Study suggests cheese may be key to French longevity

For a long time, the fact that the French have long lifespans and low rates of cardiovascular disease despite their dairy-heavy diet was considered a paradox. French people consume about 57 pounds of cheese per year, making the French diet one of the heaviest in cholesterol and saturated fats in the world, yet the British have twice their per-capita rates of cardiovascular disease. 

A recent study may show the solution to the "French paradox" is simply that it isn't a paradox at all. A recent Danish study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that eating a cheese-rich diet was associated with higher levels of a metabolism-increasing chemical that has been linked to lower rates of obesity and therefore with increased lifespan.

Food scientist Hanne Bertram of Denmark's Aarhus University analyzed 15 male fecal and urine samples. The men either ate diets rich in cheese and milk or consumed no dairy products other than butter. Bertram found that the cheese-eaters's samples contained higher levels of a compound called butyric acid, which has been shown to speed the metabolism and reduce the chance of becoming obese. 

According to Bertram, although this was a relatively small study, it "suggests a role for gut microbes and further shores up the connection between cheese and the French paradox."

Previous studies about the "French paradox" have mainly focused on the health-promoting effects of red wine, rather than investigating the cheese itself. A 2012 study found that molded cheeses like Roquefort might fight inflammation and lead to lower rates of cardiovascular disease.

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