Nibbling on cheese a little bit a day helps keep heart disease at bay, researchers found.
A recent study of over 200,00 people showed that those who ate a small amount of cheese daily had a lower risk of contracting heart disease, compared to those who rarely or never ate the stuff, New York Daily News reports.
Researchers from China and the Netherlands analyzed data gathered from 15 previous studies where many of the participants were tracked for at least 10 years. They found that overall, people who ate more cheese had a 14% less chance of developing heart disease and were 10% less at risk of having a stroke, compared to those who did not eat cheese at all.
Experts, however, warn that this is not linear – in short, the study does not mean that people should start consuming blocks of cheese to prevent heart disease. People with the greatest health benefits from cheese ate around 40 grams per day, which is the size of a matchbook.
Dr. Allan Stewart, director of aortic surgery at Ichan School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center, said,
This is not the same as eating a big slice of cheesy pizza every day. (But the findings were) certainly different from what people might expect.
Stewart was not involved in the study.
Cheese contains healthy ingredients like protein, calcium and probiotics, according to the study authors. But cheese also does contain high levels of saturated fat, much like other dairy products. These fats can cause high cholesterol and a higher risk of heart disease if consumed in large quantities.
The link between cheese and lowered heart disease risks might be because people who eat cheese every day are already healthier, or have enough income to afford the habit, the researchers point out. But the benefits outweigh the bad when it comes to cheese.
“There is some evidence that cheese — as a substitute for milk, for example — may actually have a protective effect on the heart. No one’s saying you should definitely go out and eat 40 grams of cheese a day. But on the upside, a bit of cheese on a cracker doesn’t sound unreasonable,” Stewart said.
The study was published in the European Journal of Nutrition.