Cheese: between science and fake news

Today morning on the Internet, a site spreading hoaxes wakes up and knows it will have to rush to publish who is the new public enemy of human health. Every morning, in the real world, people wake up, open the newspaper, turn on the TV, surf the Internet and … “Oh no, I won’t be able to eat that thing anymore. Have you read about it? It’s so bad for you!”

Let’s face it, it has happened to everyone at least once hasn’t it? And let’s face it: we had been attracted to that remark that “studies and research show that…” At best with time, critical thinking and a few questions asked of real experts… we realized it was all a hoax.

Defending against fake news is not easy. It takes very little to fall for it, and it can happen to anyone. Today we debunk the three most talked-about false myths about cheeses, abused like so many other poor foods. Ready? Go!

Casein is bad for you. It causes cancer!

Casein is the main protein in milk and, therefore, in cheese. We read around that “milk casein is a glue that sticks to the intestinescausing inflammation and, in the long run, the onset of cancer.

Is this true? Short answer: absolutely not.

But then where does this story originate? Underlying this fake news is a product that actually exists: a sticky substance that is formulated from proteins in the casein family! We are talking about a glue currently on the market that behaves like an adhesive and is mainly used for fixing wood.

In short, jumping from pole to pole, there has been a rumor that proteins from the casein family are deposited, forming a layer on the walls of the intestine that causes inflammation and other terrible things. But this does not happen for a really simple reason: like all proteins introduced into our bodies when we eat, caseins are also digested and “broken down” into their basic components: amino acids. By the time it reaches the intestines, therefore, it has lost its original characteristics and can be easily absorbed.

The extra information: milk protein is complete in terms of amino acid content. This and many other fake news stories have been dealt with byAIRC, the Italian Association for Research Against Cancer. On casein says: “The numerous studies to date on the link between dairy consumption and increased risk of developing cancer have led to conflicting results” specifying, however, that “The most up-to-date comprehensive analysis of the available data on the subject has shown solid evidence confirming a protective effect of milk and dairy products against colorectal cancer“.

It goes without saying, however, that if we consume in excess we will have disadvantages on other fronts. And we connect, thus, to the second hoax.

Fresh cheeses like stracchino are light!

Well, not really. Because of their full but fluffy taste and texture, fresh cheeses and dairy products such as stracchino and mozzarella seem low in calories . In addition, we Italians consume them consistently because of two reasons:

  • our culture: we are accustomed to seeing them on the table often, and we gulp them down without thinking about it;
  • Our perception of them: we consider them an “extra” and don’t count them in the things we eat

In short, we take them lightly.

In the nutritional guidelines, more fresh cheese is indicated than aged cheese. Why does it happen? Because there is more water in fresh cheeses than in aged cheeses. Simply put, for the same weight there is more fat in aged cheeses, which lose water during the aging process, concentrating the rest of the nutrients.

But is it always like this? To the cry of lecosefacilelet’sleaveittosomeoneelse, the answer is no.

There are dairy products to which fat sources are added. For example, burrata and stracciatella-be blessed for their goodness-come to our tables with a very high percentage of fat and should be consumed sparingly or, at the very least, with awareness.

Stracchino cheese, unsuspectedly, contains a similar amount of fat as Parmesan cheese. But while the former we spread copiously on bread, the latter we grate or consume in flakes in -average and hopefully- smaller quantities. The council:

  1. Follow the guidelines while being careful about quantities
  2. Eat cheese as a substitute for meat or as an element of a single dish and not, as is often the case, in addition to an already complete meal.

Cheese and osteoporosis: prevention or cause?

Everything and the opposite of everything can be found on this topic. On the one hand, there are those who accuse milk and cheese of acidifying the body, a condition that would lead to calcium being taken from the bones to fight it causing the onset of osteoporosis.

The acidity of fresh milk averages pH 6.6 to 6.7 and is due to citrates, phosphates and caseins. But looking at the whole context, which includes the whole diet, many foods we consume are acidic: the vaunted lemon with “miraculous properties” has, for example, a very acidic pH of 2.4. One has to consider that this in itself is not a problem, if one does not overdo it and there are no clinical conditions to take into account.

Digestion has this function and takes place, in the stomach, by gastric juices. These touch a pH of 1.5 to 2.0 (very acidic!) due to the presence of hydrochloric acid that we have no reason to worry about.

Then on the other hand, there are those who defend and elevate dairy products as bone protectors from osteoporosis. The net can make itself wild and hostile in the eyes of neutral information seekers. Where is the truth?

First, consuming milk and cheese makes the skeleton healthier because the calcium in it is important for maintaining good bone health. That being said, it should also be emphasized that their daily intake alone is not enough to make them protective against the onset of osteoporosis and fractures.

The message we need to take home is one, and we should enforce it in all contexts: individual foods are not responsible for prevention from disease. The many studies that are bandied about take into account numbers, even large numbers, of people who consume milk and cheese and then, at some point, may or may not develop osteoporosis. But these studies alone are not enough because they do not prove that this is the cause. Each of us in fact eats many things and has different habits throughout the day, week, month, year(s!). All these things contribute to the whole.

Fact: This food group is the main source of calcium. Within the guidelines, it supports the health of our bones.

Hoping to have shed some light on this beautiful world, it only remains for me to wish Good Cheeses, knowingly, to all!

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