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Recent Studies and Age Old Wisdom Point to the Health Benefits of Butter

Friday, March 07, 2008 by: Barbara L. Minton
Tags: 11300, news, trends

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(NewsTarget) Someone really should write an ode to butter. Pure delicious golden butter that comes from grass fed, pastured, contented cows. Beautiful butter that wants to nourish us and protect us from disease if we would only give it a chance. But alas, all we have today is attacked, maligned and mistreated butter. Butter that's been the whipping child of the diet dictators and the food police for decades. Well, it's time for us to stop convicting butter of imagined terrible crimes. It's time to restore butter to its proper place on our tables and in our hearts.

This negativity about butter would come as a surprise to the many people around the globe who have valued butter for its life-sustaining properties throughout history. In the 1930's Dr. Weston Price, a dentist who sought the answer for tooth decay, studied native diets in fourteen different cultures around the world. He found that butter was a staple in the diets of isolated, non-industrialized peoples who displayed supreme health. Children who were raised on diets in which butter was a central ingredient grew to be robust, sturdy and free of tooth decay. According to information published by The Weston Price Foundation, Swiss villagers placed a bowl of butter on their church alters, set a wick in it, and let it burn throughout the year as a sign of the divinity of the butter.

How did butter get to be our enemy instead of our friend? Two opposing forces were at work in America following World War II. Women returned to being full time mothers and family caretakers igniting an interest in health and nutrition. And corporations had to retool from the war effort and find something to sell to these women. Food technology became the obvious answer. In order to reap huge profits from the products of food technology, a stake had to be driven through the hearts of the tried and true foods that people had relied on for generations. Disinformation ad campaigns were launched to assert that naturally saturated fats from animal sources were the cause of disease. The idea of margarine was sold to physicians much like drugs are sold today. In their ignorance physicians told their patients to stop eating butter and start eating margarine. Soon everyone 'knew' that margarine was better for health than butter.

Once an idea becomes popular opinion, it tends to persist even in the face of evidence to the contrary. Today, butter is still viewed as our enemy in spite of the fact that hundreds of highly motivated studies have been unable to confirm a link between butter and disease.

Does butter really cause disease? Quite the contrary. Butter actually protests us against many of the diseases on the increase today.

Butter and Heart Disease

Although heart disease was seldom seen a hundred years ago, today it is the number one killer. During this time period, the annual consumption of butter has decreases from eighteen pounds per person to less than four. Butter is rich in nutrients that protect the heart. In their article for the Price Foundation, Why Butter is Better, Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig note that among the beneficial nutrients in butter is the antioxidant, vitamin A, needed for health of the thyroid and adrenal glands which help maintain proper functioning of the whole cardiovascular system. Butter is the best and most readily absorbed source of vitamin A. Butter also contains lecithin, a substance needed for the proper assimilation and metabolism of cholesterol and other fat constituents. It also contains the antioxidant vitamin E and selenium which are protective of the whole cardiovascular system.

And what about cholesterol, that substance the medical industry says is out to get us? Cholesterol is actually necessary for proper cell functioning and is a powerful antioxidant that protects us from damaged and rancid fats such as those generated by highly processed vegetable oils. Butter is an important source of this vital nutrient.

Butter and Cancer

Long chain fatty acids found in polyunsaturated oils, butter substitutes, and hydrogenated fats, are immunosuppressive. Short and medium chain fatty acids found in butter have immune system strengthening properties. These medium chain fatty acids are also more easily absorbed, digested, and utilized as energy than the long chain fatty acids.

Short and medium fatty acid chains also have strong anti-tumor effects, particularly 12-carbon lauric acid, a medium chain fatty acid not found in other animal fats. Highly protective lauric acid is a conditional essential fatty acid because it is made only by the mammary glands and not in the liver like other saturated fats. Although it is obtainable from large amounts of coconut oil, it may be more easily obtained from small amounts of butterfat.

The anti-fungal and anti-tumor effects of butyric acid, a short chain fatty acid, are unique to butter. Butyric acid is an energy source for the cells lining the colon, where it plays a part in development and maintenance. It reduces chronic inflammation of the colon, and high fecal levels correlate with decreased colon cancer risk. In people with compromised immune systems, undifferentiated cell growth can be inhibited by butyric acid.

Experiments with a variety of fats have shown that saturated fats do not cause tumors. In his book What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Breast Cancer (2002), Dr. John Lee states "the majority of studies show absolutely no connection between saturated fat intake and breast cancer risk", though we continue to be told by health 'experts' to avoid saturated fats if we want healthy breasts.

