Cheese is often thought to be more indulgent than health food, but a new review of research suggests it may not be as bad as it used to be.
Cheese is often thought to be more indulgent than health food, but a new review of research suggests it may not be as bad as it used to be. In fact, those who ate a little cheese every day were less likely to have a heart attack or stroke compared to those who rarely or never ate cheese.
Cheese, like other dairy products, contains high levels of saturated fat, which is linked to higher cholesterol, atherosclerosis and increased risk of heart disease. (recently, some nutrition experts have suggested that saturated fats are more moderate.) But the authors of the new paper, published in the European journal of nutrition, write that the cheese also contains potentially beneficial ingredients, such as calcium, protein and probiotics.
To learn more about how to influence long-term cheese consumption of an individual research risk of cardiovascular disease, the researchers from China and the Netherlands to 15 observational studies (including more than ten thousand people) data are analyzed. In addition to one of the studies, all studies have excluded people who already have a heart attack, with the exception of two people who have been tracked for more than 10 years.
Dr Allan Stewart, director of aortic surgery at Ichan medical school in mount sinai medical center, said the researchers’ findings were “completely different from what people expected” and he was not involved in the new analysis. Overall, people who ate high levels of cheese were 14 percent less likely to have coronary heart disease, and 10 percent less likely to have a stroke than those who rarely or never ate cheese.
But this relationship is u-shaped, not linear – meaning that higher amounts of cheese are not necessarily better. Those with the lowest risk of heart disease and stroke eat about 40 grams of matches a day, roughly the size of a matchbox. (according to the review, americans eat an average of about 42.5 grams per day.)
“It’s not like eating a chunk of cheesecake every day,” Stewart said. He also warned against reading too much self-reported data (as much data as possible) because people tend to overestimate or underestimate the consumption of certain foods.
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Stewart noted that the study only found a link between cheese consumption and reduced risk of heart disease, not causation. It may be that people who eat cheese every day are generally healthier, or have more disposable income and a higher socioeconomic status.
But, Stewart says, cheese may also be beneficial to counteract the negative effects of its high saturated fat content. “Cheese can contain probiotics, which can reduce inflammation,” he said. Cheese also contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), an unsaturated fatty acid that increases HDL “good” cholesterol and lowers “bad” LDL levels.
“There is evidence that cheese (such as milk substitutes) may actually have a protective effect on the heart,” Stewart said. “No one says you’re going out for 40 grams of cheese a day. But the good thing is, a little cheese on a cookie doesn’t sound reasonable. ”
The study did not consider different types of cheese, and Stewart says more research is needed to see if certain breeds have more health benefits (or risks) than other varieties. Overall, the news is good for the cheese lovers.
“We have been looking for ways to reduce heart disease and reduce atherosclerosis,” he said. “It’s very promising to find out that something that’s actually delicious and paired with a good glass of wine can also provide some protection.”