It’s always rewarding when you learn that something you consume routinely and really enjoy turns out to have alleged health benefits.
So, being a long-time turophile (i.e., a cheese lover) I was pleased to learn that eating cheese apparently helps you to live longer. Tests on mice indicate that aged, runny, smelly cheeses — like blue cheese — contain a substance called spermidine that produces improved cardiac function. Then, when scientists studied a group of 800 Italians to see whether noshing on cheese seemed to have health benefits for humans, they found that the Italians who ate more cheese had lower blood pressure, a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, and a significantly lower risk of heart failure.
Of course, we could debate whether a group of 800 Italians is a sufficiently large control group, or whether you can effectively screen out the influence of other life activities to determine that cheese consumption is the specific cause of the better heart health results — but since I like the results of the study and it supports my cheese-eating habits, we’ll just say that laboratory mice and 800 Italians can’t be wrong.
A Spanish study has found that drinking alcohol lowers the risk of heart disease among men, and by significant percentages. Not surprisingly, its findings are controversial, and experts caution that drinking too much alcohol obviously raises the risk of other, non-heart-related health problems. The study also was based on self-reporting, which may not be an accurate reflection of true alcohol consumption.
Still, it doesn’t strike me as odd that having a drink at the end of the day may be beneficial for your health. Working is stressful, and alcohol clearly helps people relax. A more relaxed person is bound to be healthier than one who is stressed out.
In the meantime, the Spanish study can be filed away in the memory banks, to take its place among the other useful medical and scientific studies that justify or excuse bad habits.
Scientists have performed x-rays and other scans on Egyptian mummies and have determined that ancient Egyptians experienced clogged arteries and heart disease, just like modern Americans do. The mummies that were examined as part of the study were of upper-class social status, which meant they ate meat and had richer than normal diets that were similar to those of modern Americans.
The results may mean that the modern activities which often are cited as causal factors for heart disease — such as smoking, eating processed foods, and leading sedentary lifestyles — in fact aren’t significant causes of heart disease at all. Instead, the root causes may be genetic.