- It has been a big couple of weeks for cheese on a scientific front, from the discovery of early traces of the dairy delight, to studies about the effects of cheese on our bodies.
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Cheese is a staple of British cuisine, with 94% of UK adults purchasing cheese according to Dairy UK CEO Judith Bryans. Its popularity on refrigerator shelves aside, the past few weeks have seen cheese making appearance in the news, and on a range of topics as well.
Traces of cheese have been found on 7,200-year-old pottery from Neolithic villages along Croatia’s Dalmatian coast. Before this discovery, the earliest cheese could be traced back was the Bronze Age. The discovered cheese is as around the same age as some Polish cheese residue that was discovered a few years ago, and many thousands of years older than the cheese found in Egypt earlier in the summer. Before this, the earliest signs of the treat could be traced to no earlier than the Bronze age, meaning this could be a sign of the earliest trace of cheese-making in the whole of the Mediterranean. As a good source of nutrients for children, milk is theorised by scientists to have been an important part of children’s diets back in early farming populations, when infant mortality was high. However, research suggests that adults of the time likely couldn’t digest lactose. Cheese-making of the era may have been efforts to use fermentation to decrease the amount of lactose in milk so adults could also nutritionally benefit from dairy, suggests the Smithsonian publication.
A recent study by researchers at King’s College London found there may be positive benefits to consuming dairy. The study based itself on data from 130,000 volunteers across 21 countries through a time span of nine years. It found that people who consumed three portions of dairy a day had a lower risk of heart disease and stroke, contrary to the popular belief that people may be better off cutting it out of their diet entirely. It is not the first study to come to this conclusion, with research by the University of Texas concluding there is no link between the consumption of full fat dairy products and heart disease or overall mortality. While heartening for cheese-lovers, this isn’t a green-light to consume as much of the stuff as possible, with them being clear on the amount of portion that showed to have a positive effect (three) and exactly what a portion constitutes (which in the case of cheese is 15g).
Cheese has managed to crop up in discussions about the effects of the UK leaving the EU. One of the hot points of discussion is where trade agreements stand between the two markets. Among the offshoots of this conversation are what the status of protected foods will be once Brexit is underway. While the world waits with baited breath, it is geographically protected foods that may provide the right bargaining tool. On the UK side, Stilton (blue and white), West Country Farmhouse Cheddar, and Yorkshire Wensleydale are imperilled; on the EU, Comte, Parmigiano Reggiano, and Feta. For the sake of these cheese, as well as the status of hundreds of other geographically protected foods, industry heads on both sides of the argument are urging the markets to come to some form of agreement