Body cell walls are made of cholesterol, protein and fats. The fats are largely saturated and monounsaturated. Our cells contain little in the way of polyunsaturated fat. The job of our cell walls is to admit from the blood the various nutrients that body cells need, while refusing admittance to harmful pathogens. A diet high in polyunsaturated fatty acids change the constituency of cholesterol and body fat. Cell walls become softer and unstable, losing their ability to regulate what is allowed into the cell. A diet high in butter results in no compromise of the cell walls.

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), present in butter in large amounts, has shown to be an anti-carcinogen in several animals studies. CLA has also been shown to inhibit the body's mechanism for storing fat and results in the body's utilization of fatty reserves for energy.

The fat soluble antioxidant vitamins in butter as well as selenium and cholesterol, are also protective against cancer.

More Attributes of Butter

In addition to vitamin A and E, butter contains vitamin D which is essential to the proper absorption of calcium and therefore necessary for proper bone growth and the development of healthy teeth. The rising rates of osteoporosis in milk drinking western nations may be due to people choosing skim milk over whole, thinking it is better for them. Butter is also protective against tooth decay.

Butter is one of the few foods that supply an adequate amount of iodine in a highly absorbable form. Iodine is critical for proper thyroid functioning as is vitamin A.

Cholesterol in butterfat promotes health of the intestinal wall and is protective against cancer of the colon. Glycospingolipids, a special category of fatty acids found in butterfat, is protective against gastrointestinal infection. Children who drink skim milk have diarrhea rates three to five times higher than children who drink whole milk. Butter's short and medium chain fatty acids have a strong anti-fungal effect and play a role in the treatment of candida overgrowth.

Butter contains small but nearly equal amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids. This excellent balance between linoleic and linolenic acid helps prevent the problems associated with excessive consumption of omega-6 fatty acids.

Butter and Weight Loss

Yes, you read that right. Butter is an agent of weight loss, not weight gain.

Fat tissue is composed mainly of longer chain fatty acids such as found in unsaturated oils and carbohydrates. The long chains require a lot of bile acids and many digestive steps to be broken down into small units that can be absorbed into the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, they are absorbed by fat cells and stored as fat. Medium chain fatty acids, however, are more water soluble and are able to enter the bloodstream quicker because of their short lengths. Once in the bloodstream, they are transported directly into the liver. Thus they are an immediate source of energy and only a tiny percent is converted into body fat.

CLA has been shown to inhibit lipoprotein lipase, an enzyme that breaks down fat in the blood so that fat cell uptake, or body fat accumulation, can occur. The inhabitation of lipoprotein lipase results in reduced fat deposits.

CLA also increases hormone sensitive lipase activity, breaking down fats stored in fat cells in the body. The fatty acids are returned to the blood stream to be used as an energy source for muscle cells. CLA directs the body to use fat reserves for energy.

Medium chain fatty acids have become a favorite energy source for many athletes who require a quick source of energy. Unlike carbohydrates which may cause a rapid increase in insulin production, resulting in weight gain and other health problems, medium chain fatty acids do not cause weight gain because they stimulate thermogenesis (the process in which the body generates energy or heat by increasing its normal metabolic, fat-burning rate).

Butter for Optimal Growth and Development in Children

Several factors in butter help insure that children grow and thrive. According to the findings of Dr. Price, individuals receiving optimal vitamin A from the time of conception have broad handsome faces, strong straight teeth, and excellent bone structures. Vitamin A also plays a role in hormone production and the development of the sex characteristics.

The X factor, discovered by Dr. Price, is essential for optimum growth. It is present only in butterfat from pastured cows. Cholesterol found in butterfat is important in the development of the brain and nervous system. Breast milk is high in cholesterol and more than half of its calories come from butterfat. Although low fat diets have been linked to failure to thrive in children, they are often recommended by pediatricians.

Who Benefits From the Continued Denigration of Butter?

Study after study has shown us that hydrogenated fat is a chief culprit in the escalation of cancer and heart disease. States have even passed laws against the use of trans fats in cooking. Yet nutritionists continue to tell us to avoid butter at all costs. Why? Because there are many who benefit from the battering of butter, including established medicine, big pharma, large corporate farms, food processors, and agribusiness. New products that serve the function of butter but provide none of the benefits are created, manufactured at small cost, packaged, advertised and sold at high prices.

About the author

Barbara is a school psychologist, a published author in the area of personal finance, a breast cancer survivor using "alternative" treatments, a born existentialist, and a student of nature and all things natural.

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