by Marion Nestle
Jan 7 2014

Today’s irony: butter

A new report from Finland says that people with metabolic syndrome (high blood pressure, cholesterol, sugar, etc) do not follow dietary recommendations.

In particular, their diets contain too much saturated fat and sodium.

The saturated fat part is funny because this morning’s PoliticoPro Agriculture notes that the American Butter Institute (yes, such things exist) proudly announces that Americans are consuming more butter.

The Butter Institute’s press release, according to PoliticoPro, says:

Margarine and other spreads are no longer viewed as healthier alternatives…since 2002, Americans have increased butter consumption by 25 percent. In 2012, per capita consumption reached 5.6 pounds a year, a dramatic increase from the 1997 low of 4.1 pounds.

We still have a way to go to beat the Finns.  In 2011, average butter consumption in Finland was 4 kilos (nearly 9 pounds), and rising.

Love butter?  Better eat your veggies and balance calories!

  • Thumbdriver

    The real irony here is that finally everybody is rebounding from the CSPI’s push to make sure everybody stopped eating butter in favor of trans-fat laden foods like margarine.

  • Eleanor

    Hi Marion,

    Advances in Nutrition published an article about this subject last May 2013.

    “Dietary Fats and Health: Dietary Recommendations in the Context of Scientific Evidence” Adv Nutr. May 2013 4 3):294-302

    It’s behind a paywall… Would you be able to take a look at it and let us know what you think about it as a contribution to the ongoing discussion about which fats are healthy fats?

  • Tara

    In my family of three, we go through at least 1 stick of butter a week so we might have some Finn blood in us. I always have one on the counter which I use to cook with daily and spread on toast in the morning. I have always been a firm believer in eating the real stuff, e.g. full fat dairy, butter, real sugar, etc. I find it’s more satiating and having it in moderation is all good. We definitely eat a lot of vegetables, whole grains and fruit to balance it out too.

  • Lorraine Lewandrowski

    I am sad that urban professionals seem to be incredulous when ag related trade associations mentioned. I once spoke to a group of professors who were flabbergasted that dairy farm groups exist

  • Leoluca Criscione

    …and balance calories…
    This is exactly the point… this is why calories count… this is why, in my opinion, we should do more educating people on the fact that the energy balance is an INDIVIDUAL matter!!
    With Calogenetic Balance we are going this way … see our data as presented at the last European Congress on Obesity (ECO2013)…

  • Trey Shelton

    So what’s your thoughts on Sweden’s national dietary guidelines endorsing a low carb / high fat diet? This is the same country that awards Nobel Prizes. And, I’m assuming you aren’t advocating margarine as better than real butter, right? Isn’t the over abundance of Omega 6 in our diet the real culprit?

    Personally, I start my day with butter in my coffee and use it liberally when cooking. (Don’t worry, my cholesterol tests are fantastic.)

  • A 2009 Swedish study concluded that “(d)aily intake of fruit and vegetables was associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease when combined with high dairy fat consumption…but not when combined with low dairy fat consumption…” Americans still forget that healthy fats are a necessary nutrient.

  • Jen Fox Nutrition

    I just saw this article “5 Reasons Why Butter is a Superfood” posted on the Internet so it must be true. Would love to hear your take on it:

  • Pingback: Today’s irony: butter | CookingPlanet()

  • Yeah, I have to agree with most of the posters here. I eat mostly whole foods plant-based (WFPB), but I cook with about 1.5 kg of butter every year. I’ll live with the risks of eating it.

  • pawpaw

    The article you reference is available here, no paywall.

    See also: and

    Marion, not all saturated fats are equal, and ‘butter is better’. High fat dairy, as part of a balanced calorie diet, is MUCH better than simple carbs. Which is where the calories tend to come from when restricting saturated fats. As you said, combine those whole veggies with butter. While counting calories.

    Ronald Krauss has also noted the apparent protective effect/benefit of high fat dairy, again within a balanced diet rich in fruits and veggies.

  • Eleanor

    Thanks so much for the links…I really appreciate it!

    While I differ with some of Marion’s views (I’ve gone down the rabbit hole of keto-adaptation and so have a very different perspective on what constitutes a healthy amount of saturated fat) I greatly respect her work and like most of the commenters share her goals for improving the food system.

    I think that common outlook is one of the reasons her comments section is always so civilized and constructive.

  • Aina Hunter

    Michele, country to what the National Butter Institute would like us to think, saturated fat/animal fat/butter fat, is still bad for you – especially in the quantities Americans currently enjoy. What most studies since 2010 have shown – and here is where you may be confused – refined carbs may be even worse for your health. So substituting heavy cream in your coffee for a bagel with jelly may not be the best idea. Again – sat fat is no health food good, but neither are refined carbs/sugar.