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Who Loves Cheese?

The uproar would of course be minimized if I asked "Who doesn't like cheese?" I think for all ages and in its various forms, cheese is a big hit at both mealtime and snack time. The problem is, cheese has been demonized and blamed for weight gain and even more hazardous: for raising cholesterol levels.

Now you won't find me landing on the same page as most cholesterol-phobic physicians and health advisers, so it's not surprising that I'm doubly happy when my bias is confirmed by research.

Dr. Emma Feeney, of University College Dublin (Ireland), reports that when she compared dietary records and blood tests and found no correlation between amount of cheese consumed and levels of cholesterol, specifically the so-called "bad" cholesterol. My only disappointment was that they didn't carry the study a bit further. I suspect that eating a lot of cheese might actually help your raise your levels of the "good" cholesterol. Because, actually, the good cholesterol is indeed good, and an excellent marker of dietary quality and physiological health.

The good cholesterol, HDL, is generally higher in women than in  men, in younger women than in older, and offers a special short cut. 

Lipid testing has become quite sophisticated, and various lipid panels can be ordered which portray a wide array of lipid-related information. I like those panels, because of their value in sorting out the differences between good choices and good luck (raising your HDL) and bad choices (making smaller lipid particles, demonstrating insulin resistance and an early step on the road to type 2 diabetes.)

However, you can do a shortcut with your standard lipid panel: write a fraction with your triglyceride number on top, your HDL number on the bottom. If that ratio is less than 2, you're golden. Thinking of yesterday, Stu's triglycerides of 200 and an HDL of 46 yielded a number way beyond 2, even beyond 4: bad news. Jeff's triglycerides of 95 and HDL of 62 yielded about 1.5: excellent! So to change a high number to a lower one, you want to lower your triglycerides (eat less carbs) and raise your HDL (eat more saturated fats, get more exercise, drink a little red wine.)

But I digress, let's get back to the topic at hand, where's the cheese? I like a sharp cheddar for eating and gorgonzola for my salad: what about you?