Butter, cheese and the French concoction

By June 25, 2019 July 16th, 2019 Nutrition
Butter and Cheese

Living a long life also can mean loving what you eat!

Bring on the butter. Cheese too. These are two of my favorite foods, despite being scorned by modern society’s fat phobia — therefore depriving millions of the culinary delights not to mention health benefits.

Despite the long-held tradition of wellness misinformation, more people are finally boarding the healthy fat bandwagon. Even some mainstream publications have jumped on board, with a recent Newsweek headline reading, “Eating cheese and butter every day linked to living longer,” referencing a Lancet study (listed below).

I first tasted the magnificent traditional delicacy of freshly homemade butter and blue cheese decades ago during my first trip to France. It was hard to beat, although years later I did so, at home with a meal of just-made butter from raw Jersey cow milk, which had also been previously incorporated into an aged heavy blue cheese. A glass of fine Bordeaux further complemented this experience.

While that epicurean adventure was a special treat, a slice of butter added to many cheeses makes it not only more deliciously distinctive, but part of a healthy diet — a slice of heaven. So why wait? If you don’t like the blue, choose cheese that ranges from white to yellow and darker.

While the French take credit for that wonderful gastronomical combination of blue cheese and butter, I suspect the idea has been around since butter was invented more than 4,000 years ago. The Greek bou-tyron refers to cow cheese. (The making of cheese predated this by thousands of years, before they separated cream from milk, so that cheese would have been a high-fat product.)

Not only does it bring out the wonderful, often hidden flavors of almost any cheese, but adding butter, full of its own unique flavors, makes the butter better too. One way we can further embolden flavors is simply by serving both items at room temperature. Cold food and drink impair our olfactory and taste sensations.

Natural, dietary fats are clearly healthy (except, of course, in excess). Many missed the USDA guidelines from several years ago that removed the upper limit on dietary fat with the claim, “Reducing total fat (which really means replacing total fat with overall carbohydrates) does not lower cardiovascular disease risk,” adding that people should be “optimizing types of dietary fat and not reducing total fat.”

Even the most mainstream of traditional medical journals, The Journal of the American Medical Association, printed a comment about the new recommendations as it “tacitly acknowledges the lack of convincing evidence to recommend low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets for the general public in the prevention or treatment of any major health outcome, including heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, or obesity.”

Unfortunately, many people still have the idea that eating fat causes fatness so ingrained in their brains it’s difficult to enjoy healthy food fats. This is in part because companies continue promoting low-fat junk food, and the media goes along with it.

The French Paradox  — where people often ate high-fat cheeses and butter as part of a high-fat, high-cholesterol diet, yet had low levels of cardiovascular disease — is somewhat misleading as it can occur anywhere in the world. With health-conscious people reducing carbohydrates and raising fats in their diets this style of eating may now help many to significantly reduce body fat and improve blood fats and sugar profiles.




Dehghan M et al. Associations of fats and carbohydrate intake with cardiovascular disease and mortality in 18 countries from five continents (PURE): a prospective cohort study. Lancet. 2017;390(10107):2050-2062. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(17)32252-3.

Davies JM et al. The Oxygen Paradox, the French Paradox, and age-related diseases. GeroScience. 2017; 39(5-6): 499–550. doi: 10.1007/s11357-017-0002-y


  • Iacob Gheorghita says:

    There is an issue here.
    Which way one may eat cheese and butter?!
    With bread? may be a really bad idea.
    In a salad? may be I want to find some recipes.
    In some sort of dressing? amaze me.
    What do you think.
    On the other hand, is there any risk for chronic inflammation?

  • Paul solon says:

    A key food of ancient roman army was reggio parmigiana cheese.

    The real stuff to buy now, from italy, stamped on rind, eop protected—not the fake parmagan we see here in stores.

  • Thomas says:

    Hi Dr. Phil, Thanks for another great article. There seems to be some confusion about whether dairy products contribute to inflammation or not (e.g. check out ‘leading’ brain health doctors like David Perlmutter, Tom O’Bryan etc.). What’s your view on that? Thanks, Thomas

  • Walter Marting says:

    How much difference does it make that French Blue Cheese is made from unpasteurized milk and is likely loaded with beneficial bacteria and probiotic enzymes. That’s bleu cheese. What about USDA approved cheddar and camembert and other types that are made form pasteurized milk and do not have the evident amount of mold and bacteria in bleu cheeses. Or are you just focused on fats.

  • Andy says:

    Hi, shouldn’t the impact on the environment and the animals that produce butter and cheese be taken into consideration? Healthy fats are available from numerous plant based sources which I know you advocate also. I have followed the MAF training protocol for the last 3 years and have seen a huge improvement in my aerobic capabilities and my results bear this out. I went plant based 18months ago and now my recovery times and lipid profile have improved considerably too. I know it’s not for everyone but we should consider the impact on others too when we choose what we consume.

    • Hi Andy,

      It definitely should be (and we do) but we also need to make sure that we keep both conversations separate; the article is about the metabolic impact of butter, cheese, and other animal fats (and the macronutrients of macronutrient complexes are not the only thing that matters, their micronutrient profiles also matter greatly.) So when we say animal fats, we are vehemently referring to the entire complex, and how it differs from plant fats. Similarly, when we say plant fats, we are emphasizing the sum total of the macronutrient complex, and not just the fact of the fat.

  • Marco says:

    This Newsweek article is interesting. However, sadly we can find a link to the following article: “Coconut Oil is Pure Poison Says Harvard Professor”

    Looks like the media still have work to do 😉

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