Ask the Pros Q&A

Q: What is Wrong With Cheese?

5 Alarming Facts about Cheese

Americans love cheese! I know, this is not a shock, but in fact, Americans eat more than 33 pounds of cheese per person per year which is 3 times more than they did in 1970. It is not a coincidence that people are more obese than ever. Cheese is loaded with saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol. When you look at the facts, it’s clear that cheese is pretty terrible for us. See below for 5 alarming facts about cheese and your health.

  1. Cheese is the largest source of saturated fat in the American diet.

Saturated fat is the “bad” fat which is responsible for raising cholesterol levels and increasing the risk for heart disease and Alzheimer’s’ disease. According to the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, “one-fourth of an average 12-inch cheese pizza contains nearly 13 grams of fat, including 6 grams of saturated fat and 27 milligrams of cholesterol.” All of that packs on the calorie content too, thus packing on the weight. Consuming too much cheese can lead to diseases further down the road. Dairy protein which is even more concentrated in cheese has been linked to systemic inflammation.

  1. Cheese is one of the most heavily processed foods you can buy.

Dairy products are often falsely touted as “natures perfect food”, but there is nothing natural about cheese. To make cheese, cow’s milk is pasteurized, fermented by bacteria, coagulated with enzymes, separated into solids, salted, and aged. Then it might be baked onto a pizza, stuffed into a casserole, or sprinkled over enchiladas before being baked and salted again.

  1. Cheese is addictive.

Have you even noticed that after eating one slice of pizza it is hard to stop there? Evolutionarily, we have been hard wired to seek out food sources that are high in fat and calories and that contain salt – which used to be hard to come by. Additionally, cheese contains mild opiate-like compounds called casomorphins, which attach to the same brain receptors as addictive drugs. Like other opiates, when casomorphins attach to these receptors, the brain releases dopamine, leading to a sense of reward and pleasure. Dr. Neal Barnard author of the Cheese Trap, calls cheese “dairy crack”.

  1. The government actively encourages your cheese addiction.

In the Dietary Guidelines, the U.S. government states that most people consume far too much saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium and encourages Americans to cut back to improve their health. But when it comes to cheese – a top source of all three overconsumed nutrients – is the government practicing what it preaches? The U.S. government accepts about $140 million per year from the cheese industry, which it then pumps into the Dairy Management Inc. [DMI] – a corporation overseen by the USDA whose function is to boost milk sales. DMI in turn, spends millions of taxpayer dollars working with fast-food chains to develop cheesy, high fat menu items and promote them to the public. Wendy’s Cheddar Lover’s Bacon Cheeseburger and Pizza Hut’s Ultimate Cheese Pizza – which features and entire pound of cheese in a single serving – are just 2 examples of DMI and taxpayer money at work.

  1. Dairy is cancer promoting.

Dr. T. Colin Campbell, (who grew up on a dairy farm), conducted studies showing that he could control cancer growth by adjusting the amount of casein (the protein in milk) in rats.  His studies also compared proteins from different sources. He found that only animal proteins promoted cancer growth, while plant-based proteins did not. Also, findings of a 2015 meta-analysis discovered that high intakes of dairy products like milk and cheese in men appeared to increase total prostate cancer risk, while non-dairy sources of calcium did not. Leading experts have expressed concern that the hormones in dairy and other growth factors could potentially stimulate the growth of hormone-sensitive tumors. Experimental evidence also suggests that dairy may also promote the conversion of precancerous lesions or mutated cells into invasive cancers in vitro.

Bottom line – eating cheese is not worth the risk. It is designed to keep you wanting more but, in the process, you are sacrificing your health. More and more people are ditching dairy due to health concerns and you can too!

References:

Aune, D. et al., (2015). Dairy products, calcium, and prostate cancer risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 101, Issue 1, January 2015, Pages 87–117, https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.113.067157

Barnard, N. (2017). The Cheese Trap: ow Breaking a Surprising Addiction Will Help You Lose Weight, Gain Energy, and Get Healthy. Grand Central Publishing.

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (2021). Health concerns about dairy. Retrieved from: https://www.pcrm.org/good-nutrition/nutrition-information/health-concerns-about-dairy.

Contributing Writer: Erin Sinnaeve APN, FNP-C

Erin Sinnaeve is a Family Nurse Practitioner and owns her own private health coaching business Thrive Plant Life. She also works in Allergy/Immunology at Advocate Aurora Health.

Erin received her BSN from University of Nebraska, her MS from Creighton University, and her DNP from Chamberlain University. She is an instructor at Chamberlain University. She is also a Food Over Medicine instructor and a member of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.