For Indians, ghee (verified butter OR clarified butter OR butter oil) is a religious matter rather then a food item. Indians attach special importance to ghee, especially cow ghee, because of its importance in ayurveda. Ghee has dominated most Indian kitchens for centuries. Indian sweets or mithais were unimaginable not far ago. Even today the most prestigious mithai (Indian Sweets) super stores in India don’t use ghee substitutes. Use of ghee in sweets (and not its substitutes vanaspati) is viewed by customers as the symbol of their quality and richness
But the metabolic epidemic comprising of diabetes, heart disease, obesity and hypertension (metabolic syndrome X) which have emerged in the recent decades in India has put a question mark on this Indian favorite cooking medium. There are difference of opinion among health professionals of different (medical, ayurvedic, naturopathic etc) fields about the goodness (or badness) of ghee. To add to the chaos some babas, gurus, bapus and other godmen advocate usage of ghee in diet. A lay man is in confused by these conflicting streams of advice. His medical doctor advices him to avoid ghee whereas his spiritual guru or baba advices him otherwise. Some babas even claim that consumption of ghee reduces blood cholesterol, which is contrary to conventional medical school of thought.
From pure nutrition point of view, ghee has 63% saturated fat, 26% mono-unsaturated fat and about 4 % poly-unsaturated fat. This shows that it has predominantly saturated fat.
Butter has 215 mg/100g of cholesterol. Ghee also has similar amount of a mixture of cholesterol + oxidized cholesterol. Therefore, as far as percentage of dietary cholesterol is concerned, ghee consumption poses almost the same risk (or even higher) as butter for cardiovascular disease (mainly heart attack and stroke).
As per a report by the prestigious journal LANCET (1987), the prevalence of atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries of the heart and other organs leading to heart disease) in Indians, Pakistanis and other people from the Indian subcontinent who have settled in London and West Indies was found to be higher than normal. This increased risk was attributed to their heavy consumption of food high in ghee.
The point is: what should you do? Even though the answer is not easy, our advice is that consumption of a small amount of naturally prepared ghee (about a teaspoonful) may not pose a serious risk to your heart health. As you may be aware that individual biochemistry varies and the response of an individual's body to different food items is different, You better discuss this with your doctor before consumption of ghee. You must do so if you are suffering from diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, atherosclerosis and other metabolic disorders.