foods do not contribute to the high incidence of heart disease.
Saturated fat is not as bad as you think it is
Many experts thought that butter was a bad food due to its high content of saturated fat.
It is important to note that most dairy fat is saturated. On the other hand, lard and other types of animal fats are also mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated.
Butter is close to pure fat dairy. As such, it contains a great deal of saturated fat. Studies have shown that it has 63% saturated fatty acids in it (1).
Saturated fat has beneficial effects on your blood lipid profile:
- They increase HDL levels. HDL is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease (5, 6, 7).
- They convert LDL from dense and small (bad) to large LDL. Large LDL isn’t associated with heart disease (8, 9).
As such, there’s no sense in avoiding butter just because you don’t want saturated fat. Saturated fat is 100% benign – and is a great source of energy for the human body.
Pasture-fed butter contains vitamin K2
Vitamin K may not be as popular as other groups of vitamins, but it contributes greatly to optimal heart health.
There are many forms of vitamin K2. There is vitamin K1, also known as phylloquinone. It occurs naturally in leafy greens and other plant foods. There is also vitamin K2, also known as menaquinone. Menaquinone is found in animal foods.
Dairy products from pasture-raised cows are heavily enriched with vitamin K2. Other excellent sources of this vitamin include goose liver, egg yolks, and natto. Natto is a fermented soy-based dish (12, 13).
Vitamin K modifies proteins, thus enabling them to bind well to calcium ions. As such, it has a sort of regulatory effect on calcium metabolism.
One of the major issues with calcium is that it drains from the bones (resulting in osteoporosis) and accumulates in the arteries (resulting in atherosclerosis).
So, you can prevent this process in part by optimizing your intake of vitamin K2. Nutritional studies have shown that vitamin K2 has a reducing effect on the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis (14, 15).
A Rotterdam study investigated the effects of vitamin K2 on heart disease. Results from the study showed that those who took in more vitamin K2 had their risk of death from heart disease reduced by 57%, as well as a 26% reduced risk of death from all causes, over a decade (16).
Another research found that the daily intake of 10mcg of vitamin K2 reduced the risk of heart disease in women by 9%. Vitamin K1 did not have any effect (17).
Considering the protective effect that vitamin K2, it is pertinent to state that the avoidance of butter and eggs may have triggered the heart disease epidemic.
Butter is enriched with butyrate, an anti-inflammatory fatty acid
Over the past few decades, we have erroneously believed high cholesterol to be the primary cause of heart disease.
Recent studies have however shown that other factors are at play in this regard.
Inflammation is very important because it protects us from infections and injuries. However, too much inflammation or inflammation directed against the body’s tissues can cause harm.
However, some nutrients have potent effects on inflammation. One of these is butyrate, also known as butyric acid. Butyrate is a 4-carbon long, short-chain saturated fatty acid.
Consumption of butter from grass-fed cows is associated with a drastic decrease in heart disease risk
Cows diet plays a major role in determining the nutrient composition of dairy products as well as their health effects.
Naturally, cows roam free and eat pasture (grass), and the grass is their natural food.
But in modern times, cattle (mostly in the United States) are fed with feeds made from corn and soy.
Grass-fed dairy is richer in Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin K2. These nutrients are important for the heart (29).
A closer look at countries with pasture-fed cattle shows a different effect.
An Australian study has shown that high-fat dairy products have a 69% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease-related deaths, compared to those who ate very little of it (32). Other studies agree with this. In countries with grass-fed cattle, high-fat dairy products help reduce the risk of heart disease (33, 34, 35).