Although many people look at cheese as a sort of “cheat food” due to its high fat content, a new research review suggests that it might not actually be that bad for you. On the contrary, people in the study who took advantage of cheese benefits by eating a little each day were less likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke, when compared to those who rarely eat cheese.
It’s important to remember that cheese isn’t some sort of miracle food. Like other dairy products, it contains a high amount of saturated fat — which has been recently connected to high cholesterol, atherosclerosis, and heart disease. Recent research shows, however, that saturated fat may be more benign than we think. Additionally, there are a number of cheese benefits that help to counteract the effects of saturated fats, with helpful ingredients like calcium, protein, and probiotics (According to a new paper recently published in the European Journal of Nutrition.)
Researchers from China and the Netherlands sought to learn more about how long-term cheese consumption can affect a person’s risk for heart disease. They scientists pored over 15 observational studies that included more than 200000 people. The majority of these studies included only people without heart disease and tracked participants for ten years or more.
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The findings after this research review were definitely different than expected. People who ate a large amount of cheese had a 14% lower risk of developing heart disease and were 10% less likely to have a stroke than those who rarely or never ate cheese.
Making Sense of Unexpected Results
It’s important to understand that the relationship between higher cheese consumption and lower risk of heart disease and stroke is U-shaped rather than linear. This basically means that higher quantities of cheese aren’t necessarily better. Those with the lowest risks of these illnesses were those who consumed around 40 grams a day of cheese — a quantity around the size of a book of matches. With the average American consuming 42.5 grams of food each day, you may find yourself eating less cheese if you want the maximum benefits.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the data regarding cheese consumption was self-reported, and people are notorious for over or under-estimating the amount of food they’ve eaten. It’s possible that these results are at least slightly skewed, and this preliminary research is by no means a well-accepted fact. Also relevant is the fact that different types of cheese weren’t studied, meaning that some may be better or worse for you in terms of reducing risk of heart disease and stroke. Still, the fact that cheese benefits exist that may outweigh the negatives of saturated fat is encouraging.
“We’re always are searching for ways to minimize heart disease and reduce atherosclerosis,” said Allan Stewart, director of aortic surgery at Ichan School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center . “It’s promising to find that something that actually tastes good—and pairs well with a nice glass of red wine—may offer some protection, as well.”