March 13, 2017
411 Butter vs Vegetable Oil [13 March 2017]
A re-evaluation of data from an old study has thrown new light on the butter vs vegetable oil controversy. For decades now the advice to replace saturated animal fats (which includes butter) with vegetable oils has gone unchallenged. The theory was that saturated fats increased cholesterol and cholesterol increased risk of heart disease. A few suspected that the science behind this advice was lacking, but their protests were largely ignored.
The study, called the Minnesota Coronary Experiment, was carried out between 1968 and 1973 [way back when I was in high school] on 2,350 residents of psychiatric hospitals and a nursing home. The residents were randomly divided into two groups: a low saturated high linoleic acid (mostly corn oil) “intervention group” and a high saturated fat “control group” (butter, margarine and lard).
The data was re-evaluated by a team from the U of N Carolina School of Medicine. They discovered that while the unsaturated diet significantly lowered cholesterol, it did not lower the risk of death in the under 65 year olds and actually increased risk of death in the 65 and older group. While specifically avoiding any suggestion that butter might actually be good for you, the researchers concluded that their “findings add to growing evidence that incomplete publication has contributed to overestimation of benefits, and underestimation of potential risks, of replacing saturated fat with vegetable oils rich in linoleic acid”. They also ran a meta-analysis of five random controlled trials comparing a diet with saturated fats versus vegetable oils and found no difference in deaths from heart disease or any cause.
This reminds me of the Sydney Diet Heart Study from 1966-73 which was re-evaluated in 2013 and also found that replacing saturated fats with linoleic acid increased the rates of death from heart disease and from all causes.
I have written several columns on this topic: The Cholesterol Theory of Heart Disease [#238 Oct 2011]; Cholesterol & Saturated Fat [#244 Nov 2013] and Saturated Fats Found Not Guilty [#259 March 2014]. I refer to other studies that show that cholesterol is not the villain in heart disease; that it is not the addition of linoleic acid or the reduction of saturated fats, but the increase in Omega 3s that lowers risk of heart disease; and that reducing refined carbs is far more important than changing fats.
British Medical Journal article
Pub Med review
Science Daily Report
Nutrition & Healing newsletter
For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.