Is Cheese Really Good for Our Health?
What is the real story behind the recent studies that show cheese has neutral or positive health effects?
In my series of videos on saturated fat, I talked about a major campaign launched by the global dairy industry to “neutralize the negative image of milk-fat among regulators and health professionals as related to heart disease.” As you can see in my video Is Cheese Really Bad for You?, that campaign continues to this day with the publication of a meta-analysis demonstrating “neutral [non-harmful] associations between dairy products and cardiovascular and all-cause mortality,” that is, death.
How do we know the dairy industry had anything to do with this study? Well, it was published in a journal that requires authors to disclose financial conflicts of interest. So, what ties were divulged? As you can see at 0:47 in my video: Dairy, dairy, dairy, dairy, dairy, dairy, the fourth largest dairy company in the world, dairy, dairy, milk, beer, soda, McDonald’s, dairy, dairy, dairy, dairy, and more dairy. Oh, and the study itself was “partly funded by…the Global Dairy Platform, Dairy Research Institute and Dairy Australia.” So, there we have it.
The other big new study suggested that a little bit of cheese every day isn’t just neutral but actually good for you. And, researchers in that study make it clear that they have “no conflict of interest” despite some of the authors being employees of the Yili Innovation Center and the Yili R&D Center, with Yili being “China’s largest dairy producer,” which makes it one of the world’s largest dairy companies.
How can cheese consumption be associated with better health outcomes? Most of these studies were from Europe, where a “higher socioeconomic status was associated with a greater consumption of cheese.” In Europe, they aren’t eating Cheez Whiz and Velveeta. There, cheese is “generally an expensive product,” so who eats it? As you can see at 1:45 in my video, cheese consumers are those with higher paying jobs, those in a higher socioeconomic strata, and those with higher education levels, all of which are associated with better health outcomes, which may have nothing at all to do with their cheese consumption. Higher socioeconomic groups also consume more fruits and vegetables…and more candies. So, I bet you could do a population study and show that candy consumption is associated with better health. (Shh! Don’t tell the National Confectioner’s Association.) Too late! Did you know that candy consumers have lower levels of inflammation and a 14 percent decreased risk of elevated blood pressure? This information is brought to you by the candy industry and the U.S. Department of Agriculture from our very own government, which props up the sugar industry to the tune of a billion dollars a year.
It’s like when the government uses our tax dollars to buy up surplus cheese. Paul Shapiro, CEO of The Better Meat Co., wrote a great editorial on this: “Imagine the following CNN headline: ‘Government Buys $20 Million in Surplus Pepsi as Demand Plummets.’ The fictional article informs readers that our tax dollars will soon be buying up millions of unwanted cola cans, all as a favor to the flailing soda industry, which just kept producing drinks no one wanted. “As outrageous as such a government handout to the soda industry would be, that’s exactly what the U.S. Department of Agriculture is doing for the industrial dairy industry.”
Michele Simon, JD, MPH, produced a great report on how our government colludes with the industry to promote dairy junk foods. “The federal government mandates the collection of industry fees for ‘checkoff programs’ to promote milk and dairy.” In fact, “McDonald’s has six dedicated dairy checkoff program employees at its corporate headquarters” to try to squeeze in more cheese. That’s how we got double steak quesadillas from Taco Bell and 3-Cheese Stuffed Crust Pizza and the “Summer of Cheese” ad campaign from Pizza Hut. “These funds are used to promote junk foods, which contribute to the very diseases our federal government is allegedly trying to prevent. Does it make sense to tell Americans to avoid foods high in salt, sugar, and saturated fat, while engaging in the promotion of those same foods?” Look, “the meat and dairy industries can do what they like with their own money. The public power of taxation should be used for the public good,” though, not to support the dairy and candy industries.