Friday, October 22, 2010
Food Court: Cheese VS Constipation
In the world of food and nutrition, some foods get charged with causing some pretty bad things. But what's the evidence? If we took them to food court, would they get convicted based on the evidence? Let's take cheese to food court for causing constipation. And yes, i am the judge.
Charges against cheese: Quite a few of my patients tell me that cheese makes them constipated. I became curious about the scientific evidence for and against this charge because I am a daily eater of cheese and have never had any problems.
Evidence: So what’s the evidence for cheese causing constipation? Not much as it turns out. I found two studies that looked at this quesion. The first study is an observational study – meaning that the participants in the study were asked about their diets and about their bowel habits. In this study, people who ate cheese, fruits and vegetables regularly were less likely to have constipation. The people who did not eat cheese, fruits or vegetables regularly were more likely to have constipation. Does this mean that cheese does not cause constipation? Not necessarily. This kind of study cannot show cause and effect. It could mean that people with constipation simply avoided cheese. But it is interesting that regular cheese eaters did not have as much constipation.
The second study I found was a clinical trial – the kind of study that can show cause and effect. The researchers looked at the effect of eating cheese on constipation of older people living in a retirement home. The researchers found that cheese did not have any effect on constipation.
Verdict: Not guilty based on the evidence. There is not enough evidence at this time to charge cheese with causing constipation. If you have trouble with constipation, you may want to focus more on eating lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Beth Kitchin MS RD
Department of Nutrition Sciences
University of Alabama at Birmingham
Sandler RS, Jordan MC, Shelton BJ. Demographic and dietary determinants of constipation in the US population. American Journal of Public Health. 1990;80:185-189.
Mykkanen HM, Karhunen LJ, Korpela R, Salminen S. Effect of cheese on intestinal transit time and other indicators of bowel function in residents of a retirement home. Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology. 1994;29:29-32.