Ah, butter. The old-fashioned fat. The perfect partner for a baked potato. My misunderstood friend. It's creamy, flavorful, and downright delicious on toast. But is butter healthy?
I started out writing a post on why butter is healthy, and quickly realized the merits of butter are so far-reaching it will take more than one post to even begin to delve into this controversial subject. After all, most of us have been told for decades that butter belongs on the top of the "do not eat" list. It takes more than one simple blog post to undo years of USDA propaganda.
Is Butter Healthy? Butyric Acid Benefits
So today I want to start by addressing butyric acid (also known as butyrate). Butter is the richest dietary source of butyric acid (3-4%), a short-chain fatty acid which is proving to be highly beneficial.
Butyric Acid and Metabolic Health
A very interesting study demonstrated the benefits of butyric acid in mice. Researchers found that feeding these mice butryic acid could reverse several harmful metabolic affects. The mice who received butyric acid in their diet were leaner and did not have a tendency to overeat. They also had lower cholesterol, triglyceride and fasting insulin levels--all pointing to better metabolic health and a decreased risk of developing metabolic syndrome.
Butyric Acid and Gut Health
The gut actually uses butyric acid as an energy source. Butyric acid has been shown to benefit those with gut disorders like ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. That's because this short-chain fatty acid helps restore the integrity of the gut lining while also reducing inflammation.
Butyric Acid and Cancer
Studies have demonstrated that butyric acid has the ability to cause cancer cells to mature into normal cells. This is a unique property, since most anti-cancer substances either kill the cancer cell or cause it to kill itself. Butyric acid, however, appears to preserve the life of the cell by normalizing its function.
Is Butter Healthy?
In the end, the degree of health-giving properties in any given food is dependent upon an individual's tolerance or dietary needs. In other words, your mileage may vary. But after today's post and as we continue to explore butter's health benefits, I hope that we can end the tyrade on this traditional fat and learn to appreciate what butter has to offer.