© n/a
Ah, butter. The old-fashioned fat. The perfect partner for a baked potato. My misunderstood friend. It's creamy, flavorful, and downright delicious on toast. But is butter healthy?

I started out writing a post on why butter is healthy, and quickly realized the merits of butter are so far-reaching it will take more than one post to even begin to delve into this controversial subject. After all, most of us have been told for decades that butter belongs on the top of the "do not eat" list. It takes more than one simple blog post to undo years of USDA propaganda.

Is Butter Healthy? Butyric Acid Benefits

So today I want to start by addressing butyric acid (also known as butyrate). Butter is the richest dietary source of butyric acid (3-4%), a short-chain fatty acid which is proving to be highly beneficial.

Butyric Acid and Metabolic Health

A very interesting study demonstrated the benefits of butyric acid in mice. Researchers found that feeding these mice butryic acid could reverse several harmful metabolic affects. The mice who received butyric acid in their diet were leaner and did not have a tendency to overeat. They also had lower cholesterol, triglyceride and fasting insulin levels - all pointing to better metabolic health and a decreased risk of developing metabolic syndrome.

Butyric Acid and Gut Health

The gut actually uses butyric acid as an energy source. Butyric acid has been shown to benefit those with gut disorders like ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. That's because this short-chain fatty acid helps restore the integrity of the gut lining while also reducing inflammation.

Butyric Acid and Cancer

Studies have demonstrated that butyric acid has the ability to cause cancer cells to mature into normal cells. This is a unique property, since most anti-cancer substances either kill the cancer cell or cause it to kill itself. Butyric acid, however, appears to preserve the life of the cell by normalizing its function.

Is Butter Healthy?

In the end, the degree of health-giving properties in any given food is dependent upon an individual's tolerance or dietary needs. In other words, your mileage may vary. But after today's post and as we continue to explore butter's health benefits, I hope that we can end the tyrade on this traditional fat and learn to appreciate what butter has to offer.

Is Butter Healthy? Vitamin A Benefits

Weston A. Price found vitamin A to be a missing component in the modern diet compared to the diet of traditional cultures at the time. He noted that the cultures eating tradition foods consumed far more vitamin A than people who lived on modern fare. Here are just a few of the many vitamin A benefits:
  • Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant, meaning it protects us from free radical damage in the body.
  • Protein digestion is improved by vitamin A.
  • Vitamin A supports bone health.
  • It is vitally important for thyroid health.
  • Vitamin A enhances RNA production.
  • According to Dr. Campbell-McBride in Gut and Psychology Syndrome, vitamin A is also crucial for healing the gut.
But I Get My Vitamin A From Carrots!

Do you? The principle form of vitamin A in carrots (and other plant foods) is beta-carotene. The body cannot use beta-carotene as it is - it has to convert it to a more usable form of vitamin A. And not everyone can make this conversion easily. Particularly infants, children, the elderly, diabetics, and those with poor thyroid function may not be able to make the conversion as needed. The vitamin A in animal foods is in a far more bioavailable form.

Vitamin A and Butter: The Perfect Paring

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, so it needs fat to be fully utilized. This makes butter a truly synergistic food: it combines vitamin A with important fatty acids all in one package.

Another reason to love the vitamin A in butter? It's so darn delicious! Let's face it: it's not easy for everyone to eat organ meats and seafood (both excellent sources of vitamin A). Butter, however, is something most everyone can appreciate. It's easy to pile it on homemade bread, cook scrambled eggs with it, blend into mashed potatoes... you get the idea.

The Best Butter for Vitamin A

Maybe you've noticed: butter from grass-fed cows has more vitamin A than conventional butter! I've found that most commercial butters have about 6% of the RDA of vitamin A per serving. Higher-quality butter has 8% and I've even seen as high as 10% if find a really good brand. So remember: you get your money's worth when you buy better butter (yes, that is a tongue twister).

So far on our Is Butter Healthy? quest we've talked about the benefits of butyric acid and the benefits of vitamin A. Butter is a rich source of both of these important nutrients, but they aren't all butter has to offer. Also found within every bite of creamy, golden grass fed butter is vitamin K2. The benefits of vitamin K2 have only recently begun to receive the attention they deserve.

Vitamin K2 is the mysterious "Activator X" in grass fed butter that Weston A. Price valued so highly for its ability to promote the health of bones and teeth, as well as for treating a variety of chronic ailments. It is the synergistic element in high vitamin butter oil that was combined with the vitamin A and D in cod liver oil to provide nothing less than miraculous results in Weston Price's work.

Vitamin K1 Benefits vs Vitamin K2 Benefits

Vitamin K1 comes from plant sources (like spinach), while vitamin K2 comes from animal sources (like grass fed butter and liver). Conventional health information doesn't make much of a distinction between vitamin K1 and vitamin K2, but their functions in the body are quite different. Vitamin K1 plays the role most of us associate with vitamin K: supporting healthy blood clotting mechanisms. Vitamin K2, however, is in another league entirely. Its role in bone health, dental health and heart health appears to be completely separate from vitamin K1:

From The Healthy Skeptic blog
"A study recently published by the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) has revealed that increased intake of vitamin K2 may reduce the risk of prostate cancer by 35 percent. The authors point out that the benefits of K2 were most pronounced for advanced prostate cancer, and, importantly, that vitamin K1 did not offer any prostate benefits."
From the Whole Health Source blog
"A recent study examined the relationship between K2 (MK-4 through 10) consumption and heart attack risk in 4,600 Dutch men. They found a strong inverse association between K2 consumption and heart attack mortality risk. Men with the highest K2 consumption had a whopping 51% lower risk of heart attack mortality and a 26% lower risk of death from all causes compared to men eating the least K2! Their sources of K2 MK-4 were eggs, meats and dairy. They obtained MK-5 through MK-10 from fermented foods and fish. The investigators found no association with K1, the form found in plants."
A common misconception is that if we get plenty of vitamin K1 from plant sources, then our bodies will convert it to K2 (therefore getting vitamin K2 from animal sources is deemed unnessecary). In reality, this doesn't seem to work so well. I imagine this to be similar to the beta-carotene issue: while converting it to a usable source of vitamin A is possible, it simply doesn't work for many people and leaves the majority of us deficient if we're relying on carrots for our vitamin A. The simple fact is that these vitamins are in a more bioavailable state when they come from animal sources like grass fed butter. So using butter to reap the benefits of vitamin K2 is going to much more effective than, say, eating a bowl of leafy greens.


Butyrate Improves Insulin Sensitivity and Increases Energy Expenditure in Mice

Effect of butyrate enemas on the colonic mucosa in distal ulcerative colitis.

Physiological concentrations of short-chain fatty acids immediately suppress colonic epithelial permeability.

The Spring 1998 Cancer Chronicles

About the author

Elizabeth Walling - I'm on a journey to living the nourished life. I am an independent health researcher and freelance writer. My passion for health and writing led me to found my blog The Nourished Life as a source of information for others who are also interested in improving their health and well-being the natural way. I strongly believe that living a nourished life is not about conforming to someone else's ideas about health. It's about acquiring the tools and information you need to find out what you need to nourish yourself.