Examine publishes rigorous, unbiased analysis of the latest and most important nutrition and supplementation studies each month, available to all Examine Members. Click here to learn more or log in.

In this article

Put down the apple and have some chedda

Although both cheese and meat are lumped into the “watch out!” category in hearthealth recommendations, dairy products often show neutral or positive associations with cardiovascular health. But how do cheese-rich diets fare in randomized trials when compared to other diets? This trial tested three diets against each other in a highly controlled fashion: a cheese diet, meat diet, and high-carb diet.

Study under review: Diets with high-fat cheese, high-fat meat, or carbohydrate on cardiovascular risk markers in overweight postmenopausal women: a randomized crossover trial

Introduction

Over the past several decades, we have made slow progress toward recognizing that not all fatty acids are the same. Saturated fat now has subcategories of short-, medium-, and long-chained fatty acids that determine how they are metabolically handled in the body. Even within the sub-categories there are differences in the blood lipid effects of fatty acids. For example, palmitic acid is more atherogenic than stearic acid, even though both are long-chained saturated fatty acids.

Recently, there has been an increased interest in the kind of food supplying the fat. Dairy products are an excellent example because the impact of dairy fat on blood lipids is very inconsistent. For example, most research shows no association[1] between cardiovascular disease risk and cheese intake. Intervention trials suggest that there isn’t a similarly harmful effect on blood lipids when increasing fat intake from cheese compared to fat intake from butter.

Despite this emerging evidence, health authorities like the American Heart Association continue to recommend limiting saturated fat intake primarily through reducing the intake of fatty meats, butter, and cheese. Therefore, it seems unlikely that an individual would replace butter with cheese in their diet in an attempt to improve their health. A more likely scenario would be replacing fat with carbohydrates, which is currently advocated by many health authorities around the world. Additionally, others may consider replacing fatty meat in the diet with low-fat cheese and lean meats. The study under review aimed to explore the effect of cheese and meat as sources of saturated fat, and their replacement with carbohydrates, on cardiovascular disease risk markers.

While some official recommendations suggest limiting saturated fat intake to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, recent evidence suggests that the type of saturated fat and the food source from which it is ingested matter. This study took a look at how fat from cheese or meat affected markers for cardiovascular risk markers, compared to carbohydrates.

Who and what was studied?

Become an Examine Member to read the full article.

Becoming an Examine Member will keep you on the cutting edge of health research with access to in-depth analyses such as this article.

You also unlock a big picture view of 400+ supplements and 600+ health topics, as well as actionable study summaries delivered to you every month across 25 health categories.

Stop wasting time and energy — we make it easy for you to stay on top of nutrition research.

Try free for two weeks

Already a member? Please login to read this article.

What were the findings?

Become an Examine Member to unlock this article.

Free 2-week trial!

Already a member? Please login to read this article.

What does the study really tell us?

Become an Examine Member to unlock this article.

Already a member? Please login to read this article.

The big picture

Become an Examine Member to unlock this article.

Already a member? Please login to read this article.

Frequently Asked Questions

Become an Examine Member to unlock this article.

Already a member? Please login to read this article.

What should I know?

Become an Examine Member to unlock this article.

Already a member? Please login to read this article.

Other Articles in Issue #10 (August 2015)

  • All up in your krill: The story on krill
    Oil thus far has been fairly simplistic: it’s better than fish oil and more expensive. But there’s a reason why you can’t draw conclusions based off few studies, and successful results in one condition don’t apply to other conditions. This trial gives some of the first pieces of evidence for possible negative metabolic effects of krill oil.
  • Omega-3: kid-tested, mom approved?
    While heart health gets much of the attention for fish oil benefits (which, incidentally, are often overstated), outcomes in children typically show more promise. This study, involving children and their parents living on the island of Mauritius, explored possible behavioral benefits to fish oil supplementation. And not just the childrens’ behavior, but the parents’ as well!
  • Priming the pump: carb levels for endurance exercise
    If you run, cycle, or do anything long and sweaty, then you already know that carb intake is especially important for endurance activity. But recommended intakes range from around 30-60 grams, which is pretty broad. This trial can help you get to a more specific number, and possibly perform better.
  • A thorough trial of carb intake for diabetes
    There are few conditions where carbs play as direct of a role as in type 2 diabetes. Yet the recommended carb intake levels for this condition aren’t so different than for the general population. That may change at some point, due to trials like this one, which is more highly controlled and thorough than previous lower-carb & diabetes studies.
  • Interview: Elke Nelson PhD
  • Interview: Marguerite McDonald, MD
  • “B” is for breakouts
    B vitamins are commonly thought of as harmless, due to being water-soluble. As nutrition junkies know, that view lacks nuance, and B vitamins can indeed be harmful in certain situations. As an example, this elegant series of experiments sheds new light on the mechanism by which vitamin B12 may impact acne formation.
  • Wellness, Not Weight
    By Cristen Harris, PhD
  • Salt in the wound
    Science and mystery often go hand in hand, and this is a perfect example: when you have a skin infection, you tend to have more salt in the infected skin. But why is that? Well, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. The salt is probably doing something in regards to immune response, and it’s possible that how much salt you eat could also play a role. Resist the urge to skip to the end of this mystery -- the buildup is worth it.
  • Carbs-protein or protein-carbs …
    Does food order matter? Grandma always said “You have to eat your vegetables first if you want dessert!”. If you substitute “carbs” in for dessert, grandma might have hit another one out of the park. It’s possible that simply switching the order of what you eat might benefit blood sugar control, which would be a relatively easy way to address the thorny public health issue of type 2 diabetes