Cheese is a common ingredient in comfort foods everywhere, and with good reason—it’s melty, gooey, and delicious, adding something to a dish that no other food can. Unfortunately, for years, cheese has been a a nutritional no-no the world over.
However, new research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has revealed that snacking on full-fat cheese might not affect LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol levels as we once thought.
To see how eating full-fat versus reduced-fat cheese really impacts our health, the researchers split 139 participants into three groups: One ate about 2.5 servings worth of hard and semisoft cheese every day, a second group ate the same amount of low-fat cheese, and a final group, the control group, had no cheese, instead getting a carb-heavy diet of toast and jam. At the end of the 12-week study, the researchers measured a variety of health signals, including cholesterol levels, blood pressure, waist circumference, and blood levels of insulin, glucose, and triacylglycerol.
Instead of the full-fat cheese diet being a fast track to weight gain and skyrocketing cholesterol levels, the researchers found the opposite. Neither of the cheese-eating groups saw increases in waist circumference, blood sugar, triglyceride levels, or levels of LDL cholesterol. But even more surprising, the full-fat cheese eaters saw an increase in HDL cholesterol (that’s the “good” one), leading researchers to the conclusion that if you’re going to eat cheese, the full-fat one is the healthier option.
Similar to previous research that found drinking whole milk is better for your health than drinking skim, this study found that not only did eating full-fat cheese not hurt their hearts but it seemed to provide some protection from cardiovascular disease and metabolic disease,
However, one thing that is keeping everyone from blindly dropping their diets and consuming as much cheese as they can is that this study was partially funded by various Danish dairy organisations. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but there needs to be more independent research done to prove the claims made by the team from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.
The Telegraph notes that there have been several studies pointing to cheese boosting liver health and metabolism. Nutritionists told Time that cheese is a good source of protein, calcium, and vitamin D, as long as you enjoy it sparingly.
The major takeaway from this study is that while going on a cheese binge might not be ideal, when we do enjoy it on occasion, we can do so with no guilt.