What you eat can affect your cholesterol levels, with some foods increasing your risk for high cholesterol and some foods potentially helping you lower your cholesterol levels. Saturated fat and dietary cholesterol, both found in cheese, are two of the main culprits for increasing your cholesterol levels. Cheese, however, may have either a neutral or beneficial effect on your cholesterol levels.
Effect on Low-Density Lipoprotein
Low-density lipoprotein is considered "bad" cholesterol because it can increase your risk for heart disease and clogged arteries. Cheese may have a neutral effect on your low-density lipoprotein, even when you get up to 13 percent of your calories from cheese for a period of six weeks, according to a study published in October 2011 in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition."
Effect on High-Density Lipoprotein
High-density lipoprotein, on the other hand, is considered "good" cholesterol because it helps to remove cholesterol from your blood and lower your risk for heart disease. A study published in the "Journal of Food Lipids" in February 2009 found that people who ate cheese more often had higher HDL levels than those who ate cheese less often. Study results also indicated that high-cheese consumption may lower your triglyceride levels, further lowering your heart disease risk.
Compared to Butter and Milk
Although eating 40 grams of fat from butter each day increased total cholesterol and LDL levels compared to a diet lower in saturated fat in a study published in the "European Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in 2005, getting the same amount of fat from cheese didn't increase LDL cholesterol. The saturated fat in milk appears to raise cholesterol levels in a similar way to the fat in butter, according to an article published in "Current Opinion in Lipidology" in February 2006.
Calorie and Fat Considerations
Even if the saturated fat in cheese doesn't raise your cholesterol levels, you still need to watch your cheese consumption. Cheese is an energy-dense food high in both fat and calories, making it easy to go over your daily calorie needs if you eat too much of it. For example, an ounce of cheddar cheese, which is about the size of your thumb, has 9.3 grams of fat and 113 calories, an ounce of Swiss cheese has 7.8 grams of fat and 106 calories and an ounce of mozzarella cheese has 6.3 grams of fat and 84 calories.