Cheese is Surprisingly Healthy06 May 2015
Why can the French eat a traditionally unhealthy diet and still have a relatively low level of cardiovascular disease? Scientists from Aarhus University have found the secret lies with cheese.
Cheese affects the composition of the bacterial flora in the gut, results of a collaboration with the University of Copenhagen show.
The study also showed that cheese also helps to increase energy consumption, which can be an advantage if you are trying to lose weight.
The study included a test group of 15 men who received a diet for two weeks that contained either large amounts of milk, or large amounts of cheese, but no other dairy products.
As a control, another test group was given a diet with butter as the only dairy product and thus all the diets had the same number of calories and amount of fat.
Analyses of urine and faeces from the men showed that the men who were given a diet containing cheese or milk had a higher level of the anti-inflammatory fatty acid butyrate.
Not only does butyrate help reduce cardiovascular disease, the fatty acid also acts as a catalyst for the metabolic rate, keeps the blood fat percentage low and helps prevent obesity. The changes were most pronounced in cheese eaters.
The scientists found that the ingestion of cheese gave a higher level of short-chain fatty acids in the intestine, perhaps as a result of stimulation of beneficial gut bacteria, and also increased secretion of fats with the positive effects this has on the metabolism of cholesterol.
In addition, there was a lower production of TMAO, a substance that in other studies has been associated with cardiovascular disease.
Scientists are not sure whether the healthy substances come directly from the cheese, or whether they are formed by the gut bacteria with help from substances found in the cheese.
"This study suggests that cheese can be an important piece of the puzzle in the French paradox," said Morten Rahr Clausen, a co-author on the study, in reference to the fact that the French have a low incidence of heart disease despite a diet with a relatively high content of saturated fatty acids.
"We need more studies to identify more precisely the mechanisms linking cheese-eating with gut flora and cholesterol."
The study was supported by funds from Arla Foods, Innovation Fund Denmark and the Danish Dairy Research Foundation.
You can view the full report and author list by clicking here.