A reader sent me a link to a Consumer Health Digest article titled Eight Reasons Why Eating Cheese Is Harmful For Health. After I finished laughing at the utter nonsense, I decided the article is a perfect example of what’s wrong with media health reporting. Let’s take a look. (By the way, I changed the quote style with a bit of help from some PHP-savvy readers. Hope it works better on those tablets and whatnot.)

1. Cheese can Contain Bacteria Transferred from the Cows It Comes From

Although it can be a little weird to think about, cheese is a byproduct of cows.

Boy, that is weird. I thought it came from cheese trees.  If it comes from cows, I’m going to stop putting cheese on my burgers.  I only eat non-cow foods.

Made from cow’s milk, cheese can contain anything stuff that the cow it came from had in its system –including synthetic hormones and bacteria.

I don’t know what “anything stuff” is, but as for cheese containing whatever the cow had in its system, I’m pretty sure we can say that about any animal food.

It has long been suspected that synthetic hormones and bacteria transferred from cows to humans contribute to health problems, including memory and mood problems along with infections.

It’s long been suspected, eh? Well, that’s all the scientific proof I need.

2. Cheese is Really, Really Fattening

To many people, cheese seems like a healthy food. People on diets often eat cheese as a “light” snack to get the dairy in for the day. Unfortunately, cheese wrecks diets. Full of saturated fat, cheese instigates weight gain. The body also tends to digest cheese in such a way that it turns into stubborn, hard to lose fat.

I see. So if we check the research, we’ll find that people who eat full-fat dairy products are consistently fatter than people who don’t – because of that saturated fat that instigates weight gain and turns into stubborn, hard to lose fat. Let’s dig into the study files … ah, got one. It’s a meta-analysis of 16 studies. Here’s the conclusion:

In 11 of 16 studies, high-fat dairy intake was inversely associated with measures of adiposity.

That would mean people who ate full-fat dairy are thinner, not fatter.  Back to the Consumer Health Digest article:

Apart from causing weight gain, saturated fat is also known for wreaking havoc in the cardiovascular system. It can significantly influence cholesterol levels as well, which can be a bad for a person’s health.

I could swear I just saw a study about dairy fat and cardiovascular disease … oh, now I remember! That was the topic of my previous post. Researchers measured biomarkers of dairy-fat consumption in a population of more than 3,000 people and compared that to rates of heart disease. To quote from my quote from an article about the study:

What they found is that the dairy intake of people who had heart attacks was not statistically different than the intake of people who did not. After breaking people into quintiles, based on their dairy consumption amount, there was no significant linear relationship between consumption and heart risk, even among the most voracious consumers.

Even the “most voracious” consumers of dairy fats didn’t have higher rates of heart disease. That was the study that had the researchers fumbling for an explanation … such as perhaps there’s some protective substance in dairy foods that offsets the effects of the saturated fat.

3. Cheese is Very Salty

Another nutrient cheeses are often full of is sodium. Though necessary to the body, sodium is often consumed in excess. Regular consumption of cheese can increase the amount of sodium a person eats drastically. Unfortunately, the excess sodium can cause several health issues, including:

High blood pressure
Diabetes
Kidney Disease
Weak Bones
Stiff Blood Vessels
Stroke and Heart Attack

None of which has ever been proven. However, there have been several studies – like this one and this one – suggesting that low-salt diets might be harmful.

4. Cheese Can Contribute to Cardiovascular Issues

As a result of the high-fat nature of many kinds of cheese, eating cheese regularly can significantly contribute to obesity and thus to cardiovascular issues. Add in the amount of sodium that most cheeses contain and it’s clear that cheese can really be terrible for heart health.

Uh … uh … I know eight reasons sounds more impressive than seven reasons, but didn’t you just cite obesity and heart disease as reasons to avoid cheese up there in reason number two? You’re just as wrong now as you were a few paragraphs ago.

5. Cheese Making Can Be Considered Inhumane

Many kinds of cheese are manufactured with rennet. This is made by taking an enzyme from the lining of a calves’ stomach. Unfortunately, the calves must be very young when the enzyme is harvested. As a result, cheese making in some regions and processes involves the slaughter of young calves.

Holy crap! Next you’ll be telling me hamburger-making involve the slaughter of cattle.

