Your Tendency for Cheesy Indulgence Can Be Genetic

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Your Tendency for Cheesy Indulgence Can Be Genetic

Date of Content: March 1, 2024
Written by: Jess Gayo
Reviewed by: Maarit Tiirikainen, PhD



Indulging in a savory slice of cheese is a culinary pleasure enjoyed by millions worldwide. From artisanal varieties to mass-produced blocks, cheese is a staple in many diets, celebrated for its rich flavors and versatility. But beyond its gastronomic appeal lies a realm of scientific inquiry, delving into the complexities of cheese production, nutritional value, and even genetic predispositions toward cheese consumption.

Recent studies have also begun unraveling the genetic factors influencing individuals’ preferences for various food items, including cheese. Genetic variations can impact taste perception, dietary preferences, and even tolerance to lactose, thus shaping individuals’ predispositions toward cheese consumption. Understanding these genetic influences affecting diet holds promise for personalized nutrition strategies and targeted interventions for health management. 

You may also like: The Genetics of Bitter Taste Perception

Cheese intake

What are Cheese Products?

Cheese products encompass a wide variety of dairy delights crafted through intricate processes that transform milk into an array of textures and flavors. It all starts with milk, typically from cows, although goat, sheep, and buffalo milk are also used in some varieties. The first step is to acidify the milk by adding lactic acid bacteria, which convert lactose (milk sugar) into lactic acid. This acidification is crucial for curd formation, the next stage in cheese making.

Rennet, an enzyme complex traditionally sourced from the stomach lining of young calves but often produced nowadays through microbial fermentation, is then added. Rennet aids in coagulating the milk proteins, causing them to clump together and form curds. The whey, a liquid component rich in water, lactose, and some proteins, is separated from the curds.

Depending on the desired cheese type, the curds may undergo further processing. For soft cheeses like brie or camembert, the curds are gently ladled into molds, where they undergo minimal pressing and aging. 

Conversely, for harder cheeses such as cheddar or parmesan, the curds are cut into small pieces, heated, and pressed to expel more whey. The resulting curds are then salted and aged for various durations, ranging from weeks to years, to develop their characteristic flavors and textures.

Throughout this intricate process, factors like temperature, humidity, and microbial activity play crucial roles in shaping the final product. From the creamy softness of fresh mozzarella to the sharp tang of aged gouda, each cheese product is a testament to the artistry and science behind cheese making.

Can You Have Too Much Cheese?

Consuming cheese in moderation can be a delightful addition to a balanced diet, offering valuable nutrients like protein, calcium, and vitamins. However, overindulging in cheese may lead to certain health concerns.

One potential issue is its high saturated fat content. While saturated fats are necessary for bodily functions, excessive intake can raise levels of LDL cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart disease. Additionally, some cheeses are high in sodium, which, when consumed in excess, can contribute to hypertension and other cardiovascular problems.

Cheese is a calorie-dense food. Eating large quantities of calorie-dense foods without balancing them with physical activity can lead to weight gain and obesity, both of which are associated with various health risks, including diabetes and certain cancers. For individuals with lactose intolerance or dairy allergies, excessive cheese consumption, especially of the soft varieties,  can cause digestive discomforts, such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea.

Moderation is key. Enjoying cheese as part of a varied and balanced diet, alongside plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, can provide valuable nutrients without adverse effects. While cheese can be a delicious and nutritious part of a diet, like many foods, it’s best enjoyed in moderation to reap its benefits without overloading on its potential drawbacks.

Genetic Factors of Cheese Intake

Dietary habits can significantly impact an individual’s health, increasing or decreasing the risk of serious diseases. Researchers have used large-scale biobanks to study how genetics may influence dietary choices, such as what foods we eat and how often and why. In a recent 2020 study, scientists analyzed data from the UK Biobank to explore the genetic factors behind specific food preferences and overall dietary patterns.

They found 814 genetic locations, or loci, associated with various food choices, including cheese intake, which was studied using data from 438,453 people. A total of 60 highly significant genetic loci were found to be associated with Overall cheese intake. As can be expected, genes related to smell receptors were linked to preferences for cheese, as well as some fruits and tea. Genetic cheese intake associations within olfactory receptor gene regions included genes OR10A3 and OR10A6 (rs757969034). 

Additionally, they discovered 136 genetic associations specifically related to broader dietary patterns. Using a method called Mendelian randomization, the researchers investigated whether certain dietary patterns might have a causal impact on health conditions like coronary artery disease or type 2 diabetes.

