Holes in fable of cheese

Original article in The Times The secret health benefits of cheese


Its taking a while for mainstream media to catch up to the benefits of fat in diet. In Britain the latest review by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, published in August, recommends foods high in saturated fat, such as cheese, should be eaten sparingly, but for how long will this view last? ­ Researchers are now claiming that cheese’s links with cardiovascular disease are tenuous. Research part-funded by the British Heart Foundation has questioned the guidelines about the type of fat we eat, and even the most cautious observers concede the future for cheese lovers is brighter.


Some recent cheese studies have shown it may play a preventive role, warding off conditions typically associated with obesity, such as diabetes type 2 mellitus. Cheese has a low glycaemic index, meaning it won’t trigger blood-sugar spikes. Adding any high-protein food such as cheese to dishes like mashed potato or pasta will lower the GI of that meal, helping to counteract the rush of glucose, especially important for people with diabetes type 2. Researchers from the University of Alberta in Canada found on studying pre-diabetic rats that were fed cheese, that, “The cheese didn’t normalise the effects of insulin but it significantly improved them”.

Even if the effect is not that impressive, your gut will thank you for it. Aged cheeses are fermented and contain some live microbes that boost the microbiome and in turn ramp up immunity and all-round good health. Select aged cheeses such as brie, ­stilton and other blues, mature cheddar, parmesan and gruyere and it’s a step towards extending your lifespan. A compound called spermidine, found in aged cheeses as well as in mushrooms and soy products, seemed to help to prevent liver cancer in a study carried out at Texas A&M University health centre in the US two years ago.


Cheese also has other benefits. Cheese is a good source of magnesium and calcium, as well as ­vitamins A, B2 and B12. This makes it “a complete protein” food, meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids needed to build and repair the body’s tissues.

Cheese also is good for your teeth. A study in the journal General Dentistry in 2013 is one of several to report that regular consumption of cheese may help to protect teeth against cavities. Cheese is slightly more alkaline so it helps to neutralise plaque acids that form after eating.