Chinese researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 15 studies from Europe and the USA, which monitored the health effects of cheese consumption in more than 200,000 people.
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. Those who got the most benefit were eating about a matchbook sized serving of cheese a day. "[But the findings were] certainly different from what people might expect".
Another thing to keep in mind is that the data regarding cheese consumption was self-reported, and people are notorious for over or under-estimating the amount of food they've eaten.
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"We found that high, compared with low, cheese consumption was significantly associated with 10-14% lower risks of CVD and its subgroups", researchers wrote.
Stewart points out that the study was only able to find an association between cheese consumption and decreased risk of heart disease, rather than a cause-and-effect relationship.
The researchers believe that cheese's calcium stops fat being absorbed by the body while raising levels of good cholesterol.
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But it's also possible that cheese has beneficial qualities that offset the negative impact of its high saturated fat content, says Stewart.
As noted in the study, cheese is also a good source of vitamins, minerals, and protein, which also may be "cardiovascular protective properties". That means there could be other reasons why cheese lovers have lower risks for stroke and heart disease. With the average American consuming 42.5 grams of food each day, you may find yourself eating less cheese if you want the maximum benefits. "But on the upside, a bit of cheese on a cracker doesn't sound unreasonable". The researchers also found that the probiotics in cheese may contribute to its ability to raise levels of "good" cholesterol while also lowering levels of "bad" cholesterol.
"We're always are searching for ways to minimize heart disease and reduce atherosclerosis", said Allan Stewart, director of aortic surgery at Ichan School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center.
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