Who doesn’t enjoy the gooey taste of melted cheese on vegetables or a grilled cheese sandwich hot from the stove? While conventional medical wisdom has suggested that cheese is too high in saturated fat to be heart healthy, a new research study calls this thinking into question. According to a study published in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases, eating cheese made from ewe’s milk may be beneficial to the heart.
Eating Cheese for Heart Health: The Study
In this small study, ten middle-aged volunteers were given either cheese made from ewe’s milk or cheese made from cow’s milk. Ewe’s milk is higher in a fatty acid known as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) than conventional cow’s milk. After ten weeks, the researchers tested the blood of the volunteers. They found that the ones who ate the cheese made from ewe’s mlk with its high CLA content had lower blood levels of certain inflammatory markers associated with heart disease. The volunteers who ate the ewe’s milk cheese also had decreased platelet aggregation of the type that could lead to a heart attack.
Eating Cheese for Heart Health: Why Is Ewe’s Milk Cheese Heart Healthy?
The researchers believe the high CLA content of the ewe’s milk cheese may account for the heart healthy benefits since CLA has previously been shown to have a similar effect in other human and animal studies. It’s thought that the CLA found in ewe’s milk cheese may reduce the inflammatory process that can lead to heart disease in humans, thus accounting for the health benefits of cheese eating.
Cow’s Milk and CLA
CLA is also found in cow’s milk, but is really only of significance in cows that are grass fed. Conventionally grain fed cattle have from three to six times less CLA than those that are grass fed. One study showed that feeding cattle sunflower oil increased the amount of CLA in the cheese made from their milk. This suggests that the content of CLA in milk can be altered based on the animal’s diet.
Interestingly, most French cheese has a high CLA content than American cheese; and despite the fact that the French eat large amounts of cheese they have a lower rate of heart disease than Americans. Could the higher CLA content of their cheeses account for the difference?
Eating Cheese for Health: Are There Other Benefits?
In addition to the benefits of cheese eating for the heart, CLA has also been shown to reduce the incidence of breast cancer in rats that are exposed to it early in life. It’s also being studied for its potential to reduce the risk of prostate cancer. It just goes to show that there may be more than one benefit of cheese eating when it comes to health. Research is currently being done on how to alter the diet of milk producing animals such to increase the CLA content in milk and cheese products, hopefully, making the benefits of cheese eating even greater. Until then, it’s probably best to limit the quantity of full-fat cheese in moderation due to its high saturated fat content until more data comes out.