New York Times Nutrition Columnist Says It’s OK to Eat Butter

heart health Jul 25, 2018

A March 2014 article in the New York Times titled Butter is Back by Mark Bittman citing a meta-analysis of 72 different studies stated “there’s just no evidence to support the notion that saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease.”

The study he referred to was “Association of Dietary, Circulating, and Supplement Fatty Acids with Coronary Risk - A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis” actually said…

 …Current evidence does not clearly support cardiovascular guidelines that encourage high consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids and low consumption of total saturated fats. (1)

 Contrary to Bittman’s statement, the study does not support the increased consumption of saturated fat.  It compares saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats for the risk of coronary disease.

 Their findings use relative risk as a basis for comparison.

 For instance, in observational studies, the relative risk for saturated fat is 1.03, 1.00 for monounsaturated and 0.87 for long-chain polyunsaturated.

 The real numbers look like this:

Saturated –-----------------------Out of 276,763 people, 10,155 had an event – 3.67%

Monounsaturated ----------------Out of 144,219 people, 6,031 had an event – 4.18%

Polyunsaturated long chain ----Out of 422.786 people, 9,089 had an event – 2.15%

As you can see there is not much of a difference.

This study does not show the overall dietary pattern of the populations.  It zeroed in on the amount of the different types of fat.

These findings are not new.

In a five-year study, 200 men with previous heart attack history were divided into three groups. One group were on the standard American diet with 40% of their calories consisting of fat (saturated and unsaturated), one group consumed 28% of calories from saturated fat and the other group ate 28% of their calories from unsaturated fat.  At the end of the study, 25% on the 40% fat diet had a heart attack, 18% on the unsaturated fat diet had a heart attack and 18% had a heart attack. (2)

For 11 years, 400 men who had a previous infarction were put on two different diets, one group consumed 40% of their calories from saturated fat while the other group consumed 40% of their calories from unsaturated fat.  Both groups had an identical rate (25%) of sudden death. (3)

 It’s not the type of fat that causes heart disease…

 …it’s the amount of fat.

High levels of triglycerides (the amount of fat in the blood) are associated with cardiovascular heart disease.

An example can be found in a study of 3,168 men followed for nine years. The rate of coronary heart disease for those whose triglyceride levels were under 1.80 mmol was 10.2 per 1000, while those with levels over 1.80 was 36.9 per1000. (4)

Even though Bierenbaum’s and the Oslo Study confirmed the NY Times cited study, it’s important to note that those who had the higher percentage of fat had the highest risk of hard attack or sudden death.

It’s not just the fat.

Even though a high percentage of fat contributes to increase risk of cardiovascular issues, high levels of cholesterol is also a significant risk factor.

High amounts of cholesterol are associated with the consumption of animal products because cholesterol found only in animal products.

A 400% greater incidence was found in people with cholesterol levels over 259 md compared to those with under 200mg and those with triglyceride levels over 176 mg had a 300% greater incidence than those with under 100 mg. (5)

All you have to do is look at populations from around the world who eat a diet of less than 15% of their calories from fat and you’ll see they do not deal with cardiovascular issues.

These same people also have very low cholesterol levels often under 120 mg.

Their dietary pattern consists mostly carbohydrates (whole grains, beans, legumes, vegetables and fruits) and very little animal products.

Spread the truth instead of spreading butter

Bittman is right when he said you should avoid processed foods and he is correct in recommending fruits and vegetable but he is way off the mark by telling people they can go back to butter based on his misunderstood interpretation of this study.

Butter is not back nor will it ever be as a health food!


  1. Chowdhury R, Warnakula S, Kunutsor S, et al. Association of Dietary, Circulating, and Supplement Fatty Acids With Coronary Risk. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2014;160(6):398. doi:10.7326/m13-1788.


  1. Bierenbaum M.L., Green D.P., Raichelson R.I., Hayton T., Watson, P.B., Caldwell, A.B. “The 5-Year Experience of Modified Fat Diets on Younger Men with Coronary Heart Disease.” Circulation. Volume 42 Issue 5. Pages 943-952 (1970)


  1. Leren P. The Oslo Diet-Heart Study: Eleven-Year Report. Circulation. 1970;42(5):935-942. doi:10.1161/01.cir.42.5.935.


  1. \Carlson L, Böttiger L. Ischæmic Heart-Disease in Relation to Fasting Values of Plasma Triglycerides and Cholesterol. The Lancet. 1972;299 (7756):865-868. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736 (72) 90738-6.


  1. Rosenman, RH. Comparative Predicted Value of Three, serum Lipid Entries in a Prospective Study of I.H. n. Circulation 35, Suppl. 2-35, 1967.

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