Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Butter is still bad for your heart, health experts say

When I compared Smart Balance Spread with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, above, to Original Smart Balance in June, I overlooked another reason to buy the former: Less saturated fat. Reducing saturated fat can be good for your heart, if you replace it with unsaturated fat, according to Consumer Reports On Health.


Headlines such as "Butter is Back" in The New York Times and "gleeful" news articles urging people to eat more bacon were premature, according to Consumer Reports On Health, a monthly newsletter.

Those reports were based on a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine that "suggests ... saturated fat, long thought to be a major contributor to heart disease by raising LDL (bad) cholesterol, isn't a dietary demon after all," the July 2014 newsletter states.

"The study got a lot of us hoping we could chow down on buttery croissants and fried chicken without any risk to our hearts," Consumer Reports said.

Not me. I never use artery clogging butter or cream, especially not in my cooking, which relies exclusively on heart-healthy extra-virgin olive oil. 

And when I eat out, I ask the kitchen to use olive oil, not butter, to prepare my food. 

I looked at several brands of butter at ShopRite in Paramus the other day. Saturated fat in one tablespoon was 35% to 37% -- more than four times the saturated fat in Smart Balance Spread with Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Many missed the 'correction'

British researchers looked at 72 previous studies "on the role of fat in heart disease and concluded that the evidence didn't support the advice to cut back on saturated fat, which comes primarily from animal sources [meat, poultry and cheese], and to eat more saturated fat, which comes mainly from vegetables, nuts and fish," the editors said.

"Well, not so fast. That report got a lot of attention, but less noticed was the authors' correction a week later.

"Turns out that when it came to unsaturated fats -- the kind in olive oil and fish -- they had goofed. Their correction shows that consuming that kind of fat does help protect against heart disease." 

Grilled wild sockeye salmon with a reduction of extra-virgin olive oil, chopped fresh garlic, diced organic tomatoes, red wine, organic chicken stock and fresh herbs. The fish was $10.99 a pound at Costco Wholesale, and most of the other ingredients also came from the Hackensack warehouse store.

Extra-virgin oil also forms the basis of a pasta sauce for organic whole-wheat fusilli with sardines. After reheating leftovers, you can drizzle more olive oil on the pasta at the table.

Two organic brown eggs fried sunny side up in extra-virgin olive oil with smoked wild salmon and Aleppo pepper. I served them with garlic mashed sweet potatoes, also made with extra-virgin olive oil and seasonings.

Eat more unsaturated fat

Consumer Reports says the study by British researchers "had other shortcomings to muddy the message about dietary fat."

"For example," the newsletter states, "our experts say that it left out research showing that the benefits of cutting back on saturated fat depend on what you replace it with.

"If you stop eating butter and cheese but start eating a lot of sugar or processed foods, you're unlikely to do your heart or your health in general much good," says Maxine Siegel, R.D., who heads Consumer Reports research on food and nutrition.

Considerable research shows that if saturated fat is replaced with unsaturated fats, the risk of heart disease goes down, Consumer Reports says, adding:

"It still pays to watch your intake of saturated fat, Siegel says. "Aim for no more than 7% to 10% of total calories from the stuff (about 140 to 200 calories, if you consume 2,000 calories per day).

A tablespoon of ShopRite butter contains 100 calories, all from fat.

"But equally important is to replace saturated fat with heart-healthy alternatives, such as unsaturated fats, fruit, vegetables and whole grains -- not refined carbs such as those in white bread, sugar and many snacks."

Drugs and tests

Consumer Reports on Health also discussed other research on preventing heart disease:

"Aggressive new guidelines from the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology mean that 13 million more Americans -- including almost all men ages 60 to 75 and more than half of women in that age range -- should now take a cholesterol-lowering drug, such as atorvastatin (Lipitor and generic) or rosuvastatin (Crestor).

"A number of leading medical groups have questioned the usefulness of several heart-disease screening tests, including EKGs and exercise stress tests, long part of an annual checkup for millions of Americans, as well as newer and often heavily advertised tests, such as CT scans of the heart."


  1. You should be careful about offering medical advice. The biology of men and women is quite different, duh. The fact is that drugs such as atorvastatin (Lipitor and generic) or rosuvastatin (Crestor) are effective in only 2 percent of women. Moreover a 7-year study of 200,000 post menopaulsal women by the University of Massachusetts Medical School demonstrated a 50 percent increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in women who take these drugs. A less dramatic effect in women are painful muscle cramps. These drugs do lower cholesterol in men and reduce heart attacks in men with existing heart disease, but there is no evidence that they have any effect on mortality. A Canadian study of 11,000 women found no evidence that statins reduced heart attacks or strokes in women. I could go on, but you get the idea. As for butter, I direct your attention to the work of Peter Attia, M.D. who is conducting clinical trials as we speak.

    1. I am sure you can find a study that backs up every position under the sun. You prove that in your comment.

      I am not offering medical advice.


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