Good news for lovers of all things cheese: the widely held belief that cheese and other fatty dairy products are bad for you is wrong, according to new research out of Europe.
Researchers from Copenhagen University in Denmark, Wageningen University in the Netherlands, and Reading University in England analyzed 29 studies conducted in the last 35 years, involving 938,465 participants from around the world. They found no concrete associations between dairy products and mortality, coronary heart disease, or cardiovascular disease, and suggest that consumption of fermented dairy products may actually lower an individual’s risk of heart attack or stroke slightly. The researchers say that these findings apply to both reduced-fat and full-fat dairy products. Though the research was funded in part by three pro-dairy groups (Global Dairy Platform, Dairy Research Institute, and Dairy Australia), they reportedly had no influence over the published findings or how the analysis was conducted.
Previous research, conducted in 2016 by the University of Bergen in Norway, found that hard cheese, soft cheese, cream, and other fatty dairy products could help to reduce an individual’s risk of heart disease when consumed as part of a calorie-restricted diet.
These new revelations do not mean that consumers can eat as much cheese as their hearts desire—monitoring your intake of saturated fats and sodium is still important for your overall health. An excess of saturated fat can increase LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol in your bloodstream and cause fatty materials to build up on your artery walls, and consuming too much sodium can raise your blood pressure, impair kidney function, and increase your risk of heart disease.
What this research does show, however, is that dairy-free diets for people capable of digesting lactose might not be as beneficial as we have long believed and that moderate cheese consumption can potentially be beneficial rather than harmful. Additionally, there are a number of essential nutrients in cheese, including protein, calcium, vitamin B12, vitamin A, vitamin B2, zinc, phosphorous, and magnesium that make it a good component of a healthy diet.
These new findings bode well for the overall growth of the global cheese market, which has seen many consumers switch to low-fat cheese products or cut out dairy entirely in recent years due to a rise in health-consciousness. According to market research firm Technavio, the global cheese market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 4% in terms of revenue until 2020.
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