Health Studies

This section provides access to up-to-date scientific information regarding cheese and cheese safety, specifically on health research. 

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French diet emphasizes small portions, wholesome ingredients

The famous ‘French Paradox’ (a phenomenon in which the French remain relatively healthy, despite their affinity for seemingly indulgent foods, like cheese and bread) has been a somewhat elusive research topic, but scientists are eager to dig deeper. To learn more about how the French eat, researchers used national survey data from more than 2,600 adults to categorize French diets into the most common eating patterns. The most prevalent diet (representing nearly one quarter of the population) was the “small eater diet,” filled with a variety of different foods, but in small portions. Other commonalities among the French diets include an affinity for seafood (70% reported eating it in the past week), bread (94% for all breads, 35% for whole grain), vegetables (99%), fruit (85%), full fat traditional cheeses (89%), and alcohol (68%, typically wine). The French also reported eating fried food and sodas relatively infrequently, at only 29% and 32%, respectively.

British Journal of Nutrition. 2016 [Gazan R et al.]

Regular fat cheese doesn't appear to affect cholesterol differently than Low fat cheese or bread

Animal fats are often linked with high cholesterol, but traditional cheeses appear to behave differently than other sources of animal fat, like red meat or butter. To evaluate cheese’s relationship with cholesterol, Danish researchers assigned more than 130 adults to one of three diet groups: regular diet with 2.8 oz (80g) full fat Danbo and cheddar cheese daily, regular diet with 2.8 oz (80g) reduced fat Danbo and cheddar cheese daily, or regular diet with 3.2 oz (90g) white bread and 0.9 oz (25g) sweet jam daily. At the end of the 12-week study, there was no significant difference in LDL (“bad” cholesterol), HDL (“good” cholesterol), or other metabolic syndrome risk factors between the three groups.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2016 [Raziani F et al.]

Cheese not associated with body fat or blood cholesterol levels

Dairy has a complicated relationship with nutrition, as it contains essential nutrients (like calcium, protein), but also ones that we are told to cut back on (saturated fat and sodium). To see how eating different dairy foods relates to health, researchers analyzed the eating patterns and health markers of 1,500 healthy Irish adults. They found no significant health differences (fatness, cholesterol, etc.) among people who eat different amounts of cheese, except that higher cheese intake is linked with C-peptide (a sign of healthy insulin sensitivity). Researchers also found that total dairy is linked with less body fatness and lower blood pressure, and that cholesterol appears to be higher among those who prefer reduced fat milk and yogurt, because they also eat more refined grains.

Nutrition & Diabetes. 2017 [Feeney EL et al.]

Dairy Food May Lead to Healthier Blood Pressure

This case study analyzes the relationship between the consumption of dairy food and blood pressure in adolescents between the age of 12 and 17. The authors assess whether dairy food consumption (milk, cheese, yoghurt) has an effect on blood pressure and, if so, whether that effect was positive or negative in terms of healthy BP levels. The study concludes that consumption of dairy products, particularly cheese, could have a beneficial effect on BP, particularly among girls. 

Nutrition, Metabolism, & Cardiovascular Diseases 2014 [Gopinath B. et al]

Dairy Products May Reduce Risk of Body Fat Gain, Obesity, and Cardiovascular Disease

This article reviews current scientific literature regarding dairy products and risk for heart disease. The author finds that the consumption of dairy products, including cheese, is associated with a reduced risk of body fat gain and obesity as well as cardiovascular disease. This protective effect is thought to be due to the calcium and protein found in cheese. While protein helps control weight by increasing satiety, the author reviews data showing that calcium may help modify the effects of saturated fat on LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and help lower blood pressure, resulting in a decreased risk for heart disease. The review concludes that although dairy products, including full-fat cheeses, contain saturated fat, their unique nutrient composition protects against cardiovascular disease.

