Is cheese bad for you? Study says eating more won’t raise risk of cholesterol-related heart disease

DUBLIN — Holding the cheese to keep your cholesterol down? Worried that eating cheese is really bad for you? Hold that thought. One study concludes that people aren’t at an increased risk of cholesterol-related heart disease from consuming significant amounts of cheese, it turns out.

Researchers at the University of Dublin looked at the impact dairy foods had on the health of 1,500 Irish people, and found that eating large amounts of cheese did not lead to elevated levels of LDL cholesterol. Also known as “bad cholesterol,” it’s one common factor of heart disease due to its ability to cause plaque buildup in arteries.

“What we saw was that the high consumers [of cheese] had a significantly higher intake of saturated fat than the non-consumers and the low consumers and yet there was no difference in their LDL cholesterol levels,” says Dr Emma Feeney of the UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science, and lead author on the paper, in a university release.

“We have to consider not just the nutrients themselves but also the matrix in which we are eating them in and what the overall dietary pattern is, so not just about the food then, but the pattern of other foods we eat with them as well,” she adds.

Furthermore, the study found those who ate low-fat dairy products ironically had higher cholesterol than those who didn’t. In fact, the results showed that higher dairy intake was linked with having lower body mass index, lower percentage of body fat, lower waist size and lower blood pressure.

The reason for this could be because when researchers examined the participants’ dietary patterns, they found that people who regularly consumed low-fat dairy products tended to have higher levels of carbohydrate intake. So next time you’re thinking about going for extra cheese on your pizza order, you might not have to worry so much after all.

The 2017 paper is published in the journal Nutrition and Diabetes.

This article was originally published on March 22, 2017.