In 2016, Time magazine published a controversial article defending nutritionists’ worst enemy — butter. The article stated that the soft and pleasantly spreadable condiment is not as dangerous as once thought, and that an analysis of more than nine studies featuring 600,000 total participants showed that butter is not linked to a higher risk of heart disease and may even help prevent Type 2 diabetes. This theory goes against the current medical discourse that cites butter’s saturated fat content as a source of high cholesterol and blood pressure.
But researchers from Harvard University disagree with this re-embrace of butter. A news brief published in the Harvard Health Letter warns readers not to “buy into reports that ‘butter is back.’” A 2016 study published in the British Medical Journalanalyzed over two decades of dietary and health information from 115,000 people and found that higher intakes of common saturated fats like lauric acid, myristic acid, and stearic acid were associated with an increased risk of coronary artery disease. Another meta-analysis of the connection between butter consumption and cardiometabolic outcomes (e.g., diabetes, heart disease, stroke) found a “small or neutral overall association of butter with mortality, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.”
In conclusion, these three publications agree that the current dietary guidelines established by the United States Department of Agriculture — that saturated fat intake should make up less than 10 percent of a person’s daily caloric intake — should remain the same. However, more research is required to truly understand the connection between dairy’s saturated fat content and heart disease.