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Emerging Science Shines New Nutritional Light on Cheese

Oct 24, 2018

Dairy products are a source of nine essential nutrients in the American diet, and cheese is no exception. It’s the number two source of calcium in the U.S. diet and is an important source of good-quality protein for many Americans. So why does cheese seem to get a bad rap nutritionally? For example, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) recommended that Americans switch to more low-fat and fat-free milk or yogurt instead of cheese to reduce intake of saturated fat, and therefore reduce the risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease.

But what if milkfat isn’t the same as other sources of saturated fat?

A number of studies over the past few years have examined the impact of full-fat dairy products on heart disease and other chronic conditions. Many of these found no connection between intake of full-fat dairy and heart disease and some indicate that certain full-fat dairy products may even protect against these conditions. The University of Limerick this year analyzed a collection of global research, which showed that multiple studies point to a neutral effect of full-fat dairy on heart disease and that fermented dairy, including cheese, may have a positive effect on prevention of heart disease.

This isn’t the only recent study that highlights the health benefits of consuming dairy products at all fat levels—Dr. Greg Miller, chief science officer and executive vice president, research, regulatory and scientific affairs, National Dairy Council/Dairy Management Inc., highlights another one here. The study, which involved more than 136,000 adults, found that eating dairy foods is linked to reduced risk of major cardiovascular disease events and mortality.

As the administration works to publish the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines, it has indicated it may also examine the science on milkfat. The published list of questions to be considered includes examining the health effects of types of fat and their sources.

If you’d like to engage with IDFA as the administration develops the new guidelines, I encourage you contact me at

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