Islamabad - A little butter isn’t going to kill anyone, but it’s not a health food, either, nutrition experts found in a big study released the other day.

Before you sigh and complain about science flip-flopping, the researchers want to point out that they took a new approach to answering the classic question about healthy food. They looked at actual foods that people ate, rather than the ingredients that make up those foods, like saturated fats. 

Their upshot? There are better things to worry about than butter.

“I would say butter is neither good nor bad,” said Laura Pimpin of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University, who led the study. “If you can replace it with the more healthful plant-based oils, do so.”

Studies look at saturated fat or unsaturated fat or omega-3 fatty acids or calcium. Pimpin’s team set out to find studies that looked at whole foods that people actually eat and then calculated their risks for overall death, heart disease and diabetes.

“We did the most up-to-date review that we could,” Pimpin told NBC News. “We only found nine studies looking at the effect of butter. That’s a finding in itself.”

But they did their best and found no clear evidence that butter does any harm or good by itself. People who ate the most butter were slightly more likely to die during the various study periods than were people who ate little or none, but the risk was very slight, the team said.

The team wrote: “Our findings suggest a major focus on eating more or less butter, by itself, may not be linked to large differences in mortality, cardiovascular disease, or diabetes. In sum, our findings do not support a need for major emphasis in dietary guidelines on butter consumption.”

What might be more useful to focus on is the stuff people eat butter with, Pimpin said. “It may be the case that the bagel you spread your butter on or the bread you spread it on may be more of a concern than the butter itself,” she said.

“It’s common sense. We do know that there are other foods that are healthful. If you can switch to cooking with olive oil, that could be beneficial,” she said.

Herbs on your roast ‘can reduce the pain of cancer’

The Sunday roast could help fight the pain of cancer and other diseases, researchers revealed last night but it’s the herbs rather than the meat, potatoes or veg which are nature’s wonder drug.

For rosemary and thyme, traditional ingredients to add a bit of spice to joints, stuffing and even roast potatoes, act as natural painkillers, according to the latest medical study.

They both contain key chemical compounds that act as an analgesic to inflammation and pain, including the kind that affects those suffering from cancer, tumours and other diseases.

Rosemary and thyme contain key chemical compounds that act as an analgesic to inflammation and pain, including the kind that affects those suffering from cancer, tumours and other diseases. The compounds are called diterpenoids and occur naturally in a handful of plants, fungi and other organisms and two kinds of diterpenoids - carnosol and carnosic acid - are particularly effective.

They inhibit inflammation in the body, said the study by German and Italian scientists for the specialist British Journal of Pharmacology.

And the good news is they occur most naturally in both rosemary and thyme, two common herbs used in a variety of recipes and cooking to add a bit of extra flavour to the pot.

It is yet another boost for the superfood claims of rosemary, in particular, as in March it was found to be the common link in an Italian village where a large proportion of residents live to beyond 100.

Tests on both human cells and mice found the diterpenoids in rosemary and thyme block the enzymes in the body which produce inflammation and the pain associated with it.

The compounds are called diterpenoids and occur naturally in a handful of plants, fungi and other organisms and two kinds of diterpenoids - carnosol and carnosic acid - are particularly effective

The enzymes are prevalent in cancer and tumour sufferers. Incorporating the herbs into medicines could be a way to relieve pain, said researcher Dr Giuseppe Bifulco of Italy’s Salerno University.

He said: ‘Two key enzymes of inflammation, are primary targets of carnosol and carnosic acid which are major bioactive ingredients of herbs that are used as spices - namely sage and rosemary.

‘Our study provides comprehensive insights into their anti-inflammatory mechanism.’