The American Journal of Clincial Nutrition 2014 [Astrup]

Saturated Fat Found in Cheese May Protect Against Type 2 Diabetes

Saturated fats are chains of carbon atoms and these chains have either an odd or an even number of carbon atoms. In this study, researchers look at the effect of even number chains versus odd number chains on the risk for type 2 diabetes. Looking at the diet of more than 340,000 people, the researchers find that foods containing saturated fats with an even number of carbon atoms, such as red meat and alcohol, increased the risk for type 2 diabetes. In comparison, foods containing saturated fats with an odd number of carbon atoms, such as cheese, were actually protective against type 2 diabetes. The researchers conclude the cheese should be consumed in moderation as part of a healthy diet. 

The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology 2014 [Forouhi et al.]

Cheese and Dairy Can Improve Cholesterol Levels

Dairy products are great sources for high-quality protein, fortified vitamin A and D, and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium. The relationship between saturated fat and heart disease grows more complex as studies have shown that calcium can improve blood cholesterol profiles.  One mechanism for how this occurs in the body is through increased excretion of fat.  In other words, less fat is absorbed by the body to contribute to cholesterol levels.  To assess whether reduced-fat milk or cheese-based diets, containing similar amounts of calcium, affect cholesterol differently, 15 healthy men (age 18-50) were randomized into either a milk-based diet, cheese-based diet, or nondairy control diet.  The effects of a milk or cheese-based dietary intervention did not differ.  Both experienced lower increases in total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol (“bad cholesterol”) compared to the control diet.  In addition, increased fat excretion was seen in both intervention diets, but not in the control diet.  

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2014 [Soerensen et al.]

Reduce Heart Disease Risk with Dairy

To determine the relationship between heart disease risk and dairy intake, data was taken from a survey administered to 1,352 participants by the Observation of Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Luxembourg study.  Researchers evaluated participants’ risk through a total cardiovascular health score (CHS).  The CHS is on a scale of 0-8 and was determined by the number of health metrics (i.e. BMI, physical activity, etc.) they had ideal values for.  They found that those who consumed five or more servings a week of whole fat milk, yogurt, and cheese had a significantly higher CHS than those who consumed these products less frequently.  This positive relationship was also observed with total dairy intake, but not total low-fat dairy intake.  This evidence supports the notion that having dairy products every day can be an important part of a healthy lifestyle.  

Nutrition Research 2014 [Crichten et al.]

Eating Cheese and Dairy Daily Can Have Positive Effects on Metabolic Health

To determine if there is a positive association between eating dairy and metabolic disease, researchers assessed 233 French Canadians during a clinic visit.  They collected fasting blood samples along with information on their diet through a food frequency questionnaire.  They found that participants on average had 2.5 portions of dairy per day, with 1.5 portions being low-fat and 1 portion being high-fat.  These results indicated that nearly 45% of participants did not meet the current dairy recommendations of three portions per day.  In addition, eating dairy, specifically low-fat dairy was significantly correlated with having lower fasting blood sugar levels.  Total dairy intake was also significantly associated with lower blood pressure.  Researchers concluded that when people choose to eat dairy, they experience small, but significant beneficial effects on their metabolic health.

Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism 2014 [Da Silva et al.]

Kids Consume Fewer Calories when Given Vegetables with Cheese for a Snack

This study examines whether children would consume fewer calories if they were served high-nutrient dense snacks (cheese and vegetables) instead of a non-nutrient dense snack (potato chips) while watching cartoons on TV. The investigators chose cheese and vegetables as they contain ample amounts of calcium, protein, vitamins, and fiber, all important nutrients for growth and development. Over two hundred elementary-aged kids participated in the study. The research finds that children given the combination of cheese and vegetables ate 72% fewer calories compared to kids given potato chips and this group also required signifcantly fewer calories to feel full. The authors conclude that kids should be provided with nutrient-dense foods such as cheese and vegetables due to their nutrient content as well as their ability to help control calorie intake.

Pediatrics 2013 [Wansink et al.]