6. Cheese Can Ruin Your Diet

On top of being really fattening, cheese can be a complete diet-wrecker because it is commonly paired with other carbohydrate-rich foods.

Well, that’s it, then. From now on, I’m only buying low-carb cheese.

Generally served with bread, crackers, and other “heavy” carb dishes, cheese often contributes to packing on the pounds.

I see. Cheese is fattening because it’s paired with “heavy” carb dishes like bread and crackers. If only it were somehow possible to eat cheese without all those carbs. When I see Dana Carpender on the cruise, I’ll ask if she can dream up a recipe or two. Maybe she can point me to a kitchen utensil that slices the bread and other carbs off the cheese.

7. Cheese Can Contain Mold Secretly

One of the hidden dangers of cheese is mold. Sure, some people eat moldy cheese as a delicacy. Many people also just cut moldy chunks off of cheese wedges and choose to eat the rest. However, mold can be hiding in the cheese and be invisible to the naked eye.

I looked up “foods that contain mold.” Here’s a partial list: pickles, relishes, green olives, vinegar, mustard, sour cream, beer, sauerkraut, smoked meats, canned tomatoes and dried fruits. So yes, if you want a mold-free diet, you should avoid all those foods. And the cheese too.

8. Cheese Can Make You More Susceptible to Cancer

Some people have suggested that cheese, along with meat, might be bad for people’s heath as a cigarette. Studies on the topic have revealed that the consumption of excessive protein, as occurs when people eat a large and consistent amount of cheese and meat, is risked to links of cancer and to shorter lifespans.

The writer’s source for that last statement is the observational study Dean Ornish was touting awhile back. High-protein diets were associated with higher mortality … but only for people under age 65. After the age of 65 (this is the part Ornish chose to ignore), high-protein diets were associated with a longer lifespan and lower rates of heart disease and cancer.

So if we’re going to believe observational studies prove cause and effect, we have to believe that meat and cheese cause cancer up to age 65, then prevent it after age 65. I’m 57 now, so I only have to hang on for eight more years. And I will … partly because I know better than to listen to media health writers.

The amount of protein a person should eat from cheese is also related to their age, indicating that cheese can be consumed in moderation at any age, but should be limited during many stages of life as well.

If anyone can make sense of that last sentence, please tell me what it’s supposed to tell me.

 

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100 Responses to “Eight Reasons Health Writers Are Harmful To Health”
  1. Chris says:

    I think the last sentence means that the anointed have indicated there is a healthy dose of cheese based on age one can eat. You can eat small amounts of it but the older you are the less of it you can eat. I think they stuck protein in there to sound smarter.

    I did some googling and could not find anything specific to cheese protein so it is 100% made up.

  2. j says:

    That last sentence is about as useful as any other advice preaching about dietary moderation..
    It doesnt work and just causes confusion. One is led to focus on what “measurable” amounts of potentially bad foods can we eat, instead of focusing on eating an abundance of quality food. Just causes panic and stress to overthink healthy eating..

    That article should be filed with similar ones under ‘useless entertainment advice’. No one should read into them too much..it’s kinda like taking the Dr. Oz show as dietary gospel when it’s nothing more than sensationalism.

    I must say I dont prescribe to any of the points that article tried to make. However, I dont consider dairy to be an optimal food that we were really, really meant to consume. I think dairy is somewhat of an inflammatory food in the sense that, at the very least, it mildly suppresses our immune system. Thats aside from other issues like lactose intolerance or it being what I believe to be a very subtle allergenic.
    Doesnt mean I dont enjoy dairy products here and there…just not piling it on my plate or filling up a tall glass of milk every day…and I feel better without it…

    I try to stick with meats, eggs, fruits, vegetables, and water as the base of my diet. With dairy, nuts, rice, tubers, and other so called natural whole foods making up a smaller part. Then the occasional ‘food you know is junk’ meal or snack..

    ymmv

    It’s certainly good measure to stick with full-fat, minimal ingredient dairy products when enjoying them..
    I.e.:

    Milk ingredients: Milk (and vitamin D3)

    Cheese ingredients: Milk, cultures, enzymes, salt

    I try to avoid dairy products when I start seeing stuff like this on the label:

    Potato or Food Starch
    Powdered Cellulose
    Calcium Sulfate
    Artificial Color
    Propylene Glycol Monoester
    Sodium Phosphate
    Cellulose Gel
    Polysorbate 80
    Gums, gels, etc..

