According to the International Dairy Federation, more than 2.4 million tons of cheese are produced and sold every year, with average cheese consumption equating to 30 pounds per person per year.
France, Iceland, and Finland have the highest overall consumption at an average of 55 pounds per person per year, with the US and the UK taking the number 10 and 11 spots at an average of 30 and 25 pounds per person per year.
What’s the difference between regular and low-fat cheese?
Governments and public health organizations have generally advised consumers to limit their intake of full-fat cheese, suggesting that reduced-fat cheese contains less saturated fat and sodium and could lead to better health.
Reduced-fat cheese simply means that it contains 25% less fat than the original cheese, but often has 20% more sodium than regular-fat cheese and comes with a long list of unnatural ingredients. By logic alone, full-fat cheese seems to be the way to go, but what does science say?
A recent study was conducted by scientists from the Department of Nutrition at the University of Copenhagen in order to find out whether buying reduced-fat cheese had any health benefit compared to regular-fat cheese.
Researchers divided 139 participants into 3 separate groups: the regular-fat cheese group (A), the reduced-fat cheese group (B), and the no-cheese group (C).
Group A and B were given 80 grams of cheese per day for 12 weeks, while groups C stuck with plain bread and jam without any cheese. Full-fat cheese included cheddar and Danbo, with the low-fat options being the reduced-fat versions of these.
The purpose of the study was to examine the difference between regular-fat and reduced-fat cheese on cholesterol in order to find ways to reduce the risk of heart attacks, diabetes, and strokes. The findings were published in the American Journal for Clinical Nutrition.
What were the results?
LDL and HDL cholesterol levels were tested, as well as blood pressure, glucose, and insulin levels.
The participants from Group A had very similar results to those in Group B, with no significant difference being found in either group in any aspect. The researchers were able to prove that reduced-fat cheese offered no added health benefits or advantage over the consumption regular-fat cheese, not even on waistlines.
One interesting finding was that the regular-fat cheese eaters showed a slight increase in HDL (good) cholesterol levels, which means that it’s the best choice for reducing the chance of developing heart disease, diabetes, or having a stroke.
How much cheese is recommended?
According to the British Heart Foundation, the average recommendation per person per day is 90g of regular-fat cheese, which equates to one slice of cheese on toast or the amount of cheese on one slice of pizza. However, dietary guidelines vary based on weight, height, health, and exercise levels.
Cheese contains plenty of calcium, magnesium, Vitamin A, and B-vitamins, as well as being packed with heart-healthy protein.