This study highlighted the importance of using different approaches to understand how genetics and diet intersect. By combining genetic analysis with information about dietary habits, researchers gain valuable insights into how genes may influence what an individual eats and how it affects their health.

While individual SNP variants, like the 60 loci discovered in the 2020 study above can one by one be associated with a person’s cheese intake, another approach for determining a person’s genetic likelihood for a trait is to use a PRS (Polygenic Risk Score), which comes from a combination of multiple SNPs that together play a role in the genetic association.

LifeDNA’s high-density SNP signature for the Cheese Intake Trait has been developed from a set of 6678 SNPs that together play a role in the cheese intake (note: only 15 top SNPs are displayed on our report).

Environmental Factors of Cheese Intake

Cheese intake isn’t solely influenced by personal preferences or genetic factors; environmental factors also play a significant role. From cultural traditions to economic considerations, various environmental influences can shape an individual’s cheese consumption habits. Let’s explore these factors in detail.

  1. Cultural and Culinary Traditions: Cultural norms and culinary traditions heavily influence dietary habits, including cheese consumption. In regions where cheese has deep cultural roots, such as France or Italy, it is often a staple ingredient in many dishes. For example, in France, cheese is an integral part of the daily diet and is commonly enjoyed as a standalone course following the main meal. Conversely, in countries where cheese is not as ingrained in the culinary culture, such as some Asian countries, cheese consumption may be lower.
  2. Availability and Accessibility: The availability and accessibility of cheese can significantly impact consumption patterns. In regions where cheese production is prevalent and diverse, such as Europe or parts of North America, a wide variety of cheeses are readily available in markets and grocery stores. This accessibility encourages higher consumption rates among the population. Conversely, in areas where cheese production is limited or where imported cheeses are expensive, consumption tends to be lower.
  3. Economic Factors: Economic considerations, including income level and cost, can also influence cheese intake. In lower-income households, cheese may be perceived as a luxury item due to its relatively higher cost compared to other food sources. As a result, individuals and families with limited financial resources may consume less cheese or opt for cheaper alternatives.
  4. Advertising and Marketing: Advertising and marketing strategies employed by dairy companies can influence consumer behavior and drive cheese consumption. Through targeted advertising campaigns, companies promote cheese as a versatile and nutritious food option, encouraging consumers to incorporate it into their diets. Additionally, product placement in stores and endorsements by influencers can further influence purchasing decisions.
  5. Health and Nutrition Trends: Public perception of cheese’s healthiness can impact consumption patterns. While cheese is a good source of essential nutrients like calcium and protein, concerns about its saturated fat and sodium content have led some individuals to limit their intake. Health and nutrition trends, such as the popularity of low-fat or plant-based diets, may influence cheese consumption among health-conscious consumers.
  6. Environmental Awareness: Growing awareness of environmental issues, such as carbon footprint and sustainability, can also affect cheese intake. Some individuals may choose to reduce their cheese consumption due to concerns about the environmental impact of dairy farming, including greenhouse gas emissions and water usage.

Understanding these environmental factors can provide valuable insights into the complex dynamics influencing cheese consumption patterns on a societal level. By considering these influences, policymakers, health professionals, and food industry stakeholders can develop strategies to promote healthier and more sustainable dietary habits.

What are the Most Popular Types of Cheese?

Cheese lovers have a long list of choices when it comes to their favorite food. Cheese comes in a diverse array of types and varieties, each with its own unique flavor, texture, and culinary uses. Here are some of the most popular types of cheese:

