Cheese is a category of food we love but sometimes avoid for our health. It’s high in sodium and saturated fat. But it’s also high in vitamins A, B2 and B12, calcium, magnesium and protein. Some people eat low-fat cheese while others believe dairy fat is beneficial. Frequently, people choose to eat low-fat cheese for heart health. However, research has shown that there is evidence that full-fat cheese can aid cardiovascular health. Now, research from the Univ. of Alberta has found that cheese — both whole-fat and low-fat — is beneficial for insulin sensitivity.
The resulted were significant. “The cheese didn’t totally normalize the effects of insulin, but it significantly improved them. And it didn’t matter whether it was low-fat or regular cheese,” said Univ. of Alberta nutrition expert Catherine Chan. She points out how good it is that the difference in insulin sensitivity was seen in both reduced-fat and regular cheese. Many people are told not to eat regular cheese for their health and then, “people either eat no cheese or eat regular-fat cheese and feel guilty about it. Cheese has lots of nutrients and, if you cut it out of your diet, what are you going to replace it with?”
Many nutritional guidelines tell people to avoid regular cheese, despite a lack of research backing up the advice. Chan says, “The question is, what is the basis for that recommendation? When we started looking, we found there’s not a lot of information out there about low-fat versus regular cheese.”
The research was performed in rats, and more will be needed in humans to learn if there are the same results for people. They used mice because having people alter their eating habits for the duration of a study can be hard and it’s easy to control a lab animal’s diet. Insulin resistance in rats has many of the same symptoms as it does in humans. As the amount of fat in the cheese didn’t seem to alter the effectiveness of cheese’ impact, the researchers believe it may be another aspect of cheese — like the protein or calcium — that aids blood sugar.
If you have cut out cheese from your diet and are interested in reintegrating it to your meals, speak to a health professional. Depending on your health needs, it might be inadvisable. More research is published all the time about health and nutrition. It’s essential to keep yourself flexible and open to new ideas but also to seek out advice from people who know both your situation and current findings.