Doctors have been warning their patients to avoid high-fat dairy products like butter and cheese. The fear has been that these high-fat foods would raise cholesterol levels which would increase the risk for heart disease.

A new Danish study suggests that cheese may not be as bad as previously thought. The researchers assigned 50 people to follow a controlled diet for six weeks. During that time they were given butter or an equal amount of cheese. Those who were consuming substantial amounts of cheese did not have higher levels of LDL or total cholesterol. In contrast, cholesterol levels rose about 7 percent during the butter phase of the trial. The researchers were not able to explain why these high-fat dairy foods had different effects on blood lipids, but some experts concluded that cheese, in moderation, could be part of a heart healthy diet.

[American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, December, 2011]

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  1. Toussaint

    What the study failed to mention is whether they were using pasteurized milk products or raw products. Pasteurization kills enzymes. Raw cream doesn’t have the same effect as pasteurized cream–or butter.

  2. Roberta B

    I’ve been watching what I eat for so many years that I thought at 78 I’m going to do a little splurging. One thing I pretty much stayed away from was cheese. I’m back to eating it again; Cabot 75% less fat Cheddar cheese. It’s the only Cheddar “diet” cheese that actually tastes like cheddar to me. RobertaB

  3. Fran

    I believe butter is healthier than margerine. I combine 2 sticks of softened butter and 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil in food processor. It still tastes like butter but is healthier.

  4. bill w.

    Several years ago my cholesterol reading was 200. I said that if it went over that I’d cut back on fats. I eat two pieces of bacon and one egg for breakfast and a really large amount of ice cream in the evenings (1/3 of a container). My recent level was 176 and I haven’t done anything at all to lower it, except, perhaps, that I eat very little food at all – high levels of levothyroxine depress my appetite – and not much meat; less than the deck of cards amount suggested. But I was doing that before the 200 reading. Go figure.

  5. Carol

    I was grateful to see this, as my attempts at weight control always concluded that when I allowed myself a couple of ounces of a hard cheese a day, even a simple “cheese stick” added to an apple at that middle of the day need for a snack, time – helped stave off hunger so much better than the apple alone. Same with having maybe a 1/2 oz. shaved into an egg as an omelet in the morning or used in a before bedtime, snack. I stay full longer, or sleep better.
    I still prefer the taste and lightness of low fat milk, though use very little. I’ve never had high cholesterol. This relieves me of feeling guilty about something that was okay for me all along.

  6. Karen

    How many dietary IQ points does it take to understand that cheese contains a substantial % of protein, while butter is pure fat? The study reports 13% of ENERGY = calories. So participants consumed an equal caloric load of cheese or butter, but butter had MORE fat anyway, so that part of the study appears to be useless to me. Or am I reading it wrong?
    Then, there’s this little bit: After 6 wk, the cheese intervention resulted in lower serum total, LDL-, and HDL-cholesterol concentrations and higher glucose concentrations than did the butter intervention.
    HIGHER GLUCOSE CONCENTRATIONS = (over long enough time) diabetes.
    One can only wonder what the carb load was. You don’t eat butter straight up, most of the time; so it was almost certainly delivered on bread. Or potatoes.

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