  • Cheddar: Cheddar cheese is one of the most widely consumed types globally, known for its sharp and tangy flavor. It ranges in flavor intensity from mild to extra sharp and is commonly used in sandwiches, burgers, and macaroni and cheese dishes.
  • Mozzarella: Mozzarella cheese is prized for its smooth texture and mild, slightly salty taste. It’s a key ingredient in classic Italian dishes like pizza, lasagna, and caprese salad, as well as popular appetizers like mozzarella sticks.
  • Parmesan: Parmesan cheese, also known as Parmigiano-Reggiano, is a hard, granular cheese with a rich, nutty flavor. It’s often grated or shaved over pasta dishes, salads, and soups to add a bold burst of flavor.
  • Swiss: Swiss cheese, characterized by its distinctive holes (known as “eyes”), has a mild, slightly sweet taste. It’s commonly used in sandwiches, burgers, and fondue, as well as paired with fruits and nuts on cheese platters.
  • Brie: Brie cheese is a soft, creamy cheese with a bloomy rind and a mild, buttery flavor. It’s often served as a standalone appetizer with crackers or bread, or baked until gooey and served with fruit preserves or honey.
  • Blue Cheese: Blue cheese varieties like Roquefort, Gorgonzola, and Stilton are known for their sharp, tangy flavor and characteristic blue veins of mold. They’re popular additions to salads, dressings, and cheese boards, offering a bold and complex taste.
  • Feta: Feta cheese is a crumbly, tangy cheese made from sheep’s milk or a combination of sheep’s and goat’s milk. It’s commonly used in Mediterranean cuisine, such as Greek salads, spanakopita, and pastries.
  • Gouda: Gouda cheese is a semi-hard cheese with a creamy texture and a sweet, nutty flavor. It’s versatile and can be enjoyed on its own, melted on sandwiches or burgers, or paired with fruits and nuts on cheese platters.

These are just a few examples of the many types of cheese available worldwide. Each type offers a unique taste and texture profile, making cheese a beloved and versatile ingredient in cuisines around the globe and a beloved snack by many.

Is Cheese High in Protein?

Cheese is high in protein, making it a valuable source of this essential nutrient. The protein content of cheese varies depending on the type and variety, but most cheeses contain significant amounts of protein per serving.

For example, cheddar cheese, one of the most popular types, typically contains around 7 grams of protein per ounce (28 grams). Parmesan cheese, known for its bold flavor, boasts even higher protein content, with approximately 10 grams of protein per ounce.

The high protein content of cheese can be attributed to its main ingredient: milk. Milk is rich in two primary proteins, casein, and whey, both of which are concentrated during the cheese-making process. Casein, the predominant protein in cheese, is a slow-digesting protein that provides a sustained release of amino acids to support muscle growth and repair.


Cheese also serves as a complete protein source, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids that the body cannot produce on its own. These amino acids are crucial for various physiological functions, including muscle synthesis, immune function, and hormone production. Cheese also provides other essential nutrients, such as calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin B12, which are vital for bone health, energy metabolism, and nerve function.

Can People with Lactose Intolerance Eat Cheese?

People with lactose intolerance can often eat cheese without experiencing adverse symptoms. Lactose intolerance is characterized by the body’s inability to fully digest lactose, the sugar found in milk and dairy products, due to insufficient levels of lactase enzyme.

During the cheese-making process, most of the lactose present in milk is removed as a component of the whey, the liquid that is separated from the curds. As a result, the lactose content in cheese is significantly lower compared to milk, and some types of cheese, such as hard-aged cheeses, contain negligible amounts of lactose.

The fermentation and aging processes involved in cheese production further reduce lactose levels. Lactic acid bacteria, which are used to acidify the milk and form curds, consume lactose as a source of energy during fermentation. Additionally, during aging, any remaining lactose is broken down into simpler sugars like glucose and galactose.

Therefore, many individuals with lactose intolerance can tolerate moderate amounts of cheese without experiencing digestive discomfort. However, individuals with lactose intolerance need to monitor their tolerance levels and choose cheeses that are lower in lactose, such as hard-aged cheeses like cheddar, parmesan, or Swiss.

It’s worth noting that some individuals with severe lactose intolerance may still experience symptoms after consuming cheese, particularly if they have a low tolerance threshold or if the cheese contains residual lactose. In such cases, lactase enzyme supplements may be helpful in reducing symptoms or they can choose lactose-free cheese alternatives.

How to Properly Include Cheese in Your Diet

Incorporating cheese into your diet can provide a delicious way to boost your intake of essential nutrients. However, it’s important to do so in a balanced and mindful manner to reap the benefits without overloading on saturated fat and sodium. Here are several tips on how to properly include cheese in your diet:

Choose Wisely

Opt for nutrient-dense varieties of cheese that are lower in saturated fat and sodium. Look for options like part-skim mozzarella, feta, or cottage cheese, which provide protein and calcium without excessive calories or unhealthy components.

Watch Portions

Cheese is calorie-dense, so it’s crucial to be mindful of portion sizes. Stick to recommended serving sizes, typically around 1 ounce (28 grams) for most types of cheese. Use measuring tools or visual cues to help control portion sizes and prevent overconsumption.

