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Say Cheese!

Jun. 26, 2015|922 views
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Old diet myths are falling left and right. Recently, I wrote that so-called diet soda is actually more likely to cause weight gain than weight loss. That’s some diet! Now it’s time to set the record straight regarding another dieter’s no-no: cheese.

Cheese is packed with fat and calories, so it’s bad for anyone hoping to lose weight, right? Even thin people should avoid cheese, because it’s such a calorie-dense food. Right?

Wrong. New evidence suggests cheese is ready for it’s close-up. Say “cheese”!

But how can this be, you ask? Well, according to new research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, cheese may be an important piece of the puzzle that has been called the “French Paradox”. That’s the name given to the observation that French people tend to be thinner and healthier (meaning they have less heart disease) compared to their American counterparts. This is despite the fact that they consume more cheese annually than just about any other nationality.

According to statistics complied by the Canadian Dairy Information Centre, French people eat about 57 pounds per year. Americans don’t consume even half that much. Of course, much of what we call “cheese” here is actually a sort of engineered cheese-like substance. If it comes in individually wrapped slices, and says “cheese product,” it’s unlikely to bear any resemblance to the hand-crafted stuff beloved in France.

So why are the French so thin and healthy if they eat so much high-fat cheese? That’s what investigators wondered. They recruited healthy young men, and fed them carefully controlled diets for two weeks. Subjects who consumed a high-cheese diet experienced metabolic changes consistent with increased beneficial activity in the gut. Investigators speculate that the probiotics in cheese—yes, real cheese has active cultures, like yogurt—boosted the health and/or diversity of the friendly microbes living in their guts. And that could translate into lower cholesterol levels and other beneficial metabolic effects.

So now’s a good time to reevaluate your old preconceptions about what’s “good” and what’s “bad” for you. We’re learning that full fat dairy is not the enemy of a healthy diet, and there’s no reason to say no to cheese.       

Zheng H, Yde CC, et al. Metabolomics investigation to shed light on cheese as a possible piece in the French paradox puzzle. J Agric Food Chem. 2015 Mar 18;63(10):2830-9. doi: 10.1021/jf505878a. Epub 2015 Mar 10.


Tags:  heart health, healthy fats, health tips