Why Cheese Might Not Be As Bad As You Thought

It's March 2021, and someone at Wired has gone and methodically proved what the French have known for centuries: cheese isn't actually out to get you. Cheese — cheddar, gouda, Swiss, feta, parmesan, gorgonzola, you name it — has acquired in our modern, dietary lore an image equivalent to the boogeyman. "Why does it have to be so fattening?" moans Twitter in despair. Are you eating too much cheese? Be careful, warns Eat This Not That!. "Martha Stewart's guilty pleasure is seriously just cheese slices," whispers Spoon University.

That's all well and good, but Martha Stewart really might not have that much to worry about. The French who eat a whopping 57 pounds of cheese a year, per person, on average, would have gladly told you eons ago (via The Local). In fact, despite the fact they love "fromage" (we're told that's how they say it in France), French women are among Europe's thinnest, according to The Guardian. And, as Wired recently discovered, there are scientific studies to back it up: in terms of what it can do to your weight, cheese is much less of a boogeyman and much more of the nutritional equivalent of the extra in a blockbuster movie. Eating cheese is unlikely to make much of a difference, either way.

Why cheese isn't bad for you, according to science

Per person, on average, US Americans eat about 39 pounds of cheese per year, according to The Washington Post. And that's probably okay. Wired points to a 2011 New England Journal of Medicine study which followed 120,877 US adults and their dietary habits for "several decades" and found that their cheese consumption did not affect weight gain or loss. It also highlights 2018 research of following 2,512 Welsh men and their cheese consumption over 10 years with similar results. There's a 2012 study showing that the intake of saturated fat from dairy products might lower chances of cardiovascular disease, and a 2015 study suggesting that cheese intake may lower risks of diabetes in women, per Wired.

If those studies are anything to go by, cheese might be good for you. "It's a concentrated source of protein and calcium," clinical professor of nutrition Joan Salge Blake recently told The Washington Post. But, like the French, Time could have told you that ages ago, when it reported on a study showing that people who ate an average of 40 grams of cheese a day were less at risk for heart disease or stroke than those who didn't. Of course, like nearly every other food group on this planet, cheese seems to be best for you in moderation — and when you're not eating it slathered all over French fries or fast food burgers.