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Stop Giving Cheese a Bad Rap!

In good news for cheese lovers everywhere, a study involving over 900,000 participants concluded that cheese is not necessarily the culprit when it comes to raising your risk of heart attack or stroke, at least not exclusively so! Tamping down a misconception that has persisted, perhaps for several decades now, that cheese being high in saturated fats makes it dangerous to one’s health, it now appears that consumption of cheese is not necessarily directly tied to an increased risk of heart disease for the average consumer. With one holiday having just passed (Thanksgiving) and several others on the way – dates on the calendar that often coincide with cheese trays and charcuterie and cheese boards - this is a timely reminder to stop giving cheese a bad rap!

Researchers in England undertook something called a “meta-analysis” of a number of other studies in order to complete their assessment of cheese, and all other related “high in saturated fats” dairy products including; yogurt, milk and butter. This means, they reviewed the outcomes of 29 other research papers, involving a total of 938,465 participants. These studies were conducted over the past 35 years, representing quite a wide body of research. In the end, it was determined that saturated fats arising from dairy consumption had a “neutral” effect on cardiovascular health. Published in the European Journal of Epidemiology, the stated outcome was as follows: “This meta-analysis showed there were no associations between total dairy, high- and low-fat dairy, milk and the health outcomes including all-cause mortality, coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease.” The researchers noted that dairy consumption should in fact form a normal part of a healthy, balanced diet - although they did go on to stress that following generally accepted healthy eating guidelines is always best. The Canada Food Guide for example suggests only that we “limit” the amount of foods we consume containing saturated fats. That list however, also includes meat, processed meats, ice cream and deep fried foods, inferring that of the saturated fats you might choose to consume, cheese is certainly a better option than a deep fried onion ring!

The Reading University study cautioned that in some cases, misplaced fear of excessive consumption of dairy products has led to some pregnant woman and often, young teens as well, consuming not nearly enough calcium. In turn, this can lead to different health problems as we age such as brittle bone disease, osteoporosis or stunted growth. In various other reports, released around the same time, other medical professionals and researchers commented on the necessity of keeping saturated fats in our diet, with a common reference point being that about 11% of anyone’s potential food intake could still come from items (like cheese!) and that “eating real foods in moderation and exercising daily is the answer to keeping fit and healthy.”

Seems to the team here at Fromage that overall, cheese cannot be held responsible as the sole culprit when it comes to an increased risk of heart attacks and/or stroke. Rather, might we suggest instead that if you live locally, a healthy walk down to the beautiful downtown core of Orangeville, to our cheese shop on Broadway, would make for an ideal form of exercise and give you the perfect excuse to indulge in some cheese! Many of the same Doctors and researchers quoted in the articles we reviewed for this blog commented that as little as 22 – 30 minutes a day of exercise such as brisk walking, is enough (when combined with a healthy diet) to help prevent cardiovascular disease. It’s fall, it’s beautiful outside and it’s a perfect day for a walk – stop giving cheese a bad rap AND grab some cheese while you are out and about!