According to researchers in the Department of Kinesiology of Penn State in an article by the Daily Collegian, there is an alleged link between dairy cheese consumption and heart disease prevention. The study was conducted by Penn State researcher/professor, Lacy Alexander. This article, released on Penn State’s news site, details how the experiment was conducted.
This is what the basic outline of the experiment was according to the article:
- Participants, aged 55-60, were fed dairy cheese or pretzels. These sodium-rich foods were used to compare if it was just the sodium having an effect on the vascular health or if it was just the dairy cheese. Another independent variable food item was soy cheese. It was used as a control due to see if dairy cheese had different results.
- To test the dependent variable, which was the health of the vascular system based on blood flow, researchers used a laser light to observe the flow of red blood cells in the subjects’ arms.
The study found that dairy cheese actually benefitted the blood flow and even strengthened the cardiovascular system.
Although the study yields results that show a correlation between dairy cheese and heart disease prevention, even the researchers are not completely confident in the mechanism. One researcher told the Collegian that it may be milk’s lacrotripeptides that cause the strengthening of blood vessels and subduement of sodium’s negative effects. However, this is only speculation and the researcher admitted that the exact mechanism is still unknown.
Another issue with the study is that it was only geared towards short term results. Alexander said that she wishes to conduct more studies that deal with the long-term health effects of dairy cheese consumption.
The study may have suffered from the Texas sharp shooter fallacy. The researchers may not have had a specific blood pressure or blood flow in a formulated hypothesis. This may have altered the conclusion that they found to match data that was geared towards proving that dairy cheese was healthy.
It is also important to note who was funding the research. Dairy Management Inc. approached Alexander to conduct the study. This doesn’t mean that the companies involvement and probable investment in the results swayed the data, but it should be a recognized fact of the study. This means that the company’s products will most likely boast that it decreases heart disease, which can be misleading if the consumer does not fully recognize the origin and motive of that conclusion.