Friday Favorites: Is Cheese Harmful or Healthy? Compared to What?
Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.
In a series of videos I did about saturated fat, I talked about a major campaign launched by the global dairy industry to “neutralise the negative image of milkfat among regulators and health professionals as related to heart disease.” That campaign continues, to this day, with the publication of a meta-analysis demonstrating “neutral (meaning non-harmful) associations between dairy products and cardiovascular [disease and death].”
Okay, well, first of all, how do we know the dairy industry had anything to do with this study? Well, it was published in a journal that forces authors to disclose financial conflicts of interest. Let’s see what they divulged. Dairy, dairy, dairy, dairy, dairy, dairy, the fourth largest dairy company in the world, dairy, dairy, milk, beer, soda, McDonald’s, dairy, dairy, dairy, dairy, dairy. Oh, and the study itself was explicitly funded by dairy, dairy, dairy. Okay, then.
The other big new one was this, suggesting that a little bit of cheese every day isn’t just neutral, but actually good for you. And they make it clear that they have “no conflict of interest;” they’re just employees of the Yili Innovation Center and the Yili R&D Center. You know, “China’s largest dairy producer”….making it one of the world’s largest dairy companies.
Okay, but how can cheese consumption be associated with better health outcomes? Well, most of these studies were from Europe, where cheese consumption is associated with a higher socioeconomic status. See, in Europe they’re not eating Cheez Whiz and Velveeta. “Cheese is generally an expensive product.”
And so, who eats cheese? Those with higher-paying jobs, higher socioeconomic strata, higher education levels—all of which are associated with better health outcomes, which may have nothing to do with their cheese consumption. Higher socioeconomic groups also consume more fruits and vegetables and more candies. So, I bet you could do a population study and show candy consumption is associated with better health. Shh, don’t tell the National Confectioner’s Association. Too late! Did you know that candy consumers have lower levels of inflammation, a “14% decreased risk of elevated…blood pressure”? Brought to you by the candy industry and the USDA, our government, which props up the sugar industry to the tune of a billion dollars a year.
It’s like when our tax dollars are used to buy up surplus cheese. Paul Shapiro wrote a great editorial. Imagine the headline “Government Buys $20 Million in Surplus Pepsi,” our hard-earned tax dollars “buying millions of unwanted cola cans, all as a favor to the flailing soda industry, which just kept producing drinks no one wanted. As outrageous as such a government handout to the soda industry would be, that’s exactly what the [USDA] is doing for the…dairy industry.”
Michele Simon did a great report on how our government colludes with the industry to “promote dairy junk foods.” The federal government administers “’check-off programs’ to promote milk and dairy.” McDonald’s has “six dedicated dairy checkoff program employees at its corporate headquarters” to try to squeeze in more cheese. That’s how we got “double steak quesadillas.” That’s how we got “3-Cheese Stuffed Crust Pizza,” complete with a “Summer of Cheese.” “These funds are being used to promote junk foods, which contribute to the very diseases our federal government is allegedly trying to prevent. Does it make sense to tell Americans to avoid foods high in salt, sugar, and saturated fat, while engaging in the promotion of those same foods?”
Look: “The meat and dairy industries can do what they like with their own money. The public power of taxation should be used for the public good”—not to support the dairy and candy industries.
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