Do you love cheese? Have felt the need to restrict the amount you eat due to the claims that state cheese is high in saturated fat, which will ultimately block your arteries and therefore put you at a higher risk of heart disease?

Well this latest research may be music to your ears! Apparently new research suggests that eating half a block of full-fat cheese a day actually lowers a person’s so-called ‘bad’ cholesterol levels.

It has been found that people who ate 120g of full-fat cheese every day for six weeks had lower bad cholesterol levels than those who ate low-fat cheese alternatives. There was also no change in the participant’s body weight, blood sugar levels first thing in the morning or insulin levels.

How the Research was Carried Out

  • 164 overweight volunteers aged 50 plus were used for the research.
  • Forty six of the participants ate 120g of full-fat Irish cheese every day for six weeks, while 45 consumed a reduced fat Irish cheddar alongside 21g of butter.
  • Forty two of the volunteers ate 49g of butter, 30g of calcium caseinate powder and a 500mg calcium supplement.  Calcium caseinate is a protein produced from casein.
  • The remaining 31 participants ate no cheese for six weeks before the study started and were then given 120g of full-fat Irish cheese every day for the trial’s duration.
  • All of the participants were told to limit their milk intake to one more than 56g a day.
  • The study was partly funded by Irish dairy companies, however, the researchers are reported to have reached their conclusions independently.

Lead author Dr Emma Feeney, from University College Dublin, said: “We need to stop thinking about foods in terms of their fat and their saturated fat content, and thinking about them as a whole food.”

Although Dr Feeney does not recommend people eat a 120g portion of cheese every day, she adds: “The recommended portions of cheese are not going to do you any harm.”

The reason full-fat cheese is thought to lower cholesterol over other types of dairy produce is due to the fact that unlike other forms of dairy, cheese contains a membrane around each of its fatty acid droplets, which may be behind its cholesterol-lowering effects.

There is also good news for those of us who prefer full fat yoghurt, butter and milk over their lower fat counterparts as it is also suggested that they do not increase our risk of heart disease either. In fact eating full-fat dairy actually reduces a person’s risk of dying from a stroke by 42 per cent, a study found.

Lead author Dr Marcia Otto, from the University of Texas, Houston, said: “Our findings not only support, but also significantly strengthen, the growing body of evidence which suggests that dairy fat, contrary to popular belief, does not increase risk of heart disease or overall mortality in older adults. In addition to not contributing to death, the results suggest that one fatty acid present in dairy may lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, particularly from stroke.”