The Surprising Link Between Eating Cheese, Sex, and Living Longer

cheese helps you live longer
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

Cheese, the fatty, salty substance that makes life worth living, often finds itself the center of controversy in the health realm. It's not exactly good for you, what with the high saturated fat content and the majority of people being lactose intolerant and all. On the other hand, it's damn delicious and you might just lose weight eating it

Aside from making a hamburger better and allowing pizza to exist, cheese also has something else going for it -- a new study suggests it could help you live longer. And a few more years to enjoy a soft piece of salty greatness is really all anyone can ask for in a world full of hopelessness and lies.

This sounds too good to be true. How is this possible? 

It's all thanks to a substance called spermidine, a compound found in living organisms that's vital for cell survival and growth. This is why it shows up in certain kinds of cheeses, but it was originally isolated from another naturally occurring substance found in humans -- semen (hence the name). You can also find spermidine in several plant-based foods, such as soy beans, mushrooms, lentils, and broccoli. Those aren't nearly as fun to talk about as cheese and semen. 

According to the study, mice who were given spermidine in water had better heart function, lower blood pressure, and lived longer, compared to the mice who just drank plain H2O. It was even effective in the mice who didn't receive the spermidine until later in life -- they still outlived the chumps who didn't get it. Unfortunately, Spermidine Water probably won't be making it to market anytime soon. 

You do have to be choosy with your cheese, though, if you want to reap the spermidine rewards; aged cheeses, specifically those in the blue family, are the ones with health benefits.

OK, but does spermidine affect humans in the same way? 

The study also observed 800 Italians, and those who ate more cheese regularly had a lower blood pressure and lower risk of heart failure and cardiovascular disease than their cheese-avoiding counterparts, more proof that cheese may be the magic elixir of life. 

Exactly how spermidine helps cells, mice, and maybe humans live longer still isn't quite clear, since it's involved in a number of biological processes. But this isn't the first time spermidine has been associated with longevity; a study published in 2014 found that the compound induces many anti-aging properties at the molecular level, including a process that helps cells clear out and recycle old and damaged parts. It was also tied to cell growth, inflammation resistance, and several other cell mechanisms that can fight aging. 

While it's probably a little early to go guzzling unlimited amounts of fancy cheeses or, um, other organic substances, scientists say the effects found in mice are promising for people.

"Our findings imply that this could work also in humans," says Simon Sedej, PhD, associate professor at the Medical University of Graz and co-author of the study. "Indeed, our correlational analysis based on food questionnaires in 800 Italians points in this direction." 

Hey, "could also work in humans" is enough of a reason to at least not feel guilty about going back for seconds (or thirds) on that cheese plate. 

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Christina Stiehl is a Health and fitness staff writer for Thrillist. She's one of those people who should avoid cheese, but never does. Follow her on Twitter @ChristinaStiehl.