Dangers of Using Butter to Burn Fat

Rumors that butter improves health begs the question, "What's the catch?"

Jay Cardiello - About.com - Dangers of Using Butter to Burn Fat
Jay Cardiello - About.com - Dangers of Using Butter to Burn Fat.

Desperation sends the masses to sample various fad diets like Atkins, South Beach, Paleo, and Eat Fat to Lose Fat, all incorporating the concept of loading up on fat in hopes of burning fat. Unfortunately, this claim falls short of the truth. Nasty and potentially fatal side effects are strategically omitted from health and fitness headlines on this claim.

Breaking Down Butter

Let’s take a look at butter’s place in a healthy diet.

Butter is very high in saturated fat content, making it a contraindication for a heart-healthy diet according to the American Heart Association. Healthy diet guidelines include primarily plant-based foods, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and foods high in fiber, low in fat, very low in saturated and trans fats if any at all, and limited in their amount of simple sugars. Research studies show that eating a high-fat diet greatly increases your risk for cancer in general. It’s terrifying that 75% of studies have linked eating a high-fat diet with prostate cancer.

Diets high in saturated and trans fats cause cholesterol to build up along the walls of your arteries, hardening them and leading to atherosclerosis. This makes you a ripe victim for a heart attack, heart failure, kidney failure, stroke or another disaster to sink its claws into you. Just one tablespoon of butter has 7.3 grams of saturated fat or 36% of the recommended daily value.

Diets high in saturated fat are dangerous and should be avoided. Saturated fat comes from animal products, including butter, which is typically made from cow’s milk. Cheese, whole milk, ice cream, sour cream, lard, solid shortening, and fatty meats like bacon also fall into this high saturated fat, animal product category.

Some vegetable oils like coconut, palm, and palm kernel oils are also high in saturated fat. Many animal products cause a chain of reactions in our body which leads to increased levels of testosterone and prostate enlargement. Butter falls into this category.

The Body's Fat Requirements

Your body needs fat in your diet; however that fat needs to come from good sources and offer multiple health benefits, like olive oil does. These good fats are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats coming from vegetable sources, including olive, sunflower, and flaxseed oils. Fats made up of saturated fatty acids are solids at room temperature, like butter. Avoid these as much as possible. On the other hand, unsaturated fatty acids are liquids at room temperature. They’re typically known as oils and are better for your health.

Research proves that your total fat intake should be less than 20% of your daily caloric intake. If any saturated fats are consumed, they should not exceed 10% of your total daily caloric intake. Since a gram of fat contains slightly over twice the amount of calories than a gram of carbohydrate or protein, excess fat can easily lead to rapid and unwelcome weight gain. The American Heart Association recommends limiting total fats and oils to fewer than 5-8 teaspoons a day for a healthy diet.

To the great dismay of upcoming fad diet creators, diets that call for high levels of fat to induce weight loss are nothing new. They’re based on the concept of the Ketogenic diet developed in 1921 to help epileptic children avoid seizures who were unresponsive to the anticonvulsant medications of the time.  Advancements in medicine over the years replaced the necessity of ketogenic diet for many by the 1950s. Now, the ketogenic diet itself and variations may be used to treat certain health conditions and can promote weight loss if followed properly. However, the diet comes with a list of red flags and side effects for many users.

 Research proves that a ketogenic very low carb diet and a non-ketogenic low carb diet are equally effective in weight loss, but the ketogenic diet comes with negative metabolic and emotional side effects that the non-ketogenic low carb diet does not have.


On a non-ketogenic diet, the body burns glucose (carbohydrates) as its primary energy source. On a ketogenic diet, carbohydrates are so severely restrained that the body has to burn something else for energy. It enters a process called ketosis where the liver breaks down fat, producing ketones as a by-product. These ketones (fats) are used as the body’s new energy source. But there’s a catch.

To enter ketosis, your diet must be very high in fat with virtually no carbohydrates. Fats should account for 70% of total daily calories, protein should account for 25% and the remaining 5% can come from carbohydrates. Sugar and caffeine are prohibited. Typical ketogenic protocols call for 3 to 4 grams of fat for every 1 gram of carbohydrate and protein.

If you fail to severely limit carbohydrates or eat too much protein, your body keeps converting glucose for energy and never enters ketosis. It’s very difficult to limit carbohydrates this severely since about 20 grams of carbohydrates are the max daily allowance on a typical ketogenic diet. Just to give you a point of reference, a slice of whole wheat bread contains close to 20g carbohydrates and one medium sized banana contains close to 30g carbohydrates. If you exceed your carbohydrate allowance and still eat high amounts of fat, your body goes back to burning glucose for energy. The overabundance of calories from eating lots of fat will make you gain weight very fast.

Consequences of Very Low Carb Diets

Depriving the body of carbohydrates has a plethora of consequences. The number one complaint on this diet is fatigue. Headaches, dizziness, and feelings of incredible fatigue are especially common over the first few weeks while your body is trying to get used to ketosis. Leg cramps, especially at night, are common during the early phases of the diet thanks to a lack of potassium. Bad breath is another side effect of ketosis as the ketones have the unpleasant smell of acetone and leave your body through your urine and your breath. Constipation is another problem as most people on the diet don’t get enough fiber. The diet immediately places a significant strain on liver and kidney function and can also cause vomiting, low blood sugar, and dehydration in the beginning stages.

Long-term problems can include moderate growth retardation, gallstones, acidosis or metabolic problems, recurrent infections, high cholesterol, high levels of uric acid in the blood, vitamin deficiencies, and decreased bone density. Research shows that ketogenic diets can easily cause arterial stiffness in children and adults, which is a precursor to vascular damage and vascular disease.

The Bottom Line

The ketogenic diet is suitable for some people but definitely not for all. Those suffering from epilepsy and other neurological diseases tend to do well on the diet. Only a doctor experienced with the ketogenic diet can tell you if it’s right for you and must monitor you through the process. However, you can still choose MUCH healthier fats than butter on a strict ketogenic diet.

If you’re just trying to lose weight, a heart-healthy diet with fresh plant based foods, fruits, vegetables, lean poultry and fish, unsaturated plant-based oils, and high-fiber, low-fat, non-processed options limited in added sugars, are the best choices for you. You’re much better off without butter.


Benefits of Ketogenic Diets.  Krilanovich NJ.  American Society of Clinical Nutrition, 2007. 

Carbohydrates in Bread.  Carbohydrate Counter, 2016. 

Danger in the Pipeline for the Ketogenic Diet?  Vol 14 No 6.  Kossof E.  Epilepsy Currents for U.S. National Library of Medicine, Nov-Dec 2014.  

Dietary Fats.  MedlinePlus by U.S. National Library of Medicine.   

Eat Fat, Lose Fat.  Vol 37 No 4.  Plumlee LA.  Nutrition Digest by American Nutrition Association, 2005.  Web.  

Heart Disease and Diet.  MedlinePlus by U.S. National Library of Medicine, 25 Apr 2015.    

Ketogenic Diet.  Kossof D, Schachter SC, Sirven J.  Epilepsy Foundation, Aug 2013.   

Ketogenic Diet.  Matus M.  Everydiet.   

Ketogenic Diet.  NDHealthFacts, 13 Mar 2014.  

Nutrition and Prostate Cancer.  University of California San Francisco Medical Center.  

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Weight Loss.  Mayo Clinic Foundation, 20 Sept 2014. 

What is the Ketogenic Diet?  Mangia A.  TheKetogenicDiet.org, 8 Feb 2012.  

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