Is Cheese Healthy? Compared to What?

Is Cheese Healthy? Compared to What?

August 18, 2019 92 By Bertrand Dibbert


“Is Cheese Healthy?
Compared to What? When industry-funded studies
suggest their products have neutral health effects,
or even beneficial, one question you always have
to ask is compared to what? Is cheese healthy?
Compared to what? If you’re sitting down to make a
sandwich, cheese is probably healthy— compared to bologna—but compared
to peanut butter? No way. That’s the point Walt Willet made,
former chair of nutrition at Harvard. To conclude that dairy foods are
“neutral” could be misleading, as it could be misinterpreted to mean that
increasing consumption of dairy foods would have no effects on
cardiovascular disease or mortality. Lost is that the health
effects of increasing or decreasing consumption
of dairy foods would depend importantly on the specific foods
that are substituted for dairy foods. Like what are you going
to put on your salad? Cheese would be healthy compared
to bacon, but not compared to nuts. See, consumption of
nuts or plant protein has been found to be
protectively associated with the risk of coronary heart
disease and type 2 diabetes. In contrast, intake of red meat,
for example, has been associated with increased risk. Thus, it’s reasonable to assume that
the lack of association with dairy foods could put them somewhere in the
middle of a spectrum of healthfulness, but certainly not an optimal
source of energy or protein. More broadly, the available
evidence supports policies that limit dairy production
and encourages production of healthier sources
of proteins and fats. He wasn’t just speculating. This was based on three famous Harvard
studies involving hundreds of thousands of men and women exceeding
5 million person-years of follow-up. This was really the first large-scale
prospective study to examine dairy fat intake, compared to other types of fat in
relation to heart attack and stroke risk. So replacing like 100 calories
of fat worth of cheese with 100 calories of fat worth
of peanut butter on a daily basis might reduce risk up to 24%, whereas substitution with other
animal fats might make things worse. Here’s how it breaks
down for heart disease. Swapping dairy fat for like
vegetable oil would be associated with a decrease in disease risk, whereas
swapping dairy for meat increases risk. Dairy fat calories may be as
bad or worse as straight sugar. The lowest risk would entail swapping
to a whole plant food, like whole grains. Yeah, dairy products
are a major contributor to the saturated fat in the diet
and have thus been targeted as one of the main dietary causes of, you
know, the #1 killer of men and women. But the dairy industry
likes to argue there are other things in dairy products
like fermentation by-products in cheese that could counteract
the saturated fat effects, all part of an explicit campaign by
the dairy industry to neutralize the negative image of milkfat among
regulators and health professionals. If Global Dairy Platform looks familiar,
they were one of the funders of the milk-and-dairy-is-neutral study, trotting out their dairy-fat-
is-counteracted notion. To which the American Heart
Association responds that no information from controlled
studies supports the assertion that fermentation adds
beneficial nutrients to cheese that somehow counteract the
harmful effects of the saturated fat. We need to cut down on
dairy, meat, coconut oil, no matter what their
respective industries say. In fact, that’s the reason the
American Heart Association felt that they needed to release this
special Presidential Advisory in 2017. They wanted to set the record straight
on why well-conducted scientific research overwhelmingly supports limiting
saturated fat in the diet.