Cheese Can Help Prevent Cavities

Tooth decay and dental cavities affect people of all ages but especially children. When we eat, the pH level in our mouth changes depending on the type of food ingested; cavities can occur when the pH is lower than 5.5. In this study, researchers find that cheese consumption results in an increased mouth pH and is thus protective against cavities. Researchers conclude that for oral health, cheese is a healthy alternative to traditional carbohyrdate filled snacks.

General Dentistry 2013 [Ravishankar et al.]

Cheese Helps to Regulate Blood Sugar Levels

In this study, researchers examine the effect of various dairy products on blood sugar levels in individuals without Type 2 diabetes. The study finds that the consumption of cheese was associated with healthy blood sugars levels. The study concludes that cheese, once thought to negatively affect blood sugar, actually has a beneficial effect on blood glucose control. The authors propose that the high-levels of Vitamin D in dairy foods play a crucial part in regulating glucose. 

Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases 2013 [Strujik et al.]

Whole Milk from Grass-Fed Cows Higher in Heart-Healthy Omega 3's

In this study, researchers compared the fat content in whole milk from grass-fed cows to that of cows given supplimental grains. Recent research has found that while both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids have essential health benefits, having a higher ratio of omega-3's is better for heart health. The major finding of the study is that whole organic milk from grass-fed cows was 62% higher in omega-3 fatty acids than conventional whole milk. These findings support the claim that dairy products made from pastured cows are better for heart health than grain-fed alternatives.

PLOS One 2013 [Benbrook et al.]

Frequent Dairy Food Consumption May Increase Brain Function

This study examined a subset from the community-based Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study to discover if dairy consumption has a beneficial effect on general cognitive function. Participant's dairy intake was assessed in advance and participants were given a series of memory tests to evaluate the relationship of dairy food on the brain. The researchers found that participants who consumed dairy products at least once per day had signifcantly higher cognitive function scores compared with those who never or rarely consumed dairy foods. The results of this study suggest that at least one serving of dairy per day is beneficial for the brain. 

International Dairy Journal 2012 [Crichton et al.]

Eating Probiotics May Improve Intestinal Health and Reduces Risk of Infection, Diabetes and Obesity

Raw-milk cheese contains probiotics; good bacteria that have been found to have numerous health benefits. This study analyzes the many benefits of probiotics as well as the value of foods containing them in abundance. The authors review the body of scientific literature and find that probiotics supply the gut with healthy bacteria that help maintain intestinal health and support a healthy immune system. Recent literature has shown that probiotics are effective in helping to prevent and treat type 2 diabetes and obesity. Other benefits of probiotics include reducing the risk of some cancers, heart disease, and high cholesterol. The authors find that cheese is an especially good carrier for probiotics due to its fat content and high pH, which they posit helps probiotic bacteria safely arrive to the intestines without being destroyed by acid in the stomach. 

FEMS Microbiology Letters 2012 [Nagpal et al.]

Daily Cheese Consumption Lowers LDL Cholesterol Levels

This article reviews the scientific literature regarding the effects of specific dairy products on risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke. The authors find that daily consumption of natural cheese consistently resulted in a significant decrease of potential harmful LDL cholesterol levels. The high calcium content of cheese is cited as being largely responsible for lowering bad cholesterol levels, leading to a decreased risk for heart disease. The authors also propose that the fermentation process used to make cheese reduces LDL levels. The study concludes that the nutrient content and probiotics found in cheese are protective against heart disease and stroke. 

Advances in Nutrition 2012 [Huth and Park]

Dairy Consumption Lowers Blood Pressure

This article reviews the body of scientific literature examining the effect of dairy consumption on high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a risk factor for stroke, heart attack, heart failure, and end-stage renal disease. The researchers find an association between low-fat dairy consumption and a decrease in blood pressure. The article concludes that the beneficial effect on blood pressure is due to the unique nutrient composition of dairy, including calcium, vitamin D, potassium, protein, and lactotripeptides (amino acid chains found only in dairy products).  

