Is Butter Better?

This post relates to the previous blog post about cholesterol. On December 17, 2013, The New York Times ran a profile of nutrition scientist, Fred Kummerow. At the University of Illinois in the 1950s, Dr. Kummerow studied the relationship between artificial fats (trans fats) and heart disease. The 1950s and 1960s was the era when the American public was literally force-fed margarine and other hydrogenated oils as a "healthy" alternative to butter.  He discovered that these artificial fats filled the arteries of patients who had died of heart attacks. This was 1957 - 30 years before the rest of the medical/scientific community finally accepted his findings and 50 years before the FDA took action against trans fats. Dr. Kummerow is now 99 and still working at a private lab near his home funded, in part, by the Weston A. Price Foundation. His latest research involves how polyunsaturated oils are responsible for atherosclerosis. Polyunsaturated oils are oils such as soybean, corn, and sunflower oils - yes the very same oils we are currently urged to consume! Dr. Kummerow has found that LDL-cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) is not the problem. The real problem is whether the LDL is oxidized - that's the culprit. When these so-called healthy oils are used in frying, they become oxidized and become a destructive component of LDL cholesterol. Oxidation can also take place within the body, high temperatures during cooking aren't always necessary for oxidation. If he is correct again, then it means that even if you have low levels of LDL-cholesterol, you could still be in trouble if it is oxidized. This latest research leads Dr. Kummerow to the conclusion that the healthiest fat to consume is saturated fat like that found in butter, eggs, cheese and meats in the context of a diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other unprocessed foods.

Hopefully, in the near future this LDL oxidation theory will be further explored. In the meantime, I personally use extra virgin olive oil for salads and low temperature sautéing. For high temperature frying (which should not be very often) I use extra virgin coconut oil. Both of these oils are saturated and shouldn't contribute to LDL oxidation. But remember, it is important to consume anti-oxidants in your diet. Fresh fruits and vegetables, especially brightly colored ones, contain anti-oxidants.  I have also added an anti-oxidant capsule in the vitamin packets available at my office.