Ever since the news that saturated fatty acids aren’t all that deleterious to health as it was heavily claimed by Ancel Keys, a somewhat notorious American pathologist back in the 1950s, the nutrition world found itself plunged into a pit of dubiety. Last year, I had the opportunity to attend a lecture presented by Andrew S.W. Samis, MD, assistant professor at Queen’s University. According to Dr. Samis, the answer to the question “Does eating more unsaturated fats and less saturated fats saturated reduce overall chance of death, heart attack, or stroke?” is ‘we don’t know.’
As crazy as it might sound, the research is quite divided on the matter based on the parcel of evidence.
Of course, Dr. Samis’ statement targeted specifically cardiovascular risk outcomes and did not voice the effect of such substitution in other areas of health.
My fellow dietitian colleagues recently published a study exploring the impact of saturated fats deriving from butter and cheese on heart disease related risk factors.
Their major findings are as followed:
- Both butter and cheese exerted the same effect on the levels of HDL-cholesterol (a.k.a the good cholesterol)
- Compared to the cheese diet, the levels of LDL-cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) were superior in the butter diet. The gap in LDL-cholesterol was much greater among individuals with a higher baseline LDL-cholesterol.
- Both the cheese and butter diet did not produce a significant effect on blood pressure, inflammation, and the homeostasis of glucose-insulin.
What to Gather
This experimental study is a perfect example of the importance of the food matrix, and the reason why food should be considered as a whole rather than a sum of individual nutrients. While both butter and cheese are known to contain a fair amount of saturated fats, their impact on the cholesterol metabolism differs.
In light of these results, you might be wondering: “Is cheese healthier than butter?”
If you base your answer on the potential of raising the levels of bad cholesterol, the answer would be yes—at least according to this study.
With that said, there are two items to consider. Firstly, the so-called bad cholesterol isn’t all that evil as they are depicted to be. The major problem is when they become over-populate. Secondly, people need to be reminded that healthy eating is not just about taking care of the body but the mind as well. As one of the many pleasures in life (and one that is performed several times a day), the act of eating needs to be enjoyed without severe restrictions; otherwise, life will become a huge drag.
Whether you are diabetic or not, cheese and butter can be part of a healthy diet, given that they are consumed in moderation and balanced out with other food groups.
This study is published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition on March 1, 2017.