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Scientists Have Good News for Anyone Who Likes Cheese

It might not clog your arteries as much as we thought!
Phoebe Hurst
London, GB
Photo via Flickr user Quinn Dombrowski

Is there anyone who can honestly say they don't like cheese? Wobbly burrata drizzled with olive oil, stinky Stilton smeared on water biscuits, Cheddar on toast, goat cheese, sheep milk cheese, hell, even camel milk cheese—it's all good.

The only problem (unless you're French, apparently) is that cheese is not terribly good for us, due to its high levels of saturated fat. Having too much of this, as we know, can lead to obesity and heart disease.


But according to new research from University College Dublin (UCD), cheese might not be as bad for us as previously thought. It claims that eating a lot of cheese does not necessarily lead to higher cholesterol levels.

Cholesterol is carried in the blood attached to low or high density lipoproteins. When there is too much low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood (a.k.a. the "bad" cholesterol), it sticks to the walls of arteries and blocks blood flow, which can lead to heart disease and heart attacks.

Current advice from the NHS states that a diet high in saturated fat can raise the level of LDL cholesterol in the blood, and recommends limiting foods like full-fat milk and cheese.

But the new study from Food for Health Ireland, a research centre based at the University College Dublin, says that fromage is not foe.

In a paper published in the Nutrition and Diabetes journal this week, researchers examined the impact of dairy foods including milk, butter, cheese, and yogurt on the health of 1,500 Irish people aged between 18 and 90.

They found that participants who ate a lot of cheese did not have higher levels of LDL cholesterol than those who ate less. What's more, UCD researchers found that high dairy intake was associated with lower body mass index, lower waist size, and lower blood pressure. Those who ate low-fat milk and yogurt also tended to have a higher carbohydrate intake.


Mac 'n' cheese bathtubs for everyone!

The UCD researchers say that the saturated fat from cheese may not adversely impact cholesterol levels because it has a unique set of nutrients. What you supplement your diet with aside from cheese toasties will have an impact, too.

Dr. Emma Feeney from UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science and lead author on the paper explained in a press release: "What we saw was that in the high consumers [of cheese] they had a significantly higher intake of saturated fat than the non-consumers and the low consumers and yet there was no difference in their LDL cholesterol levels. We have to consider not just the nutrients themselves but also the matrix in which we are eating them in and what the overall dietary pattern is, so not just about the food then, but the pattern of other foods we eat with them as well."

It's also worth nothing, as Men's Health points out, that two of the pro-cheese study's authors received speaking fees from Ireland's National Dairy Council.

Still, everything in moderation, eh? Pass the Kerrygold.