Is Cheese Healthy? Compared to What?

Is Cheese Healthy? Compared to What?
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Dairy is compared to other foods for cardiovascular (heart attack and stroke) risk.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

When industry-funded studies suggest their products have “neutral” health effects, or are even beneficial, one question you always have to ask is: “compared to what?” Is cheese healthy? Compared to what? If you’re sitting down to make a sandwich, cheese is probably healthy—compared to bologna—but compared to peanut butter? No way. That’s the point Walt Willett made, former chair of nutrition at Harvard. “To conclude that dairy foods are ‘neutral’ could be misleading,” as it could be misinterpreted “to mean that increasing consumption of dairy foods would have no effects on cardiovascular disease or mortality. Lost is that the health effects of increasing or decreasing consumption of dairy foods could depend importantly on the specific foods that are substituted for dairy foods.”

Like, what are you going to put on your salad? Cheese would be healthy compared to bacon, but not compared to nuts. See, “consumption of nuts or plant protein has [been found to be protectively] associated with risks of coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes; in contrast, intake of red meat has been…associated with” increased risk. “Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the lack of association with dairy foods could put them somewhere in the middle of a spectrum of healthfulness, but [certainly] not an optimal source of energy or protein. More broadly, the available evidence supports policies that limit dairy production and encourages production of healthier sources of proteins and fats.”

He wasn’t just speculating. This was based on three famous Harvard studies involving hundreds of thousands of men and women exceeding five million “person-years of follow-up.” This was really “the first large-scale prospective study to examine dairy fat intake compared to other types of fat in relation to heart attack and stroke risk. So, replacing like 100 calories of fat worth of cheese with 100 calories of fat worth of peanut butter on a daily basis might reduce risk up to 24%, whereas substitution with other animal fats might make things worse. Here’s how it breaks down for heart disease. Swapping dairy fat for like vegetable oil would be associated with a decrease in disease risk, whereas swapping dairy for meat increases risk. Dairy fat calories may be as bad, or worse, as straight sugar. The lowest risk would entail swapping to a whole plant food, like whole grains.

Yeah, “dairy products are a major contributor to the saturated fat in the diet, and have thus been targeted as one of the main dietary causes of,” you know, the #1 killer of men and women. But the dairy industry likes to argue there are other things in dairy products, like fermentation byproducts in cheese that could counteract the saturated fat effects—all part of an explicit campaign by the dairy industry to “neutralise the negative image of milkfat among regulators and health professionals.”

If Global Dairy Platform looks familiar, they were one of the funders of the milk-and-dairy-is-neutral study, trotting out their dairy-fat-is-counteracted notion. To which the American Heart Association responds that “no information from controlled studies supports the [assertion] that fermentation adds beneficial nutrients to cheese that [somehow] counteract the harmful effects of its saturated fat.”

We need to cut down on dairy, meat, coconut oil no matter what their respective industries say. In fact, that’s the reason the American Heart Association felt that they needed to release this special Presidential Advisory in 2017. “We wanted to set the record straight on why well-conducted scientific research overwhelmingly supports limiting saturated fat in the diet.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: https://pxhere.com/en/photo/830958 via pxhere. Image has been modified.

Motion graphics by Avocado Video

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

When industry-funded studies suggest their products have “neutral” health effects, or are even beneficial, one question you always have to ask is: “compared to what?” Is cheese healthy? Compared to what? If you’re sitting down to make a sandwich, cheese is probably healthy—compared to bologna—but compared to peanut butter? No way. That’s the point Walt Willett made, former chair of nutrition at Harvard. “To conclude that dairy foods are ‘neutral’ could be misleading,” as it could be misinterpreted “to mean that increasing consumption of dairy foods would have no effects on cardiovascular disease or mortality. Lost is that the health effects of increasing or decreasing consumption of dairy foods could depend importantly on the specific foods that are substituted for dairy foods.”

Like, what are you going to put on your salad? Cheese would be healthy compared to bacon, but not compared to nuts. See, “consumption of nuts or plant protein has [been found to be protectively] associated with risks of coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes; in contrast, intake of red meat has been…associated with” increased risk. “Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the lack of association with dairy foods could put them somewhere in the middle of a spectrum of healthfulness, but [certainly] not an optimal source of energy or protein. More broadly, the available evidence supports policies that limit dairy production and encourages production of healthier sources of proteins and fats.”

He wasn’t just speculating. This was based on three famous Harvard studies involving hundreds of thousands of men and women exceeding five million “person-years of follow-up.” This was really “the first large-scale prospective study to examine dairy fat intake compared to other types of fat in relation to heart attack and stroke risk. So, replacing like 100 calories of fat worth of cheese with 100 calories of fat worth of peanut butter on a daily basis might reduce risk up to 24%, whereas substitution with other animal fats might make things worse. Here’s how it breaks down for heart disease. Swapping dairy fat for like vegetable oil would be associated with a decrease in disease risk, whereas swapping dairy for meat increases risk. Dairy fat calories may be as bad, or worse, as straight sugar. The lowest risk would entail swapping to a whole plant food, like whole grains.

Yeah, “dairy products are a major contributor to the saturated fat in the diet, and have thus been targeted as one of the main dietary causes of,” you know, the #1 killer of men and women. But the dairy industry likes to argue there are other things in dairy products, like fermentation byproducts in cheese that could counteract the saturated fat effects—all part of an explicit campaign by the dairy industry to “neutralise the negative image of milkfat among regulators and health professionals.”

If Global Dairy Platform looks familiar, they were one of the funders of the milk-and-dairy-is-neutral study, trotting out their dairy-fat-is-counteracted notion. To which the American Heart Association responds that “no information from controlled studies supports the [assertion] that fermentation adds beneficial nutrients to cheese that [somehow] counteract the harmful effects of its saturated fat.”

We need to cut down on dairy, meat, coconut oil no matter what their respective industries say. In fact, that’s the reason the American Heart Association felt that they needed to release this special Presidential Advisory in 2017. “We wanted to set the record straight on why well-conducted scientific research overwhelmingly supports limiting saturated fat in the diet.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: https://pxhere.com/en/photo/830958 via pxhere. Image has been modified.

Motion graphics by Avocado Video

Doctor's Note

Everything we eat has an opportunity cost. Every time we put something in our mouths, it’s a lost opportunity to put something even healthier in our mouth.

This is the second in a three-video series. In case you missed the first one: Is Cheese Really Bad for You? Stay tuned for How the Dairy Industry Designs Misleading Studies.

If we don’t eat dairy, though, what about osteoporosis? Check out: Is Milk Good for Our Bones?

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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