Pair with Fruits and Vegetables

Pairing cheese with fruits and vegetables can create balanced and nutritious snacks or even meals. Try adding slices of cheese to a fruit platter for a sweet and savory combination, or incorporate cheese into salads, sandwiches, or omelets for added flavor and protein.

Include in Moderation

While cheese can be a valuable part of a healthy diet, it’s important to enjoy it in moderation. Limit intake to a few servings per week and balance it with other protein sources, such as lean meats, poultry, fish, legumes, and plant-based proteins.

Use as a Flavor Enhancer

Cheese can add depth and richness to a wide variety of dishes without the need for large quantities. Use grated or shredded cheese as a flavorful topping for soups, pasta, casseroles, and baked dishes. A little goes a long way in terms of taste and texture.

Experiment with Different Types

Explore the diverse world of cheese by trying different types and varieties. From creamy brie to tangy goat cheese to sharp cheddar, there’s a cheese to suit every palate. Experiment with new flavors and textures to discover your favorites and add variety to your diet.

Balance with Whole Foods

While cheese provides valuable nutrients, it’s essential to balance it with a variety of whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats. Aim for a diverse and balanced diet that includes a wide range of nutrient-rich foods to support overall health and well-being.

Consider Your Dietary Preferences and Needs

Tailor your cheese consumption to align with your dietary preferences and needs. If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, there are plenty of plant-based cheese alternatives available made from ingredients like nuts, soy, or coconut. Similarly, if you have lactose intolerance or dairy allergies, opt for lactose-free or dairy-free cheese options to avoid digestive discomfort.

By incorporating cheese into your diet mindfully and in moderation, you can enjoy its delicious taste and nutritional benefits without compromising your health goals. Experiment with different types and serving methods to find what works best for you and make cheese a flavorful and satisfying addition to your meals and snacks.

LifeDNA’s Cheese Intake Report

Unlock the secrets of your cheese intake with LifeDNA’s Cheese Intake Trait Report. Discover how your unique genetic profile influences your preferences and tolerances when it comes to enjoying this beloved dairy delight. Our scientifically-backed Nutrition Report provides comprehensive insights into your genetic predispositions, empowering you to make informed choices about your diet and overall wellness.

Nutrition plays a crucial role in our daily lives, impacting everything from energy levels to disease risk. By understanding your genetic traits related to cheese intake, you can tailor your diet to better suit your body’s needs. Whether you’re a cheese connoisseur or looking to optimize your nutrition, LifeDNA’s Cheese Intake Trait Report offers valuable insights to guide your dietary decisions.

But that’s not all. With LifeDNA’s suite of other reports, including Vitamins and Supplements,  Wellness, Fitness, Sleep, Skincare, and Personality and Cognition, you can gain a holistic understanding of your genetic makeup and how it influences various aspects of your health and well-being. With almost 200 trait reports available, you’ll uncover a wealth of information to support your wellness journey.

Take the first step towards a healthier and happier you by availing of LifeDNA’s plans today. With our user-friendly platform and comprehensive reports, navigating your genetic blueprint has never been easier. Empower yourself with knowledge and make proactive choices to optimize your health. Start your wellness journey with LifeDNA today and unlock the potential of your genetic insights.


  • Cheese intake tendencies may have a genetic basis which can influence individual preferences and tolerances.
  • Cheese products encompass various dairy delights crafted through intricate processes that start with the acidification of milk and the coagulation of proteins.
  • Moderation is key when consuming cheese due to its high saturated fat, sodium content, and calorie density.
  • Genetic studies have identified associations between specific genetic variations and food preferences and consumption patterns, including cheese intake.
  • Environmental factors such as cultural traditions, availability, economic considerations, and advertising can influence cheese consumption habits.
  • Popular types of cheese include cheddar, mozzarella, parmesan, Swiss, brie, blue cheese, feta, and gouda, each offering unique flavors and textures.
  • Cheese is a high-protein food, rich in essential nutrients like calcium, but moderation is advised due to its saturated fat and sodium content.
  • People with lactose intolerance can often tolerate many cheeses due to lower lactose levels, especially in aged varieties.
  • Including cheese in the diet requires balance, portion control, and consideration of individual dietary preferences and needs.



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*Understanding your genetics can offer valuable insights into your well-being, but it is not deterministic. Your traits can be influenced by the complex interplay involving nature, lifestyle, family history, and others.

Our reports and suggestions do not diagnose or treat any health conditions or provide any medical advice. Consult with a healthcare professional before making any major lifestyle changes or if you have any other concerns about your results.