This week, our attention was drawn to a study that suggested that cheese is good for you.
The results of the study (which came out earlier this year) had looked at the effect which is often referred to as the “French paradox” – i.e. why do French people tend to lead long and healthy lives while consuming diets high in saturated fats?
As readers of this blog may well know, saturated fat has hit the news a lot recently – with suggestions that its previously terrible reputation in terms of what it does for your health was undeserved. This study carried out by scientists at Aarhus University in Denmark seems to add to the rehabilitation of saturated fat’s reputation.
The Danish research suggested that fermented dairy products could contribute to longevity and health. French people have a lower incidence of coronary heart disease and an average life expectancy of 82 – eating an average of 23.9kgs of cheese a year, while the Brits eat a mere 11.6kgs and suffer from twice the levels of cardiovascular disease and a decreased life expectancy (81).
Urine and faecal samples from men eating cheese or milk, or butter (without other dairy products) found that those eating cheese had higher levels of butyric acid, a compound which has been linked to reduced obesity and higher metabolisms.
Food scientist Hanne Bertram said the higher level of butyrate was linked to reductions in cholesterol levels.
[Like many other people I’m sure, I remember being told that eating saturated fats such as cheese led to an increase in cholesterol levels.]
This was a very small study. Who knows what scientists will find in the future? Personally, I love and I’ve always loved cheese. Low-carb dieters often find cheese a really useful addition to their diet because it’s low-carb, it’s filling, it takes numerous forms and it’s absolutely delicious, lending itself to all kinds of recipes.
I do understand that small studies do not a universal truth make, but I’d eat cheese whatever the science said. It’s one of life’s joys.
Hanne Bertram, a food scientist at Aarhus University in Denmark, compared urine and fecal samples from 15 men whose diets either contained cheese or milk, or ate a diet with butter but no other dairy products.
Bertram found that those who ate cheese had higher levels of butyric acid, a compound which has been been linked to reduced obesity and higher metabolism. The higher butyrate levels were linked to a reduction in cholesterol.
This, Bertram says, “suggests a role for gut microbes and further shore up the connection between cheese and the French paradox.”
This, admittedly small, study isn’t the only research to link cheese consumption to the French Paradox.
It was suggested the Roquefort cheese held specific anti-inflammatory properties(AFP)
In 2012, research suggested it was specifically Roquefort cheese that helped guard against cardiovascular disease, leading to good health and longevity.
Dr Ivan Petyaev and Dr Yuriy Bashmakov said the cheese, known for its mould and green veins, had specific anti-inflammatory properties that contributed to the occurence of the French Paradox.
In their study they wrote: “Observations indicate that consumption of red wine alone cannot explain the paradox and perhaps some other constituents of the typical French diet could be responsible for reduced cardiovascular mortality.
“We hypothesise that cheese consumption, especially of moulded varieties, may contribute to the occurrence of the French paradox.”
“Moulded cheeses, including Roquefort, may be even more favourable to cardiovascular health.”