The heart disease epidemic started around 1920-1930 and is currently the world's leading cause of death.
Somewhere along the way, nutrition professionals decided that foods like butter, meat and eggs were to blame.
According to them, these foods caused heart disease because they were high in saturated fat and cholesterol.
But we've been eating butter for thousands of years, since long before heart disease became a problem.
Blaming new health problems on old foods doesn't make sense.
As consumption of traditional fatty foods like butter went down, diseases like heart disease, obesity and type II diabetes went up.
The truth is, natural foods like butter have nothing to do with heart disease.
The reason butter was demonized is because it is loaded with saturated fat.
In fact, a very high proportion of dairy fat is saturated, whereas a large part of most other animal fats (like lard) is also mono- and polyunsaturated.
Butter, being almost pure dairy fat, is therefore very high in saturated fat, the fatty acids in it being about 63% saturated (1).
However, that really is not a cause for concern. The whole saturated fat, cholesterol and heart disease myth has been thoroughly debunked (, , ).
In fact, saturated fats can actually improve the blood lipid profile:
- They raise levels of HDL (the good) cholesterol, which is associated with a lower risk of heart disease (, , 7).
- They change the LDL from small, dense (bad) to Large LDL - which is benign and not associated with heart disease (, ).
Therefore, saturated fat is not a valid reason to avoid butter. It is completely benign... a healthy source of energy for the human body.
Bottom Line: The myth about saturated fat causing heart disease has been thoroughly debunked. The studies show that there is literally no association between the two.
Most people have never heard of Vitamin K, but it is one of the most important nutrients for optimal heart health.
There are several forms of the vitamin. We have K1 (phylloquinone), which is found in plant foods like leafy greens. Then we have Vitamin K2 (menaquinone), which is found in animal foods.
Even though the two forms are structurally similar, they appear to have different effects on the body. While K1 is important in blood clotting, Vitamin K2 helps to keep calcium out of your arteries (, 11).High-fat dairy products from grass-fed cows are among the best sources of Vitamin K2 in the diet. Other good sources include egg yolks, goose liver and natto - a fermented soy-based dish (, 13).
Vitamin K works by modifying proteins, giving them the ability to bind calcium ions. For this reason, it affects all sorts of functions related to calcium metabolism.
One problem with calcium, is that it tends to leach out of the bones (causing osteoporosis) and into the arteries (causing heart disease).
By optimizing your intake of Vitamin K2, you can partly prevent this process from occurring. Studies consistently show that Vitamin K2 dramatically reduces the risk of both osteoporosis and heart disease (, ).
In the Rotterdam study, which examined the effects of Vitamin K2 on heart disease, those who had the highest intake had a 57% lower risk of dying from heart disease and a 26% lower risk of death from all causes, over a 7-10 year period (16).
Another study found that the risk of heart disease was 9% lower in women for every 10 micrograms of Vitamin K2 they consumed per day. Vitamin K1 (the plant form) had no effect ().
Bottom Line: Vitamin K2 is a nutrient that most people don't know about, but it is one of the most important nutrients in the diet for heart and bone health.
In the past few decades, heart disease has been believed to be primarily caused by elevated cholesterol.
However, new studies are showing that there are a ton of other factors at play.
Of course, inflammation is important and helps protect our bodies from injury and infections. But when it is excessive or directed against the body's own tissues, it can cause severe harm.
It is now known that inflammation in the endothelium (lining of arteries) is a crucial part of the pathway that ultimately leads to plaque formation and heart attacks (21).
One nutrient that appears to be able to fight inflammation is called butyrate (or butyric acid). This is a 4-carbon long, short-chain saturated fatty acid.
One of the reasons fiber reduces heart disease risk may be that the bacteria in the intestine digest some of the fiber and turn it into butyrate (, , , ).
Bottom Line: Butter is a great source of a short-chain fatty acid called butyrate, which helps fight inflammation.
The nutrient composition and the health effects of dairy products can vary greatly, depending on what the cows ate.
In nature, cows used to roam free and eat grass, which is the "natural" source of food for cows.
However, cattle today (especially in the U.S.) is primarily fed grain-based feeds with soy and corn.Grass-fed dairy is much higher in Vitamin K2 and Omega-3 fatty acids, nutrients that are incredibly important for the heart ().
But if you look at some countries where cows are generally fed grass, you see a completely different effect.
According to one study from Australia, where cows are grass-fed, individuals who ate the most high-fat dairy products had a 69% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, compared to those who ate the least ().
Several other studies agree with this... in countries where cows are largely grass-fed (like many European countries), high-fat dairy products are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease (, 34, ).