Cheese at a tipping point
Not only will it do us no harm, we now know, it may even have active health benefits. And it is science that has come to the rescue.
After 40 years of being demonized for its fat and salt content cheese today stands at the threshold of a turnaround that will see it re-established as a natural and healthy wholefood, like many foods before it, from nuts to avocados to eggs.
Science has established that not only is cheese not harmful – neither for its saturated fat content nor for its sodium, with no link to cardiovascular disease nor to elevated blood pressure – it could in fact be beneficial to health thanks to its high protein and calcium content.
Concern about the sodium content of cheese has for many people been a reason to cut back on cheese. But a growing body of robust scientific studies show that not only is there no relationship between cheese intake and increased blood pressure, some even found beneficial effects.
As Professor Arne Astrup, Head of Department, Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports at the University of Copenhagen – and who headed the influential Diogenes study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2010, which found strongly in favour of high-protein, low-carb diets – told New Nutrition Business:
“Over the last years science has constantly made the same mistake. It’s time to change and start looking at the foods as a whole and not only to the effects of individual nutrients. The food matrix [the composite of naturally occurring food components in a food] is extremely important and determines the final effects on the body – and cheese is the proof of this”.
Nor is cheese the inevitable path to weight gain that many believe it to be. In a large Norwegian study, for example, it was found that people with frequent consumption of cheese actually had lower body weight.
The biggest barrier to the re-birth of cheese as a natural whole food will be health professionals who cling to ideas about cheese that we now know have no basis in science. Conservative health advisors will drag their feet and many will continue to counsel caution around cheese consumption.
So it’s up to people who love good, natural food and to cheese makers to actively get the message out and challenge the orthodoxy that has been working against cheese for 40 years. People want natural foods and natural health benefits, but for some, advances in science are necessary to give consumers confidence and enable their renaissance.
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