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Should you eat more cheese? Experts and health advisers disagree

Cheese Platter
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Don't overdose on your favorite Jarlsberg just yet, but there is hope.

Eating cheese — even full-fat versions — does not raise your risk for heart attack or stroke. Neither does drinking whole milk or eating full-fat yogurt. At least, that’s what a recent meta-analysis published in the European Journal of Epidemiology found.

An international team of experts pooled the results of 29 observational studies from around the world and found no increased risk for cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, or even all-cause deaths related to dairy consumption. In fact, they found a 2 percent lowered risk of cardiovascular disease from eating fermented dairy products, like cheese and yogurt.

According to The Guardian, professor Ian Givens, one of the researchers involved in the analysis, even asserted that the results invalidate the widely-held notion that saturated fats are bad for your heart.

There’s quite a widespread but mistaken belief among the public that dairy products in general can be bad for you, but that’s a misconception. While it is a widely held belief, our research shows that that’s wrong.

There’s been a lot of publicity over the last five to 10 years about how saturated fats increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and a belief has grown up that they must increase the risk, but they don’t.

Don’t go OD on Jarlsberg quite yet, though. Health advisers for Public Health England remained cautious, acknowledging that diary products are important for a healthy diet but maintaining that the link between the saturated fat in dairy products and heart disease is real. They recommended “choosing lower-fat varieties of milk and dairy products or eating smaller amounts to reduce saturated fat and salt in the diet.”

PubMed also urged restraint and insisted, contrary to what the study found, that “Consuming too much saturated fat or salt is known to be bad for us and can increase risk of health outcomes such as cardiovascular disease.”

The lack of confidence in the study’s results may have something to do with fact that the research was part-funded by three pro-dairy groups: Global Dairy Platform, Dairy Research Institute and Dairy Australia. Although the paper insisted that the funding had no influence over the results, the official skepticism is understandable.

So basically, go ahead and eat some cheese, but make it some cheese. Maybe cancel your reservations to the Melting Pot, or at least only go once a month. Aristotle’s advice is still the best, no matter how many meta-analyses we do: “Everything in moderation,” indeed.

Except low-fat cheese. Just … no. Protecting your heart is not worth killing your soul with low-fat cheese.

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