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Copenhagen Cheese Research Shows Its Holes

Brief

copenhagen-cheesy-researchThis is another example of “people love to hear good things about their bad habits.”1This quote has largely been attributed to Dr. John McDougall, but sometimes to T. Colin Campbell

A study out of the University of Copenhagen2Raziani, F, T Tholstrup, MD Kristensen, ML Svanegaard, C Ritz, and A Raben. “High Intake of Regular-Fat Cheese Compared with Reduced-Fat Cheese Does Not Affect LDL Cholesterol or Risk Markers of the Metabolic Syndrome: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Medscape, 2016. https://www.medscape.com/medline/abstract/27557654 spawned a number of articles, such as the one published in the U.K. Telegraph titled “High Fat Cheese: The Secret to a Healthy Life?”3U.K. Telegraph, High Fat Cheese: The Secret to a Healthy Life?, Sept 20, 2016 Those buying into the news that “a diet rich in cheese might actually be good for our health,” started a flurry of social media sharing.

First a disclaimer of sorts: This is not at all pertinent to the argument for veganism. Even if the claims were true, we would still need to avoid cheese and all animal products because it causes unnecessary suffering. Cheese, even if it were healthy, is certainly not necessary for good health. And dairy cows suffer greatly, enduring several cycles of artificial insemination, pregnancy, calf separation anxiety and unnaturally excessive milking before they become unable to produce milk and are slaughtered, often for hamburger meat.4freefromharm.org, “Ten Dairy Facts the Industry Doesn’t Want You To Know

Since people use this kind of research to justify their preferences, it’s still useful to take a deeper look, especially at the source of funding. This study was 100 percent funded by the dairy industry,5see ‘author notes’ here and industry-funded research is usually unreliable.

After an investigation of such research, an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that “industry-sponsored nutrition research, like that of research sponsored by the tobacco, chemical, and pharmaceutical industries, almost invariably produces results that confirm the benefits or lack of harm of the sponsor’s products, even when independently sponsored research comes to opposite conclusions.”6JAMA, Food Industry Funding of Nutrition Research

Notice the phrase “almost invariably” and “even when independently sponsored research comes to the opposite conclusions.”

While it is possible that such a study might produce a scientifically valid conclusion, in light of all the evidence that does indeed lead to opposite conclusions, it seems especially unlikely.

There are numerous studies showing the health risks of dairy. The Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine published a summary7PCRM, Health Concerns About Dairy Products of these risks which included 52 citations.

This summary provides evidence that dairy consumption has little or no benefit for bones, contributes to cardiovascular disease and diabetes, results in higher risk for certain cancers, particularly prostate and breast cancer, may cause lactose intolerance symptoms, including gastrointestinal distress, diarrhea, and flatulence, and contains contaminants that range from hormones to pesticides.8PCRM, Health Concerns about Dairy Products

It concludes, “milk and dairy products are not necessary for the diet and can, in fact, be harmful to health.”.9PCRM, Health Concerns about Dairy Products

Outline

Talking Points OutlineKnowledge Base
  • Context
    • This is not at all pertinent to the argument for veganism.
    • Even if the health claims for cheese were true, we would still need to avoid cheese and all animal products because it’s wrong to cause unnecessary suffering.
  • High-fat cheese reported being healthful.
    • A University of Copenhagen study10Raziani, F, T Tholstrup, MD Kristensen, ML Svanegaard, C Ritz, and A Raben. “High Intake of Regular-Fat Cheese Compared with Reduced-Fat Cheese Does Not Affect LDL Cholesterol or Risk Markers of the Metabolic Syndrome: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Medscape, 2016. https://www.medscape.com/medline/abstract/27557654 has been reported to show that a diet rich in cheese might be good for health.11U.K. Telegraph, High Fat Cheese: The Secret to a Healthy Life?, Sept 20, 2016
  • The study was 100% funded by the dairy industry.
    • 50% funded by the Danish Dairy Research Foundation, Danish Agriculture and Food Council (Denmark)
    • 50% funded by the National Dairy Council (United States), the Dairy Farmers of Canada (Canada), Centre National Interprofessionel de l’Economie Laitière (France), Dairy Australia (Australia), and Nederlandse Zuivel Organisatie (Netherlands).
    • Source 12see author notes here
  • Industry-funded research is not reliable.
    • An article in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that “industry-sponsored nutrition research, like that of research sponsored by the tobacco, chemical, and pharmaceutical industries, almost invariably produces results that confirm the benefits or lack of harm of the sponsor’s products, even when independently sponsored research comes to opposite conclusions.”13JAMA, Food Industry Funding of Nutrition Research
  • Dairy is harmful.
    • Dairy has many health risks.
      • contributes to cardiovascular disease and diabetes,
      • results in higher risk for certain cancers, particularly prostate and breast cancer
      • may cause lactose intolerance symptoms, including gastrointestinal distress, diarrhea, and flatulence
      • contains contaminants that range from hormones to pesticides.
      • yet has little or no benefit for bones
      • Source 14PCRM, Health Concerns About Dairy Products
    • Dairy cows are harmed and suffer greatly.
      •  they endure several cycles of artificial insemination, pregnancy, calf separation anxiety and unnaturally excessive milking before they become unable to produce milk.15freefromharm.org, “Ten Dairy Facts the Industry Doesn’t Want You To Know
      • Then they are slaughtered, often for hamburger meat.
  •  Meta
    • Purpose
      • To show that the recent Copenhagen cheese research, and the way it is reported in the media, is misleading and potentially damaging to our health.
    • Contributors
      • Greg Fuller   Author
      • Carolyn Blackman   Proofreader
    • Revisions
      • 1.20.2017 First Published   glf
      • 2.7.2015 Added Meta   glf

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Footnotes   [ + ]

1.This quote has largely been attributed to Dr. John McDougall, but sometimes to T. Colin Campbell
2.Raziani, F, T Tholstrup, MD Kristensen, ML Svanegaard, C Ritz, and A Raben. “High Intake of Regular-Fat Cheese Compared with Reduced-Fat Cheese Does Not Affect LDL Cholesterol or Risk Markers of the Metabolic Syndrome: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Medscape, 2016. https://www.medscape.com/medline/abstract/27557654
3.U.K. Telegraph, High Fat Cheese: The Secret to a Healthy Life?, Sept 20, 2016
4.freefromharm.org, “Ten Dairy Facts the Industry Doesn’t Want You To Know
5.see ‘author notes’ here
6.JAMA, Food Industry Funding of Nutrition Research
7.PCRM, Health Concerns About Dairy Products
8.PCRM, Health Concerns about Dairy Products
9.PCRM, Health Concerns about Dairy Products
10.Raziani, F, T Tholstrup, MD Kristensen, ML Svanegaard, C Ritz, and A Raben. “High Intake of Regular-Fat Cheese Compared with Reduced-Fat Cheese Does Not Affect LDL Cholesterol or Risk Markers of the Metabolic Syndrome: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Medscape, 2016. https://www.medscape.com/medline/abstract/27557654
11.U.K. Telegraph, High Fat Cheese: The Secret to a Healthy Life?, Sept 20, 2016
12.see author notes here
13.JAMA, Food Industry Funding of Nutrition Research
14.PCRM, Health Concerns About Dairy Products
15.freefromharm.org, “Ten Dairy Facts the Industry Doesn’t Want You To Know