    • Tom Naughton says:

      I don’t think dairy is an ideal food for humans, either. But the writer’s reasons for avoiding it don’t make sense.

      • Mark says:

        I know some Mongolians who would like to take you up on that 😉

      • JillOz says:

        Tom, she is not a health writer. She is an aspiring writer. This is the sort of thing wannabe writers write while they’re still determining their direction.

        • Tom Naughton says:

          Which is fine, but why the @#$% is Consumer Health Digest publishing this drivel?

          • Walter Bushell says:

            You need a certain amount of editorial content to qualify for magazine rate.

          • JillOz says:

            That’s a good question!

            I had a look at the people who run it and they all seem to be Indian and such. I suspect it’s a second-language business, if you take my meaning. Sort of a round-up of “news”.

            IIRC, they make sure to say that they don’t go in for medical advice, just general wellbeing.

    • Bob Niland says:

      In addition to the additives mentioned in a response above, another way to recognize a cheese to avoid is the presence of:
      natamycin
      This is an antibiotic added to retard mold, and common (but by no means universal) in pre-grated cheeses.

      My presumption is that natamycin is a likely human microbiome antagonist (in addition to the low dose of it perhaps breeding natamycin-resistant lifeforms). We often end up buying solid cheese and grating it ourselves.

      And yes, the common anti-caking agents could be wheat based. A gluten-free claim on the label is a plus (as is organic).

      At some point, we’ll need to consider whether there is a material difference between cheese from pastured cows and CAFO cows. With CAFO, I suspect an excess of Omega 6 linoleic acid, and deficiency of Omega 3.

      It will be at least a decade before pop culture scribblers posing as nutrition writers awaken to any of the above.

      • Cathy says:

        Another pedant altert!
        It would be a fungicide/antifungal that is used to retard mold – not an antibiotic.
        But thank for the information.

        • Bob Niland says:

          re: It would be a fungicide/antifungal that is used to retard mold – not an antibiotic.

          Correct; I misremembered the taxonomy, and would have written antimicrobial had I checked it.

          But I stand by my caution that routine sub-clinical dietary exposure to antimicrobials needs to be avoided on the precautionary principle.

          Consider candida, which often presents as a very difficult to remove intestinal overgrowth. One of the treatments is higher doses of natamycin. What are the chances that much of the infestation is already natamycin-resistant from a lifetime of low-level natamycin exposure in cottage cheese, sour cream, yogurt, shredded cheeses, cheese slices, packaged salad mixes (and in Europe, sausages)?

          This is largely unexplored territory. Most of the microbiome sequencing done today (like uBiome) is looking only at bacteria, and it is widely acknowledged that we have only vague idea what an optimal bacterial population is.

          When all of the genetic material in the gut is sequenced, we also find eukaryotic parasites, fungi, protozoans, viruses and yeasts. A couple of recent papers are strongly suggestive that there might also be as-yet unknown domains of life. We casually nuke this stuff from orbit at our peril.
          ________
          Blog Reply Associate (click my user name for details)

    • JillOz says:

      Pedant alert!

      “I dont prescribe”

      Should be “subscribe”.

  3. Dianne says:

    Don’t those people proofread? I did a double-take when I got to #8 and read that consumption of excessive protein was “risked to links of cancer.” Then, just in case you’d copied it wrong, I went to the original article. Yep — that’s what it said — “risked to links.” Hopefully they’ll correct that. Careless writing irritates me almost as much as careless research — maybe because I cut my teeth on the Plain English Handbook http://www.amazon.com/Plain-English-Handbook-Martyn-Walsh/dp/0800917936. Note that Amazon touts this particular offering as having a “great petina on this old paperback.” Sighhhhhhhh.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      I was a magazine editor back in the day. I’m great at spotting other people’s typos. I’m lousy at spotting my own because my brain sees what I think I wrote. I wonder if anyone at the magazine took a look at this article before publishing it.

