A piece of cheese a day keeps the doc­tor away

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - INTERNATIONAL - By Clau­dia Tan­ner

Cheese has a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing bad for you – but re­search sug­gests eat­ing it every day could in fact re­duce your chances of de­vel­op­ing heart dis­ease. Con­sum­ing a match­box size amount – one-and-a-half ounces or 40g – daily can slash the risk by 14 per cent. This same por­tion size could lower the risk of a stroke by 10 per cent, found the Chi­nese study.

Re­searchers are keen to un­der­stand the so- called 'French para­dox', a per­plex­ing phe­nom­e­non in which French peo­ple, who tend to have di­ets rich in choles­terol and sat­u­rated fat, some­how have low rates of heart dis­ease. Soo­chow Univer­sity has now found that cheese raises lev­els of so- called ' good' choles­terol while re­duc­ing lev­els of ' bad' choles­terol.

Al­though cheese con­tains high lev­els of sat­u­rated fat – linked to bad heart health – the cal­cium in the food means less of that fat is ab­sorbed by the body, it was dis­cov­ered. Ad­di­tion­ally, it also con­tains an acid that can help pre­vent clog­ging of the ar­ter­ies.

Ear­lier this year, a Bri­tish- led study also found that al­most one mil­lion peo­ple saw no in­creased risk with reg­u­lar cheese con­sump­tion. The Chi­nese re­search was pro­duced through an anal­y­sis of 15 stud­ies on cheese and heart risk.

Writ­ing in the Euro­pean Jour­nal of Nu­tri­tion, the au­thors of the lat­est study said: 'Cheese con­tains sat­u­rated fatty acids but also has po­ten­tially ben­e­fi­cial nu­tri­ents. It’s un­clear how long- term con­sump­tion af­fects the de­vel­op­ment of car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease.'

Ear­lier study

A team of in­ter­na­tional re­searchers led by Read­ing Univer­sity re­vealed in April that eat­ing dairy does not raise the risk of suf­fer­ing a heart at­tack or stroke. Even full- fat cheese, milk and yo­ghurt do not in­crease the dan­ger, the re­view of 29 stud­ies found. The team's find­ings did not go as far as the Chi­nese study by say­ing it boosts heart health but said dairy only has a ' neu­tral' im­pact.

Ian Givens, pro­fes­sor of food chain nu­tri­tion at Read­ing Univer­sity, said: ‘ There’s quite a wide­spread but mis­taken be­lief among the pub­lic that dairy prod­ucts in gen­eral can be bad for you.'

Young peo­ple, es­pe­cially young women, risk bone dam­age and os­teo­poro­sis by drink­ing too lit­tle milk, which can also de­prive them of cal­cium.

The Bri­tish Heart Foun­da­tion says cheese is a good source of vi­tal cal­cium, but warns a 30g por­tion can ac­count for seven per cent of over­all recommended calo­rie in­take in a day.

The char­ity there­fore rec­om­mends heart dis­ease pa­tients should get the nu­tri­ents they might find in cheese from other prod­ucts like milk and yo­ghurt, to cut down on calo­ries.

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