Eat cheddar, live longer? 6 surprising health benefits of cheese

Cheese
Cheese is healthier than you think Credit: Iconotec/Alamy

Although cheese is frequently vilified for its high saturated fat content, new research has revealed that it may not have the negative health impact we have all come to assume.

A new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has argued that, because no nutrient is consumed in isolation, their impact on the body must always be studied in the context in which it is eaten. Their work has shown that, despite the high proportion of saturated fat, cheese does not have the  negative effect on blood cholesterol that you may expect. 

Nutritionist Arne Astrup from the University of Copenhagen, said  “Research clearly demonstrates important health benefits of cheese for prevention of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancers.”

This isn't the first time a study has suggested consuming cheese could positively affect our health.

From improving your immune system to preventing tooth decay, here six other surprising health benefits of our favourite dairy product...

Could prevent liver cancer

Research suggests that eating cheese could boost liver health Credit: Julie Fryer/Alamy

Eating cheese could stop you from developing liver cancer and boost liver health, according to new a study from Texas A&M University. The research even found that aged cheeses such as brie and cheddar have the potential of boosting life expectancy by up to 25 per cent.

This is because these cheeses contain a compound called 'spermidine', though to prevent liver fibrosis and 'hepatocellular carcinoma', the most common type of liver cancer.

Leyuan Liu, an assistant professor at the university, said: "Severely cutting the number of calories consumed, restricting the amount of methionine (a type of amino acid found in meat and other proteins) in the diet and using the drug rapamycin have been shown to truly prolong the lifespans of vertebrates.

"But eating less and not eating meat will not be welcomed by general population, while rapamycin has shown to suppress the human immune system - therefore, spermidine may be a better approach."

 

Boosts your immune system

Cheese could give your immune system a boost Credit: Alamy

A 2010 study found that eating a piece of cheese every day could potentially benefit the immune system of elderly people.

The research, from scientists from the University of Turku in Finland, discovered that  probiotic cheese has the ability to prevent the age-related deterioration of the immune system.

The scientists are volunteers aged between 72 and 103 to eat one slice of either a placebo or probiotic Gouda cheese with their breakfast for four weeks. At the end of the study period they found that those who ate the probiotic cheese showed a clear strengthening of the immune system.

Lead author of the study, Dr Fandi Ibrahim, said: "The intake of probiotic bacteria has been reported to enhance the immune response through other products and now we have discovered that cheese can be a carrier of the same bacteria.

"We have demonstrated that the regular intake of probiotic cheese can help to boost the immune system and that including it in a regular diet may help to improve an elderly person's immune response to external challenges."

The secret to longer life?

Could cheese be the secret to living a longer life? Credit: Bon Appetit/Alamy

In 2015 a study suggested there is a link between cheese consumption and leading a long and healthy life

Scientists at Aarhus University in Denmark investigated the fact that French people tend to live long and healthy lives despite consuming diets high in saturated fats, a phenomenon known as the 'French Paradox'.

The French enjoy a low incidence of coronary heart disease and an average life expectancy of 82 years, while consuming up to 23.9kg of cheese each year. In comparison, Brits who eat 11.6kg of cheese each year, suffer from twice the levels of cardiovascular disease and their life expectancy is 81 years.

Hanne Bertram, a food scientist at the university, compared urine and fecal samples from 15 men whose diets either contained cheese or milk, or ate a diet with butter but no other dairy products.

Bertram found that those whose diets contained cheese had high levels of butyric acid, a compound which has been been linked to reduced obesity and higher metabolism, in their system.

Bertram said these results "suggests a role for gut microbes and further shore up the connection between cheese and the French paradox."

Prevents tooth decay

Cheese can improve your mood Credit: Laperruque/Alamy

In addition to brushing regularly, it turns out eating cheese could also benefit your teeth.

The 2013 study, from the Academy of General Dentistry in America, found that cheese not only makes the mouth more alkaline (which reduces the need for dental treatment) but also creates a protective film around the teeth.

The researchers split 68 children up into three groups. One groups were asked to eat a daily portion of cheese, another a daily portion of sugar-free yoghurt, and the group were asked to drink a glass of milk.

They measured the pH levels both before and after the test and found that those who ate the cheese showed a "rapid" increase in pH level while those who ate the yoghurt or drank the milk showed no change.

Lead author of the study, Vipul Yadav said: "The higher the pH level is above 5.5, the lower the chance of developing cavities."

Academy of General Dentistry spokesperson Dr. Seung-Hee Rhee added: "It looks like dairy does the mouth good. Not only are dairy products a healthy alternative to carb- or sugar-filled snacks, they also may be considered as a preventive measure against cavities."

Helps with weight loss

Eating cheese could help with losing weight Credit: The Picture Pantry/Alamy

In 2009 a group of Australian researchers claimed that a diet full of dairy products such as cheese can help overweight people lose weight.

Researchers from the Curtin University of Technology in Perth asked 40 volunteers to start a calorie-reduced diet and a selection to eat more cheese, yoghurt and low fat milk.

They found that those who consumed between three to five servings of dairy product a day lost the most weight. They also had lower blood pressure, less stomach fat and "significantly improved" their chances of avoiding heart disease and diabetes.

Lead researcher, Dr Wendy Chan She Ping Delfos said: "Many people commonly believe that when trying to lose weight, dairy products are key foods that they have to cut out of their diet as they are high in fat.

"This study has shown that when trying to lose weight people can actually benefit by increasing the amount of dairy they consume, as long as during the weight loss period total energy intake is less than their requirements.

"It will help you reduce your blood pressure and it also causes greater total abdominal fat loss, so you'd lose weight more around the belly."

Makes you smarter

Get grating... Credit: Alamy

Cheese gets a lot of flack, but some research suggests it could be beneficial for your intelligence.

A 2012 study from American and Australian researchers found those who regularly consume dairy products including cheese, milk and yoghurt, score better on mental ability tests than people who never consume dairy.

The researchers asked 900 men and women to go through a series of cognitive challenges that tested their visual-spatial, verbal and working memory tests.

They found that those who scored the highest across the board also consumed the most dairy products on a regular basis.