Eating half a block of full-fat cheese a day lowers a person's so-called 'bad' cholesterol levels, new research suggests.
According to The Daily Mail, those who indulge in a 120g serving of full-fat cheese every day for six weeks have significantly lower bad cholesterol levels than those who opt for low-fat alternatives, a study found.
This contradicts previous claims that cheese, such as cheddar and stilton, can block a person's arteries because they are high in saturated fat, increasing their risk of suffering a heart attack.
Full-fat cheese is thought to lower cholesterol more than other forms of dairy, such as butter, due to the way its nutrients, like calcium and the protein casein, are arranged in the 'cheese matrix'.
Lead author Dr Emma Feeney, from University College Dublin, said: 'We need to stop thinking about foods in terms of their fat and their saturated fat content, and thinking about them as a whole food.'
Although Dr Feeney does not recommend people eat a 120g portion of cheese every day, she adds: 'The recommended portions of cheese are not going to do you any harm.'
The researchers analysed 164 overweight volunteers aged 50 plus.
Forty six of the participants ate 120g of full-fat Irish cheese every day for six weeks, while 45 consumed a reduced fat Irish cheddar alongside 21g of butter.
Forty two of the volunteers ate 49g of butter, 30g of calcium caseinate powder and a 500mg calcium supplement. Calcium caseinate is a protein produced from casein.
The remaining 31 participants ate no cheese for six weeks before the study started and were then given 120g of full-fat Irish cheese every day for the trial's duration.
All of the participants were told to limit their milk intake to one more than 56g a day.
The study was partly funded by Irish dairy companies, however, the researchers are reported to have reached their conclusions independently.
Full-fat cheese lowers cholesterol more than low-fat alternatives
Results further suggest that while those who eat low-fat cheese, butter and dairy supplements also see their cholesterol levels decrease, the biggest reduction occurs among those who eat full-fat cheese.
The researchers believe this demonstrates that cheese eaten as a whole food rather than a supplement or as part of a reduced-fat diet may help keep a person's arteries clear.
Dr Feeney told Business Insider: 'We wouldn't be able to conclusively say that from these results; but certainly it does look that way.'
Unlike other forms of dairy, cheese contains a membrane around each of its fatty acid droplets, which may be behind its cholesterol-lowering effects.
Findings further show there was no change in body weight or insulin levels between the study's participants. There was also no change in the participants' blood sugar levels first thing in the morning before they had eaten.
The findings were published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.