      • Dianne says:

        I did a lot of writing during my working years, including budget documents (trying to persuade the state legislature that our agency actually needed to spend some money in order to fulfill the mission assigned to it by law), proposed legislation, newsletters, and documents attempting to explain state law in plain English to licensees who were required to follow it. It was standard practice to have someone who had nothing to do with writing the document proofread it before it went public. Saved my — er — dignity more times than I can count.

        • Tom Naughton says:

          Good practice. I’m going to get a few sets of eyes on the book when it’s ready. I know I’ll see what I think I wrote.

          • Walter Bushell says:

            Having your computer read it back aloud to you is also good and catches errors other people might not catch, like lines ending in the same word that starts the next line which is usually an error. Butt not of curse homonyms.

          • Nowhereman10 says:

            If you can’t get a good set or two of human eyes to do that, you might want to look up getting the Grammarly program. It’s both a spellchecker and corrects grammar!

      • Bob Niland says:

        re: I’m lousy at spotting my own because my brain sees what I think I wrote.

        As you are doubtless aware, that applies to computer coding too, perhaps double, because you can make the mistake of believing the comments.

        I wasted hours one day debugging some assembler because the register being loaded wasn’t actually the one clearly proclaimed in the adjacent comment.

        If you have only yourself for code review, find a way to turn off the comments – if need be, write a script for it.

        This applies to reviewing other people’s code too. If the code is then correct, but incomprehensible with the comments, well that’s a different problem.

        • Tom Naughton says:

          I’ve spent the better part of a year cleaning up code written by someone who should never have been allowed near a computer except to check email. There are very few comments, and the ones that exist are worthless. The code is tangled, wildly inefficient trash.

          My theory is that he went on to design healthcare.gov.

      • Mike (another one) says:

        If you have kidney disease, foods high in either sodium or potassium can really screw you up bad. Somewhere along the line, it became popular to suppose that they cause kidney disease.

  4. Beatrix Willius says:

    Thanks for making my day with “cheese causes mood and memory problems”. Now I know!

    The last sentence means: there isn’t anything really wrong with cheese. But you should avoid it anyways because we say so.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      I knew there had to be a point in there somewhere.

    • Firebird says:

      I had memory problems and tried to ween off cheese to try to remedy that but I kept forgetting not to eat it.

      It is a vicious cycle.

      • Tom Naughton says:

        That reminds me of the time I ate cheese and … wait, what was I saying?

        • Bob Niland says:

          “A blot of mustard, a bit of moldy cheese…there’s more of gravy than grave about you, friend” – Scrooge in A Christmas Carol (Dickens)

          The significance of that line is probably lost on most moderns, who have no experience with living without refrigeration. In Dickens’ time, storing cheese was a challenge, and some of the molds that could form might indeed result in substantial hallucinations.

    • JillOz says:

      Huh! I think it’s memory that causes mood and cheese problems!

      Now you know! 😉

    • Walter Bushell says:

      The authoress was clearly cutting the cheese when writhing this and she had nothing else to say.

  5. Tom Welsh says:

    “That would mean people who ate full-fat diary are thinner, not fatter”.

    Is a “full-fat diary” like that huge bulky one Pepys wrote? 😎

  6. Tom Welsh says:

    “I’m 57 now, so I only have to hang on for eight more years”.

    And I’m 67, so YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!

    Let the good cheese roll! (Even better with a cheeky little claret…)

  7. Tom Welsh says:

    Thanks for sharing this wonderfully humorous article with us, Tom. I haven’t laughed so much for a good while.

    Among the other… well, idiosyncratic ideas that the author has to offer is the apparently sincere belief that a safe diet must strictly limit fat, carbohydrate and protein. While all of those can be included in a balanced diet, one must be extremely careful not to overdo any of them.

    “As a result of the high-fat nature of many kinds of cheese, eating cheese regularly can significantly contribute to obesity and thus to cardiovascular issues”.

    “…cheese can be a complete diet-wrecker because it is commonly paired with other carbohydrate-rich foods”.

    “…the consumption of excessive protein, as occurs when people eat a large and consistent amount of cheese and meat, is risked to links of cancer and to shorter lifespans”.

