As delicious as it is, the sad truth is that dairy has long been regarded as not very healthy.
However, a study undertaken by the University of Dublin has revealed some shocking statistics about one of our favourite indulgences.
While the common perception is that eating foods high in saturated fats like cheese, cream and butter can increase your risk of developing high blood cholesterol – cheese, and other high fat dairy products might not be the culprits.
For the study, scientists took a sample of 1,500 people aged between 18 and 90 and measured the impact that consuming dairy products (and whether it was low fat or full fat options) had on markers of body fatness and health.
The findings concluded that those with a higher dairy intake on average (even high fat dairy products) have lower BMIs, lower percentage of body fat, lower waist size and lower blood pressure.
“What we saw was that in the high consumers [of cheese] they had a significantly higher intake of saturated fat than the non-consumers and the low consumers and yet there was no difference in their LDL Cholesterol levels,” said Emma Feeney, the lead researcher on the paper.
As if that wasn’t off enough, they also discovered that total cholesterol was “lower in the ‘Whole milk’ and ‘Butter and cream’ clusters than in the ‘Reduced milk and yogurt’ cluster”.
That means, in stark contrast to previous belief, that those who consumed low-fat dairy products such as low-fat milk and yogurt actually tended to have higher cholesterol.
And while correlation doesn’t equal causation – in that we might find other causes of higher cholesterol from those who consume low-fat dairy products – this recent research echoes that of other countries, which has found that the saturated fat from cheese does not adversely impact blood cholesterol profiles due to the unique set of nutrients it contains.
“We have to consider not just the nutrients themselves but also the matrix in which we are eating them in and what the overall dietary pattern is, so not just about the food then, but the pattern of other foods we eat with them as well,” said Feeney.
In other words, this isn’t a free pass for eating your weight in tasty cheese every day just yet.