The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s new anti-obesity campaign targets cheese as a fat-causing culprit. But is it the right message?
Feeling cheesy? No, we’re not saying you’re full of bad jokes (though we clearly are) but rather, we’re wondering how much cheese you’ve had to eat lately. If you’re like most Americans, you’ve probably had about a half pound of cheese in the past week alone — for a total consumption of 29.8 pounds in the past year. And according to the USDA, these staggering figures have skyrocketed in the past 60 years — in the 1950s, Americans consumed only 7.7 pounds of cheese per year, on average.
Between sandwiches, burgers, grilled cheese, nachos, pizza, and just plain-old cheese sticks, it’s not hard to see how cheese has become a cornerstone of Americans’ day-to-day diets. But according to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, all of this cheese is adding up to rising obesity rates. In response, the PCRM has sponsored anti-cheese to billboards in Albany, New York (where the amount of overweight or obese adults hovers around 63 percent, compared to about 68 percent nationwide) in an effort to raise awareness about the importance of a healthy diet. It seems that the campaign’s placement in Albany is meant to go after dairy producers, too: New York State is one of the nation’s largest producers of dairy products, and the PCRM plans to take the campaign to the cheesehead capital of the U.S., Wisconsin.
PCRM president Neal Barnard, MD, says that the organization targeted cheese because it’s the highest source of saturated fat in most people’s diets. “Typical cheeses are 70 percent fat,” he said in a press release. “And the type of fat they hold is mainly saturated fat — the kind that increases your risk of heart disease and diabetes. Cheese is also loaded with cholesterol and sodium.”
Cheese is high in fat and saturated fat, but research shows that dairy can still be part of a healthy diet. Numerous studies have still linked the consumption of low- or nonfat dairy products with weight management. In a 20-year analysis of the diets of more than 120,000 U.S. men and women, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health found that people who ate low- or nonfat yogurt daily were likely to lose about .82 pounds over the course of four years, even when they weren’t dieting for weight loss. However, a recent review of several randomized clinical trials published in the journal Obesityfound that dairy products only contribute to weight loss when paired with a restricted-calorie diet.
What do you think of the ads? Too bold, or just right? Sound off in the comments!