(Natural News) Cheese has long been considered as fattening and unhealthy. It is rich in saturated fat, which is linked to heart disease. However, a recent study shows that, contrary to popular belief, cheese may actually be beneficial for the heart as well as general health.
Is cheese really unhealthy?
Cheese is a dairy product made by curdling milk using acids or bacterial cultures. Processed cheese, in particular, contains high amounts of saturated fat and sodium. These two components are often cited as the main reasons why cheese should be consumed in small amounts or even avoided altogether. According to the American Heart Association, saturated fat raises the levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol, which increases the risk of heart disease. In the same vein, too much sodium elevates blood pressure, which leads to hypertension – another risk factor for heart disease. Excess sodium intake also increases a person’s risk of developing stroke, heart failure, osteoporosis, kidney disease, and stomach cancer.
However, in recent years, studies have emerged contradicting previous findings regarding the unhealthiness of saturated fat. New scientific evidence points to saturated fat being healthier than processed carbohydrates, like sugar, pasta, and white bread. The results of these studies even suggest that saturated fat in dairy products and meat may confer cardiometabolic benefits. For instance, a meta-analysis published in PLOS ONE focused on the role of butter — another dairy product with high saturated fat — in total mortality, cardiovascular disease (CVD), and Type 2 diabetes. Researchers found that consumption of butter has very little association with either of the three conditions. In fact, their results imply that saturated fat might offer protection against diabetes. These data are just part of a growing body of evidence suggesting that the low-fat diet may actually be just a misguided trend.
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Cheese consumption may not be associated with heart disease
In a recent meta-analysis that appeared in the European Journal of Nutrition, researchers from China and the Netherlands studied the effects of long-term cheese consumption on the development of CVD. They combined data from 15 prospective studies that involved more than 200,000 people. The researchers reported that people who ate more cheese had a 14 percent lower risk of CVD compared with those who ate less or didn’t eat cheese at all. The same people also had a 10 percent lower risk of stroke.
However, the researchers also found a U-shaped relationship between cheese consumption and CVD risk, suggesting that eating a lot of cheese isn’t necessarily good for the health either. Only people who ate about 40 g of cheese on average seemed to benefit from it; they had the lowest risks for CVD and stroke. Experts believe that while the results mean something, they only show an association, not a concrete cause-and-effect relationship. Further studies are needed to truly vindicate cheese and determine once and for all whether cheese does more good for the health than bad.
The healthy side of cheese
Cheese isn’t just composed of fat, salt, and unhealthy things. On the contrary, cheese can provide important nutrients for the body. It even offers some health benefits. Here are some healthful facts about cheese that you might not be aware of. (h/t to Time.com)
- It is a great source of protein, calcium, and the hard-to-get vitamin B12.
- It could lower the risk of stroke, CVD and bad cholesterol levels.
- It doesn’t increase blood pressure despite its high sodium content.
- It contains probiotics that promote gut health. (Related: Swiss cheese found to contain powerful probiotic that promotes longevity.)
- It contains palmitoleate, a fatty acid that lowers blood sugar, fights inflammation, and protects against Type 2 diabetes.
Cheese has been branded as bad food for years, but there are always two sides to every coin. As with any food, healthy or not, eating in moderation is the best policy to adopt. If you love cheese, you can continue eating it, but in regulated amounts. This ensures that you get only the best out of your food and do not cause any harm to your health.