Effect of a high intake of cheese on cholesterol and metabolic syndrome: results of a randomized trial

Food Nutr Res. 2015 Aug 19;59:27651. doi: 10.3402/fnr.v59.27651. eCollection 2015.


Background: Cheese is generally rich in saturated fat, which is associated with increased risk for cardiovascular diseases. Nevertheless, recent reports suggest that cheese may be antiatherogenic.

Objective: The goal of this study was to assess whether intake of two types of Norwegian cheese, with widely varying fat and calcium content, might influence factors of the metabolic syndrome and serum cholesterol levels differently.

Design: A total of 153 participants were randomized to one of three groups: Gamalost(®), a traditional fat- and salt-free Norwegian cheese (50 g/day), Gouda-type cheese with 27% fat (80 g/day), and a control group with a limited cheese intake. Blood samples, anthropometric measurements, blood pressure, and questionnaires about lifestyle and diet were obtained at inclusion and end.

Results: At baseline, there were no differences between the groups in relevant baseline characteristics, mean age 43, 52.3% female. After 8 weeks' intervention, there were no changes in any of the metabolic syndrome factors between the intervention groups compared with the control group. There were no increases in total- or LDL cholesterol in the cheese groups compared with the control. Stratified analysis showed that those in the Gouda group with metabolic syndrome at baseline had significant reductions in total cholesterol at the end of the trial compared with control (-0.70 mmol/L, p=0.013), and a significantly higher reduction in mean triglycerides. In the Gamalost group, those who had high total cholesterol at baseline had a significant reduction in total cholesterol compared with control (-0.40 mmol/L, p=0.035).

Conclusions: In conclusion, cholesterol levels did not increase after high intake of 27% fat Gouda-type cheese over 8 weeks' intervention, and stratified analysis showed that participants with metabolic syndrome had reduced cholesterol at the end of the trial.

Keywords: Gamalost; Gouda; cardiovascular diseases; dairy; intervention.