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Butter Neutral, Unsaturated Fats Still Better for Health

Long the villain, fat seems to be having its day in the sun. Two new studies have added fuel to the controversy about what types of fats are beneficial to long-term health and which ones to avoid.

The first study addressed the question "Is butter back?" It found only weak or neutral effects of butter consumption on overall mortality and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk, suggesting that butter may not be as harmful as previously thought.

The findings were published online on June 29 inPLoS One and represent the most comprehensive evaluation so far of the effects of butter consumption on long-term health.

The second study, which draws from two very large databases of participants in the Nurses" Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, who were followed for over 3 decades, was published online July 5 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Results suggest that eating higher amounts of saturated and trans fat increases the risk for death, while eating polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) and monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) may lower the risk of death. Replacing saturated fats with the same amount of calories from PUFAs and MUFAs was linked to a reduced risk for overall death.

The results lend support to the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which for the first time cut out the recommendation to limit total fat, opting instead to recommend a diet low in saturated fat.

The crux of the matter is about focusing on the individual fatty-acid profile of foods and the diversity of food sources. Increasing evidence suggests the need for dietary guidelines to shift away from a focus on isolated nutrients to the overall dietary pattern.