Vegetarian cheese lowers cholesterol levels

December 9, 2002 in Heart Health, Nutrition Topics in the News

Vegetarian cheese lowers cholesterol levels

Eating cheese made from vegetable oils rather than milk fat can reduce cholesterol levels in some people, a study from Finland shows. After 4 weeks of eating a daily portion of vegetarian cheese, people with moderately increased cholesterol saw levels drop by 5%. The research was sponsored by a producer of vegetable oils.

The cheese appears to work mainly by reducing levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the "bad" cholesterol associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The results suggest cheeses made from rapeseed oil could be a healthy alternative for those with slightly raised cholesterol levels.

The Finnish researchers recruited 31 adults ages 25 to 65 with mild to moderately raised levels of cholesterol but no history of heart disease or other major illnesses.

All the volunteers were instructed to keep their alcohol consumption, smoking habits and medication the same throughout the study so as not to skew the findings. The same applied to their physical activity and consumption of vitamins and nutrients.

Half the group ate a daily portion of 65 grams (about 2 ounces) of rapeseed-oil cheese, the other half a portion of ordinary cheese. After 4 weeks, the groups switched over.

Laboratory tests on blood samples revealed that after 2 weeks of eating vegetarian cheese, total cholesterol levels were 6.7% lower than when they ate milk fat-based cheese. After 4 weeks, they were 5% lower. Meanwhile, levels of LDL cholesterol in the same period were down 7% after 2 weeks and 6.4% after four.

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