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New Study Finds Cheese and Yogurt May Help You Live Longer

Cheese lovers rejoice!

A team of researchers, which included experts on cholesterol and heart health, gathered and analyzed data from various studies that totaled 636,726 individuals who were followed for 15 years or more. Results from the analysis of the results of these studies revealed that eating cheese and yogurt might be linked to helping you live longer. The scientists discussed their findings at the annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology Congress earlier this year.

It was previously thought that dairy, because of its high amount of fat, particularly its saturated fat, was unhealthy and should be consumed in small amounts, if at all. People had been cautioned to limit the amount of full-fat cheese and yogurt due to a possible link to coronary artery disease, cerebrovascular disease, and several types of cancer. However, emerging research finds that people should not avoid full-fat cheese or yogurt, but should avoid milk if they want to protect their heart health.

Researchers pointed out that evidence for a link between cheese and yogurt and an increased risk of disease and death was inconsistent. Scientists stated that whole milk still does seem to increase your risk for heart disease, but most other forms of dairy actually protect against mortality. Dr. Maciej Banach from the Medical University of Lodz, located in Poland, reports that he and his co-researchers evaluated data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 1999-2010, which was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The average age of the study individuals was 47.6 years old. The results showed that the consumption of any form of dairy was correlated with a 2 percent decreased risk of death from any cause. Eating cheese was actually found to reduce the risk of death even more, by 8 percent.

One takeaway from recent research is that the type of dairy does make a difference in health outcomes. Full-fat cheese, and to a smaller degree, yogurt, can be cardioprotective, while whole milk may be detrimental to health. Scientists believe cheese and yogurt's ability to be heart-healthy is due to the way their protein and fat molecules are arranged compared to milk and butter. Fat molecules have a protective shield, and the milk-fat globule membrane is preserved better in cheese, yogurt, and buttermilk. The same protective shield is drained off of butter during processing, and the globules are shrunk in milk.

Big Picture

While it may certainly be heart-healthy to enjoy some cheese and yogurt, these foods are not a cure-all. Medical experts still stress that a balanced diet is the best overall eating pattern. While cheese is filling, the problem with cheese and other full-fat dairy are that it is often over-consumed. Eating too much cheese, because it's so high in calories, may lead to weight gain, and being overweight is absolutely associated with a higher risk of heart disease. Many people aren’t cognizant of a proper portion size of cheese, and eating too much cheese and crackers at holiday gatherings or dinner parties could cause you to pack on the pounds, which ultimately has negative effects on your health.

Long story short — enjoy some cheese, but be mindful of portion size. And as always, stay active to help avoid weight gain and keep your ticker going strong.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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