Current Cardiovascular Risk Reports 2011 [McGrane et al.]

Consumption of Milk and Dairy Products Reduces Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke

This article reviews the body of scientific literature examining the effects of dairy consumption on the risk for stroke, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. The authors examine studies related to overall dairy consumption as well as the intake of specific dairy products. Studies focusing on cheese found that despite the high fat content, cheese is not associated with an increased risk of disease and may even be protective against heart disease due to its balanced composition of calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Overall, the authors concluded that diets containing dairy products, including cheese, were found to decrease the risk for diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. 

Lipids 2010 [Elwood et al.]

CLA Naturally Found in Cheese Reduces Inflammation

This study explores the effect of CLA-containing cheese on markers of inflammation. Inflammatory markers are important to health as increased inflmmation is linked to heart disease and stroke. Researchers find that subjects eating 200 g/week of sheep's milk cheese, naturally high in CLA, resulted in a significant reduction in inflammatory markers after ten weeks. The researchers conclude that regular intake of cheese containing CLA may be beneficial for heart and vascular health. 

Nutrition Metablic Cardiovascular Disease 2010 [Sofi et al.]

Cheese is an Integral Part of a Healthy Diet

This article reviews the body of scientific literature regarding cheese and nutrition studies. In the review, scientists find that cheese is a rich source of essential nutrients; in particular, proteins, bioactive peptides, amino acids, fat, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. The authors emphasize that the high concentration of calcium in cheese is well known to contribute to the formation and maintenance of strong bones and teeth, but also shows a positive effect on blood pressure and helps in losing weight. The authors conclude that "cheese is an important dairy product and an integral part of a healthful diet due to its substantial contribution to human health."

Dairy Science Technology 2008 [Walther et al.]

CLA, a Fat Naturally Found in Cheese, Assists Body Fat Loss

This article reviews the body of scientific literature that examines the effect of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) on reducing fat mass in humans. CLA is a form of polyunsaturated fat found in animal products including cheese, that has been shown to have anti-obesity mechanisms. The authors reviewed only human studies and found a noticeable reduction in fat mass in individuals consuming CLA supplements compared to a placebo group. The authors conclude that intake of CLA-containing foods, like cheese, may aide in gradual weight loss. 

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2007 [Whigham et al.]

Cheese from Grass-Fed Cows Has High CLA Content

CLA is a polyunsaturated fat that is associated with improved blood sugar regulation, reduced body fat, reduced risk of heart disease, improved bone mass, and the maintenance of lean body mass. In this study, researchers compared the amount of CLA in dairy products from cows fed varying diets. The major finding of the study is than cows grazing in pasture, receiving no supplemental feed, had 500% more CLA in milk fat that cows fed diets of grain and sillage. The study concludes that dairy products made using milk from grass-fed cows is a rich source of CLA.

Journal of Dairy Science 1999 [Dhiman et al.]

Cheese might help explain the French Paradox

Dairy foods are most often prized for their calcium content, but new research reveals that eating fermented dairy products, like cheese, actually changes the gut microbiome, which might help explain the French Paradox—the phenomenon that traditional cheeses are linked to low rates of heart disease. In a small study investigating the protective effect of dairy foods, Danish scientists randomly assigned 15 healthy men to one of three diets for two weeks: one with predominantly partly skim (1.5%) milk, one with predominantly semi-hard cow’s cheese, and the control diet of butter and no other dairy products. Both the milk and cheese diets had the same amount of calcium per day (1.7g). The men rotated through each diet, with a two-week washout period in between. The scientists found that both the cheese and milk diets, in comparison to the control group, were associated with significantly less TMAO, a compound that is thought to be a marker of heart disease risk. The researchers also found that “dairy consumption, especially cheese, can beneficially modify the gut microbiota to increase SFCA levels.” SFCAs (short chain fatty acids) are compounds produced by gut bacteria that are linked to lower risks of diabetes, heart disease, and inflammatory diseases.
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2015 [Zheng et at.]