Is cheese better than butter for heart health?

2011-11-15 07:34

Doctors and nutritionists have long recommended avoiding all animal fats to trim cholesterol, but Danish researchers say cheese may not be so bad, and probably shouldn’t be placed in the same category as butter.

According to their study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who ate daily servings of cheese for six-week intervals had lower LDL cholesterol, the so-called “bad” cholesterol, than when they ate a comparable amount of butter.

The cheese eaters also did not have higher LDL during the experiment than when they ate a normal diet.

“Cheese lowers LDL cholesterol when compared with butter intake of equal fat content and does not increase LDL cholesterol compared with a habitual diet,” wrote Julie Hjerpsted and her colleagues, from the University of Copenhagen.

The group surveyed about 50 people. Each person was put on a controlled diet and added a measured amount of cheese or butter daily.

Throughout, each participant was compared against his or herself, to follow changes in the body caused by the foods.

Researchers gave each person cheese or butter, both made from cows milk, equal to 13% of their daily energy consumption from fat.

During six-week intervals, each person ate the set amount of cheese or butter, separated by a 14-day cleansing period which they returned to their normal diet.

Then they switched, and for six weeks those who had eaten the cheese before, ate butter, while the butter eaters in the first phase ate cheese.

Despite eating more fat than had been in their normal diet, the cheese eaters showed no increase in LDL or total cholesterol.

While eating butter, however, the same subjects had LDL levels about seven percent higher on average.

While eating cheese, subjects’ HDL or “good” cholesterol dropped slightly compared with when they ate butter, but not compared with their normal eating period.

The researchers speculated that there could be several reasons why cheese affected people differently than butter.

But there is nothing conclusive in the study, which was supported by the Danish Dairy Board and the National Dairy Research Institute.

For one, cheese has a lot of calcium, which has been shown to increase the amount of fat excreted by the digestive tract. Researchers did detect a little more faecal fat during the time the group ate cheese, but the amounts were not statistically significant.

Other possible explanations involve the large amount of protein in cheese and its fermentation process, both of which could affect the way it’s digested compared to butter.

Elizabeth Jackson, the assistant professor of medicine at the University of Michigan Health Systems, told Reuters Health that the study was well done but does not really change what cardiologists currently recommend.

“We want people to have a diet focused on whole grains and vegetables and moderate fats,” said Jackson, who was not involved in the study. In terms of cheese, anything in moderation,” she added.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.