If you’re an American, you probably eat about 35 pounds of cheese every year.
If you’re lactose-intolerant or vegan, that number might seem too high. Otherwise, I bet you are thinking that sounds just about right.
For those of you looking to science in order to rationalize your decision to eat cheese like a very, very hungry mouse, it’s your lucky day. According to new research, your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels are not affected when you eat full-fat cheese; what’s more impressive is that your good (HDL) cholesterol levels are actually higher (better) when you eat full-fat cheese rather than a reduced-fat version.
A recent study from the Department of Nutrition at the University of Copenhagen sought to determine the effects of different-fat cheeses on cholesterol and risk factors for Metabolic Syndrome (MetS) that can increase your chance for heart attacks, strokes and diabetes. Most government health organizations tell the general public that regular-fat cheese is laden in saturated fat; these findings, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, told the opposite story.
The test subjects (there were 139 in all) were divided into three test groups: reduced-fat cheese, full-fat cheese and no cheese. Each of the test subjects in the cheese-eating groups ate five-eighths of a cup of cheese, or 80 grams of cheese, every day, which is close to the amount of cheese on a slice of pizza. The control group, the non-cheese eaters, ate bread and jam instead.
Researchers found zero significant difference in LDL cholesterol levels in both cheese-eating groups after 12 weeks. On top of those results, they also found no difference in blood pressure, glucose and insulin levels. None of the reduced-fat cheese subjects had skinnier waistlines after 12 weeks either.
What’s more important is that regular-fat cheese eaters, at the end of the study, had higher levels of HDL cholesterol in their bloodstream.
Here’s why HDL cholesterol is good for your body: In your blood vessels, lymphatic vessels and heart is endothelium, which is a single layer of thin cells lining the walls of your blood vessels. HDL cholesterol maintains this endothelium, which reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke by protecting your body from atherosclerosis (plaque build-up) and other major health conditions.
Take advantage of this study and go eat that slice of pizza with regular-fat cheese. Your heart will thank you.