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Cheese reloaded: enter the matrix

Context matters when it comes to macronutrients’ impact on lipid levels.

Study under review: Dairy matrix effects: response to consumption of dairy fat differs when eaten within the cheese matrix—a randomized controlled trial

Introduction

Several months ago, Examine.com published a blog answering the question: Is saturated fat bad for you? One of the sections focused on saturated fat’s effect on heart health, and the primary take-away was that you can’t just focus on saturated fat—you need to look at the foods that provide it. In support of this conclusion, the editors used dairy fat as an example of how the effects of saturated fat differ depending on the food source.

Specifically, different dairy products, such as butter and cheese, have different food matrices (structures in which the food compounds are arranged), and therefore different health effects. This issue has been discussed in past Study Deep Dives articles, such as Got milk (fat globule membrane)?[1] from Study Deep Dives #9, as well as Put down the apple and have some cheddar[2] from Study Deep Dives #10.

Until now, a question that went unanswered was how the health effects of eating nutrients is altered depending on whether they were consumed within the food matrix or alongside it. For example, would eating butter, which is mostly fat, with reduced fat cheese have the same impact as eating full-fat cheese if the amount of fat both foods have is roughly equal? The study under review answers this question.

The food matrix modifies the health effects of nutrients, such that equivalent amounts of dairy fat from cheese and butter have different effects on blood lipids. However, it is unclear whether a health difference exists when a nutrient is provided as part of a food matrix or as a supplement alongside it (e.g., butter, which is mostly fat). The study under review investigated this issue.

Who and what was studied?

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Other Articles in Issue #47 (September 2018)