Researchers at Food for Health Ireland are the latest group seeking to debunk the myth that cheese is bad for your health. Along with other researchers in Europe, they are poking into the outdated science that claims all saturated and trans fatty acids in cheese lead to coronary diseases. In fact, researchers working at the University College Dublin are seeking interested participants to join a study on the impact of cheese in healthy diets.

A body of science-based research is starting to present a more nuanced understanding of different foods, including cheese. In a 2008 study conducted by Dr. Barbara Walther and others at Agroscope, the Swiss Federal agriculture, food, and environmental research organization published its findings on the nutritional and health aspects of including cheese in moderate amounts in our diets.

When it comes to the question of trans fats, the study explains, “Trans fatty acids, especially those of industrial origin, have been accused of enhancing the risk of coronary heart disease. Studies that investigate a possible similar effect of ruminant [naturally-occurring] trans fatty acids did not support this hypothesis: in contrast, a neutral and even slightly negative correlation was observed both in men and women.” In plain English: the small amounts of natural trans-fats in dairy seem to have very different effects on health than man-made industrial trans-fats.

Furthermore, when addressing the issue of saturated fats, the researchers found that not all saturated fatty acids are created equal and “individual saturated fatty acids influence blood cholesterol level differently. In addition, some play an important role in cell regulation by protein modification (acetylation), in gene expression as well as in the modulation of genetic regulation…” 

What this tells us is that cheese remains a good, healthy food. The same research from Switzerland points out that, “The high concentration of essential amino acids in cheese contributes to growth and development of the human body.” Plus, cheese is rich in calcium and proteins that give us healthy bones and energy.

This is why, here at Oldways, we include cheese as part of our traditional Mediterranean Diet and enjoy talking about all its benefits. As always, moderation is important. Small portions and variety will ensure that you take advantage of all the benefits associated with artisan cheese.

If you want to find out more about the health benefits of cheese, or other academic research on the topic, make sure to visit the Oldways Cheese Coalition website and join as a member to get news and information.

~ Carlos Yescas, Oldways Cheese Coalition

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