As proponents of whole foods and a holistic, natural diet, we’re big fans of butter. But what exactly makes butter so much better than synthetic margarine?
For starters, if the cow is fed high-quality pasture grass—particularly fast growing, new spring grasses—the resulting butter will be a plentiful and effective source of vitamins A and D. Furthermore, high-quality butter produced at anytime of year is an excellent source of the complete vitamin E complex. But high-quality butter can also offer us something else. As we’ll soon see, it contains a substance described as “Activator X” by Dr. Weston A. Price in his classic book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. Dr. Royal Lee would later come to identify this critical, fat-soluble nutrient as vitamin F.
Let’s Start with the Importance of Vitamin E
Each vitamin is a multifaceted, natural complex that can only be found in its complete form in natural foods. Sadly, vitamin E has been classified as merely a tocopherol (just one of its complex parts), which has limited the true analysis of its function.
What makes the E complex so special? To start, it’s much more than just tocopherol. Evidence suggests that tocopherol isn’t the source of vitamin E but rather its protector. The actual vitamin E seems to be a phospholipid that works with a special fatty acid known as vitamin F. They operate synergistically to support cell division, kidney and liver metabolism, calcium metabolism, and more. Like a stool that needs all of its legs, the E complex needs vitamin E and its accompanying vitamin F, along with protective tocopherol, to be truly beneficial to our bodies.
Dr. Price’s “X” Factor
In his travels around the globe in the 1930s, Dr. Weston A. Price described what he called “Activator X,” which is present in young grass and butter from grass-fed cows. This “X” factor was shown to be very beneficial to the health of human bones and teeth. In one study, it completely inhibited the growth of caries bacillus (a bacteria that causes cavities). The test showed a salivary bacterial count of 680,000 before the use of Activator X, and no bacteria after.
Other research shows that Activator X supports the differentiation of sexual development. In one case, animals not getting the grass factor required 23 percent more time to become sexually mature. In another study, the growth of children fed margarine versus those fed butter was compared over a period of two years. The results show that both boys and girls who ate margarine gained more weight and height than those who ate butter. Why is that important? Inhibition of sexual development is often marked by a stimulation of growth because the sex hormones produced in puberty stop long bone growth.
In “Butter, Vitamin E, and the “X” Factor of Dr. Price,” Dr. Royal Lee writes: “A factor in young grass is apparently the same one as described by Dr. Weston A. Price in the second edition of his book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, which he called ‘Activator X’ and was found only in butter from cows fed spring grass.”
Despite its promising benefits, Activator X has one major downfall: it’s very susceptible to oxidation and is lost in butter within a few months of production. In fact, tests of commercial butter (which sits on the shelf longer and thus has a lower Activator X content), mimic the same inhibition of sexual development as present with margarine.
Why Is Butter Better?
Butter contains beneficial complex vitamins, and if it’s made locally or used in a relatively short time after production, it has the added benefits of Dr. Price’s “X” factor. Butter is good for your teeth and bones, contains natural antioxidants and preservatives, and much more.
Margarine, on the other hand, is made from hydrogenated vegetable fat. Lacking natural preservatives, manufacturers must add synthetic compounds. And if there are any vitamins in the margarine, they’re not available as the whole vitamin complex.
In the end, the case for butter is the same as for other whole, natural foods. Butter is a choice for vitamins and other important compounds in their unaltered natural state, where they can do the most good for your body.
For more thorough reading on the topic of how these vitamins interact and benefit us, check out the vitamin F page at the SRP Historical Archives.
Image from iStock/katkov.