When Choosing Cheese

Kea Schwarz
By: Kea Schwarz

We all try to make the best decisions for our families while grocery shopping. We’ve been told to reach for low fat options, especially when it comes to cheese. Regular-fat cheese is known to have a high content of saturated fat. This is why the dietary guidelines in multiple countries recommend consuming options that are labeled as reduced-fat. There is still much debate regarding the potentially negative effects of regular-fat cheese, but a new study has been published that suggests that regular-fat cheese may be equally as healthy as low-fat options. 1

In a 12-week study, paid for by dairy industry organizations, in Demark researchers set outcheese-1961531_640 to compare the effects of cheeses that contains different amounts of fat had on LDL cholesterol as well as risk factors for metabolic syndrome.1 This was done by dividing 139 volunteers into three separate groups. The first group was to replace part of their daily diet with three ounces of regular-fat cheese. This included cheddar and other varieties that ranged from 25% to 32% in fat content. The second group ate reduced-fat cheese options that ranged from 13% to 16% fat. The third group, the control, did the same with bread and jam. All three groups provided blood samples before and after the 12 week time frame.2 The results of this study were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers saw no difference in LDL cholesterol, which is the “bad” fat found in the blood that is known to clog up arteries and increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Additionally, no there were no differences in triglycerides, insulin, fasting glucose levels, or any other blood chemistry tests performed on the three groups.

There were also no significant changes in body weight. 3 Surprisingly enough, it was noted that there was a small increase in HDL (“good “cholesterol) among the group that ate the regular-fat cheese. There is still much more research that needs to be carried out before the results can fully be accepted by the health community. Farinaz Raziani, a Ph.D. student at the University of Copenhagen and the lead author of the study, said that these findings may not apply to all dairy products and that the reported neutral effect that the cheese had on cholesterol levels still needs to be further deliberated.2 That being said, regular-fat cheese can still be a reasonable part of a healthy diet.


References:

  1. Raziani F, Tholstrup T, Kristensen MD, et al. High intake of regular-fat cheese compared with reduced-fat cheese does not affect LDL cholesterol or risk markers of the metabolic syndrome: A randomized controlled trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. August 2016:134932. doi:10.3945/ajcn.116.134932. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2016/08/23/ajcn.116.134932.abstract. Accessed November 18, 2016.
  2. Bakalar N. When choosing cheese, low-fat may not matter. Well. October 21, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/12/well/eat/when-choosing-cheese-low-fat-may-not-matter.html?_r=0. Accessed November 18, 2016.
  3. Hagan P. Low-fat versions WON’T help you cut cholesterol. Daily Mail. September 3, 2016. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3771807/Swapping-regular-cheese-low-fat-versions-WON-T-help-cut-cholesterol-reduce-blood-pressure-trim-waistline.html. Accessed November 18, 2016.
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