The conventional wisdom has been for a long time that, while dairy is generally good in moderation, too much cheese is bad for you due to the high levels of saturated animal fats it contains.
However, an expanding body of medical research from Europe and the United States is calling this long-accepted fact into question, with data showing that cheese can, in fact, be good for your heart.
Research from Harvard Medical School, for example has identified that there is no discernible impact on heart health between full cream dairy and light dairy or carbohydrates – although replacing about 5% of dairy fat calories with unsaturated dairy fats could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by as much as 24%.
Harvard Health Website: https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/say-cheese
A study of 2,000 British men by the British Journal of Nutrition found that those who consumed plenty of fermented dairy products such as cheese had a lower risk of heart disease than those who didn’t, consistent with earlier studies which indicate that fermented dairy products (including yoghurt) have a positive effect on blood lipid profile when compared to unfermented products. Similarly, a meta-analysis published in the European Journal of Nutrition in 2017 suggested that there was actually a negative correlation between consumption of cheese and the risk of cardio-vascular disease.
Consumption of dairy products has a positive impact on reducing the impact of cardiovascular disease. Credit: Stock & Land.
One possible reason for these findings is the presence in dairy foods of a specific substance – trans-palmitoleic acid, that may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and related health factors. Another possibility, identified by Danish scientists investigating the so-called French Paradox (the fact that the French eat a lot of cheese and other saturated fats but don’t seem to suffer as much heart disease), is that dairy consumption results has a positive impact on gut bacteria, ensuring the production of beneficial short chain fatty acids compared to less beneficial substances.
Additionally, cheese is highly nutritious and a good source of vitamins and minerals such as calcium, vitamin B12, riboflavin and phosphorus, as well as protein.
Did you say cheese is highly nutritious and a good source of vitamins? Credit: Shutterstock.com
Unfortunately, none of the studies show that high cheese consumption will reduce your weight. And, in fact, some commentators suggest that the French Paradox is less related to cheese consumption and more associated with generally active lifestyles and a healthy and diverse diet. Most dietary experts agree that dairy, including cheese, is an important part of a healthy diet and lifestyle that must also include plenty of vegetables and exercise.
Regardless, the jury appears to be weighing in favour of cheese being good for your heart.