Do you hear that? That's the sound of cheese enthusiasts around the globe taking a collective, dairy-laden sigh of relief ... well, those who were worried about their cholesterol, anyway.
A new study conducted by researchers at University College Dublin has deduced that Irish people who consume a lot of cheese actually do not demonstrate higher levels of cholesterol than people who abstain from cheese -- rather, cheese-eaters consume higher amounts of saturated fats instead.
How did they determine this exactly? Well, scientists tested 1,500 Irish people between the ages of 18 and 90. The study participants consumed varying amounts of milk, cheese, yogurt, cream and butter, and then scientists examined body fat and health of the participants.
Cheese consumption in particular was not shown to be associated with increased body fat or with LDL cholesterol, which is a substance that is found in blood that helps the body function properly, when it's kept at a healthy level. At unhealthy and high levels, LDL cholesterol will actually stick to the walls of arteries in human being's blood streams, which then will block blood from flowing properly, and could eventually result in a heart attack or heart disease.
However, that doesn't mean that cheese is necessarily the healthiest food to eat in large quantities unchecked.
"What we saw was that in the high consumers [of cheese] they had a significantly higher intake of saturated fat than the non-consumers and the low consumers and yet there was no difference in their LDL Cholesterol levels," Dr. Emma Feeney, the lead author on the paper, and a UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science and Food for Health Ireland, said in a UCD report.
"We have to consider not just the nutrients themselves but also the matrix in which we are eating them in and what the overall dietary pattern is, so not just about the food then, but the pattern of other foods we eat with them as well."
If you're worried about your LDL cholesterol, or suspect that you need to cut down on risk foods for your health, you probably want to begin focusing on increasing your plant consumption, rather than just cutting down on indulgences like cheese. That means opting for fruits, vegetables, whole grains and starches over animal products more often!