With food, a good rule of thumb is that the better something tastes, the worse it is for you. As awesome as cheeseburgers, pizza and the rest of the fast food pantheon undoubtedly are, they’re never going to win any awards for nutrition. Likewise, even though we know broccoli and spinach are probably keeping us alive, we still push them unenthusiastically around our plates in the hope that they might vanish before being forced into our mouths. If only there was something that combined the flavour of fat with the life giving properties of a kale smoothie? Fortunately, scientists may well have found an answer.
A sensational study from McMaster University in Canada has revealed that a diet high in full fat dairy products, including cheese and butter, could slash your chance of early death by as much as a quarter. Scientists claim that our actual ideal intake could be as much as double what is currently recommended - fantastic news for anyone who’s partial to a quattro formaggio, or an alpine fondue.
Researchers examined more than 200,000 people from 52 countries during the course of the study, asking participants specific details about their dietary habits. They found that those including the highest levels of dairy in their diets were around 25% less likely to suffer an early death, and 22% less likely to experience a heart attack. This certainly goes against what has been thought previously.
It seems that, in the aftermath at least, even the scientists responsible were somewhat taken aback by the results of the study. During a speech at the European Society of Cardiology conference in Munich, McMaster University’s Dr Andrew Mente said, “Our findings on full fat dairy...do challenge conventional thinking. It’s protective up to the serving sizes that we’ve identified. We are saying three dairy [per day]. Relative to carbs I would say that saturated fat is beneficial, it’s pretty clear from this data.”
Given everything that we’ve been spoonfed about the dos and don’ts of dieting, you could be forgiven for being a little suspicious of this latest claim. However, it turns out that the scientists from McMaster aren’t the only pro-cheese lobby in the scientific community. In 2017, researchers from Texas A&M University found that aged cheeses, such as cheddar, brie and parmesan, can not only boost life expectancy, but also help prevent liver cancer. The key appears to be the high levels of essential fatty amino acids found in certain cheeses, though it’s unclear just how closely the conclusions of the two studies may or may not be related.
There’s a lot about the modern diet that’s pretty depressing. Everything that we’ve learned over the last few decades about deep frying and fast food has made guilt-free indulging a whole lot less simple than it used to be. But, as these studies seem to suggest, there may yet be hope for eating naughty things if we’re prepared to dig a little deeper. When it comes to delicious food, it doesn’t all have to be doom and gloom.