Cheese and cholesterol

Monday, 19 June, 2006

Australian research shows that cheese is different to butter in the cholesterol stakes. In fact, people can enjoy cheese without harming their blood cholesterol levels.

Prof Paul Nestel admits he is uncertain why the same amount of dairy fat has such a different effect. He suggests the process of cheese fermentation, the type of fat globules in cheese, or some unidentified, cholesterol-lowering compounds in cheese may be responsible.

Fourteen men and five women with moderately raised cholesterol took part in the tightly-controlled Baker Heart Research Institute study. For four weeks they consumed 120 g (three serves) of mature cheddar cheese each day and for four weeks they ate 49 g (seven serves) of butter every day. The researchers found that seven serves of butter a day increased cholesterol levels; however, adding three serves of cheese to a moderately reduced-fat diet hardly changed cholesterol. Professor Nestel is not alone in his findings, with four international studies now supporting his research.

In two recent European trials, consuming cheese resulted in no increase in cholesterol levels. In one study, breastfeeding women ate 113 g cheese daily, while in another, older adults consumed 85 g of processed cheese each day. In both instances, cheese did not raise cholesterol levels.

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