The chance of developing type 2 diabetes, a condition often linked with obesity, could be reduced by around 12 per cent by regularly snacking on cheese, scientists said.
Although high in saturated fat, it may be rich in types of the fat that could be good for the body, they believe.
Fatty foods have long been thought to raise the risks, but uncertainty about the role of dairy products such as milk, butter, cheese and yogurt, has continued. Most other dairy foods did not have the same beneficial effect as cheese, with the possible exception of yoghurt, the research found.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of the condition and occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin for it to function properly. Symptoms can be controlled by eating a healthy diet and monitoring your blood glucose level, but sufferers may also need to take insulin medication.
The published findings on the effect of cheese, come from one of the largest ever studies to look at the role of diet in health.
One reason why cheese lovers may be at less risk of diabetes could be that the fermentation process triggers some kind of reaction that protects against diabetes and heart problems, the researchers said. But Diabetes UK warned against eating more cheese until the results were confirmed in other studies. Dr. Iain Frame, director of research, said: "It is too simplistic to concentrate on individual foods." "We recommend a healthy balanced diet, rich in fruit and vegetables and low in salt and fat."
"This study gives us no reason to believe that people should change their dairy intake in an attempt to avoid the condition."
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, July 2012