    So there you have it: a classic piece of middle-of-the-road establishment nutritonal advice. Take care to steer clear of those dangerous diet-wreckers fat, carbohydrates, protein 9and salt of course), and you should be safe and healthy. Although in due course you will starve to death – but after that you will be absolutely safe from cancer, heart disease, and infections!

  8. Anna says:

    Let’s not forget all those obese French people who are constantly scarfing down those disgustingly moldy raw-milk cheeses. Right?

  9. ian mcleod says:

    no one really wrote this right? you made it all up right? if this is serious some one needs to back to school

  10. Nick says:

    Nearly all cheese in the UK is made with vegetable rennet (this was instigated in 90s after the mad cow issues) so no 5 doesn’t stand in the UK.

  11. Kevin O'Connell says:

    Maybe the last sentence indicates ‘I’m in touching distance of the 1000 word requirement for this article. Another 38 words will do it…’

  12. Firebird says:

    2 and 6 are redundant and the entire article looks like it was some high school girl’s book report from health class.

  13. Bonnie says:

    #3 Cheese is very salty, “…Unfortunately, the excess sodium can cause several health issues, including…diabetes.”

    No, salt does not cause diabetes. And neither of her linked articles mentions it either.

  14. js290 says:

    Propaganda peddling the feature of Nature, per the usual. We’re all full of microbes. It’s precisely the sterile, lifeless faux foods that are bad for us.

    Hadza sushi

    Once they had cleaned out – by hand – the contents of the stomach (“cleaned” is a generous word), they carved pieces of the stomach into bite-sized chunks and consumed it sushi-style. By which I mean they didn’t cook it or attempt to kill or eliminate the microbes from the gut of the Impala in anyway. And if this unprecedented transfer of microbes from the skin, blood, and stomach of another mammal wasn’t enough, they then turned their attention to the colon of the Impala.

  15. Becky says:

    So apart from the grammar and just all around poor quality of the article it also left me wondering, “what on earth does the author eat?” If saturated fat is bad, carbs are bad, and a high protein diet is bad what does he do? Drink straight PUFAs?

    • Tom Naughton says:

      She must live on water.

    • Firebird says:

      Fat free, low sodium soy cheese.

    • Walter Bushell says:

      She’s into breatharianism?!

      Beatharianism — One can live totally on air and not require food at all.
      Sort of a super Veganism. (Plants are sentient too.) Prominent leaders of this philosophy have been caught with bags of fast food. (Eating fast food is equivalent to fasting?!)

  16. Lori Miller says:

    “Be content with what you know, not disturbed by what you do not understand.” Such is the kind of substitute for thinking that the author of the article found worth re-tweeting.

    https://twitter.com/BethanyMcIlrath

    Her whole Twitter account is, shall we say, one long appeal to authority and paean to positive thinking. She needs to intellectually grow up and think clearly and stop regurgitating “facts.”

    BTW, all this did was make me hungry for cheese.

  17. Stephen says:

    There are ways to responsibly eat cheese. People need to calm down.

  18. JillOz says:

    That entire piece reads like a first year uni student’s draft for an essay.

    I wouldn’t take it too seriously. Read her bio, which also contains adolescent phrasing.

    Rather condemn Consumer Health Digest for accepting this piece.

  19. Mark says:

    Good thing that site doesn’t allow comments. She’d have been eviscerated.

  20. Walter Bushell says:

    Make that 9

    Health writers may cause head banging on desk.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      I experienced that side effect, yes.

      • JillOz says:

        With all that head-banging you’ll need a padded desk.;)

        to be honest, I could use one too, for completely different reasons.

        Remind me to tell you of my Series of Inescapably Stupid and Incompetent Dentists Saga some time!:(

  21. JimG says:

    I notice the article you discuss and many others like them do not have a comments section. I wonder why?

  22. Paul B. says:

    The only macro nutrient they didn’t say anything bad about was alcohol…

    Cheers!!!

  23. Ulfric Douglas says:

    My wife finds cheese fattening.
    That is not to condone the hidously idiotic ‘report” by some idiot …
    I’m also sure moldy cheese is beneficial to health, even if it tastes horrible and is somehow connected to the French.

  24. Kurt Lass says:

    I have a standing rule to never click on any story where the headline starts with a number. These are always burning stupid clickbait…

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