The Cheese and Diabetes Link: Both Sides of the Story

A recent study may be music to the ears of anyone who loves eating mozzarella, Muenster, and Monterey Jack. Researchers from Oxford University and Imperial College London, reported a 12 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes in individuals who consumed cheese compared to those who didn't eat the dairy product. But cheese lovers may want to take the research with a grain of salt.

The research, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, reported just a link between cheese consumption and a reduced diabetes risk. In other words, it was not a cause-and-effect relationship. And researchers didn't make note of whether the dairy products eaten by study participants were low fat or full fat.

Study results gleaned data from eight European countries and included nearly 350,000 individuals.

The researchers did not speculate on how eating cheese may lower an individual's diabetes risk.

Say Cheese? Or Just Say No?

"I don't think the study is conclusive enough to tell people to go out and eat a lot of high-fat cheese to lower their diabetes risk," says Nancy Copperman, MS, RD, director of public health initiatives at the North Shore LIJ Health System in New York. "An ounce of cheese can have 100-plus calories. Eating a lot of cheese can cause you to gain weight and that can lead to diabetes."

"Full-fat cheeses are high in saturated fat," adds Lauren Parsly, RD, of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. "And consuming an excess of saturated fat increases your risk for coronary disease."

On the flip side, cheese can be a good source of calcium and vitamin D. But if you enjoy eating cheese, Parsly suggests you keep portion size in mind. One and one half ounces of cheese—a typical serving—is quite a modest looking chunk, she notes.

Other options: switch to a low-fat cheese, or to use a full-fat cheese as a garnish (think a single slice of Swiss in a turkey sandwich, sprinkling a tablespoon of crumbled feta into a salad, or topping a turkey taco with a tablespoon of grated cheddar.)

"The more fatty tissue you have, the more resistant your cells become to insulin," Parsly says. "Being overweight is a major risk factor for diabetes, so it's important to be mindful of all portion sizes and total calorie intake."

Lauren Parsly, RD, reviewed this article.




Sluijs, Ivonne et al. "The amount and type of dairy product intake and incident type 2 diabetes: results from the EPIC-InterAct Study." 3 July 2012. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

"Cheese consumption linked with lower Type 2 diabetes risk." 29 July 2012. Huffington Post.