A new study suggests that consuming dairy products, like cheese, could be healthier than we thought. Several media have made headlines rather optimistic , but are no more than exaggerated simplifications of the study in question to which, according to the experts, we should show skepticism.
“When I heard about this study, I rolled my eyes , ” says the Christopher Gardner, a nutritionist at Stanford University (USA).
In Gardner’s words, the problem is not only that the study has been funded by organizations related to the dairy industry, but also the meta-analysis does not reach the conclusion that the media have reported.
The study was not intended to serve as a nutritional guidance
The meta-analysis consists of the review of 29 old studies by a group of researchers to find out how the daily consumption of dairy products affects health; To that end, all data were reviewed to draw new conclusions.
“We have to take this meta – analysis with reservations , ” explains James J. DiNicolantonio, cardiology researcher and author of The Salt Fix , to be published shortly. “[The investigation] is based on observational studies rather than on controlled trials, so causation can not be demonstrated.”
In other words: it can not be said that eating cheese provokes, or does not provoke, cardiovascular problems because it has not been specifically tested. However, the study concluded that people who claimed to consume small amounts of dairy products were often no more or less likely to have cardiovascular health problems or to die from heart disease.
People with heart problems were excluded from the study
By doing a meta-analysis, researchers can manipulate and decide what jobs to include and exclude in their study. In this case, the scientists excluded an investigation in which participants had cardiovascular disease, diabetes or other chronic diseases, reports Gizmodo magazine .
This means that the conclusions were not taken into account individuals who are prone to heart problems.
It should also be noted that there is talk of “dairy products” in general in the context of this research. In the study, only dairy consumers, yogurt and low fat cheeses were considered for the Dairy category . The researchers came to the conclusion that, basically, dairy products are neither good nor bad , and that there is no relationship between this type of products and cardiovascular problems.
When scientists were unable to find a statistically relevant relationship between dairy products and cardiovascular problems – what they called ” neutral conclusions ” – the media wanted to interpret dairy products as “healthy,” Gardner explains.
“There is enough difference between one thing and another,” he says.
The study was funded by dairy companies
There is also the issue of conflict of interest. The study was funded by three dairy companies: Global Dairy Platform, Dairy Research Institute and Dairy Australia.
The authors of the study say that ” funders had nothing to do with study design, data collection and analysis, interpretation of the results, writing of the report or the decision to allow publication of the article.” But even so, experts advise consumers to be careful.
“I am always a bit skeptical about this type of industry-funded study and I doubt any of the results,” says Dana Hunnes , a dietician at UCLA Medical Center in the United States.
The size of the ration was not taken into account in the study
Finally, the authors of the study were based on fairly modest rations – such as 20 grams of fermented cheese or a glass of milk – to draw conclusions. Therefore, according to Hunnes, it is not surprising that scientists did not find any kind of relationship, either positive or negative, between dairy and cardiovascular diseases.
Nutrition experts always recommend a moderate consumption of dairy products, but, let’s be clear: who is able to eat only one slice of cheese? It is clear that the average American does not, since it consumes more cheese than ever: more than 10 kilos per year.
So … can we still eat brie or not?
Let’s live life and do not use this research as an excuse to get out of line.
Studies have shown that saturated fats in cheese and dairy products can raise cholesterol levels and risk a heart attack or stroke, according to the American Heart Association .
“This study does not change the fact that saturated fats raise LDL cholesterol [also known as bad cholesterol ],” recalls Gardner. “We are very concerned that the perceived safety of such analysis is understood as the justification for excessive consumption, but we want everyone to be consistent with science and enjoy food.”
According to Gardner, instead of focusing on specific ingredients, we should consume portions of a reasonable size of both healthy foods and food whims like cheese.
And taste every bite. After all, cheese is a delicacy.