Following a recent surge in reports on the health benefits of cheese, we've got even more good dairy-related news.
An April 2017 study, in which European researchers reviewed 29 studies involving nearly 1 million participants, suggests that consuming cheese, milk, and yogurt — even if they're full-fat — does not increase the risk of heart attack or stroke. To conduct the research, which was published in the European Journal of Epidemiology, scientists examined whether dairy products increase the risk of death from serious heart problems or cardiovascular disease, but they found no association between them.
"This meta-analysis showed there were no associations between total dairy, high- and low-fat dairy, milk, and the health outcomes, including all-cause mortality, coronary heart disease, or cardiovascular disease," the study authors wrote.
There's a widespread but mistaken belief among the public that dairy products in general can be bad for you.
Researcher Ian Givens, PhD, a professor of food chain nutrition at the University of Reading, says the study's results suggest that the belief that cheese and dairy products are bad for you could be a myth.
"There's quite a widespread but mistaken belief among the public that dairy products in general can be bad for you, but that's a misconception," he told The Guardian. "While it is a widely held belief, our research shows that that's wrong. There's been a lot of publicity over the last five to 10 years about how saturated fats increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and a belief has grown up that they must increase the risk, but they don't."
Due to its high saturated fat and salt content, cheese has held a bad rep in the past. Current U.K. National Health Service guidelines suggest that even though cheese can be part of a healthy diet, "it's a good idea to keep track of how much you eat and how often." Recently, though, the dairy product has been defended by scientists, with many saying saturated fats can — and should — be a part of our diets.
Doctors argued in an April 2017 paper published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine that the widely held belief that saturated fats (such as those found in dairy products) clog up the arteries, and therefore can cause coronary heart disease, is just "plain wrong." A February 2017 study published in Nutrition & Diabetes also found that participants who ate a lot of cheese did not have higher cholesterol levels than those who didn't.
But before you jump headfirst into a cheese board, there is one major limitation to this new research that you should consider: The April 2017 meta-analysis was partially financed by three pro-dairy groups. These groups had no influence over the findings published in the European Journal of Epidemiology, though, Dr. Givens assured The Guardian.
"Our meta-analysis included an unusually large number of participants. We are confident that our results are robust and accurate," he said.
[h/t The Guardian]