Butter came off the table decades ago among people aiming for a low-fat diet that would keep chronic health problems such as heart disease and diabetes at bay.

Might it be time to reconsider that thinking?

This study

The researchers analyzed data from nine studies, involving 636,151 generally healthy adults. Average consumption of butter, based on a daily serving size of one tablespoon, varied in the studies, ranging from one-third of a serving to slightly more than three servings a day.

In about a 10-year span, 9,783 people developed cardiovascular disease or a related problem, such as atherosclerosis or stroke, and 23,954 people developed diabetes. Overall, butter consumption had no effect on the occurrence of cardiovascular problems. Butter consumption was linked to a slightly lower incidence of Type 2 diabetes.

Who may be affected

Adults. A serving of butter contains about seven grams of saturated fat, a type of fat especially targeted by low-fat diets. However, the researchers noted that, because of the emphasis on saturated fat, the potential benefits of other components of butter and their overall effect on the body may have been overlooked.

Based on the study findings, they described butter as a “middle of the road” food — healthier than sugars and starches, less healthy than such alternatives as soybean, canola or olive oil.

Caveats

Most of the data on butter consumption came from participants’ responses on questionnaires. The analysis included no randomized studies, which would have compared the effect of butter consumption with something else.

Find this study

Online in PLOS One (journals.plos.org/plosone; search for “butter”).

Learn more

Information on healthy eating is available at hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource and cdc.gov (search for “healthy eating”).

The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals.