Two billboards in Albany, New York that are part of a new campaign by the nonprofit Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), have raised some eyebrows in the food and restaurant industries due to their message that that cheese and other dairy products are directly contributing to the nation’s obesity problem. One billboard features a man's obese belly along with the admonition “Your Abs on Cheese” while the other billboard displays an overweight woman’s legs with the words "Your Thighs on Cheese."
Many studies have shown obese children can become obese adults, and the PCRM has worked with schools in the Albany area to minimize the amount of dairy products served in the local schools. The PCRM has also targeted high-fat school lunches like pizza, cheeseburgers and lasagna as especially unhealthy. The PCRM pointed to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that show childhood obesity has tripled in the United States in the last 30 years and in New York State alone, the obesity rate for children ages 6 to 11 has quadrupled during the same period.
Because over half of the adults in the U.S. are currently medically overweight or obese, and cheese is loaded with saturated fat, the PCRM would naturally like to see it eliminated from the table altogether. However, cheese is big business in some circles and can contribute as much as 10 percent of a grocery store or restaurant's annual sales. Many people think of cheese as a natural food that is high in protein and calcium and low in carbs. In that light, it would seem to many that there are much bigger things to worry about than people eating cheese. The fact still remains that cheese is loaded with saturated fat though, as 75 percent of the calories in most types of cheeses come from fat.
While the PCRM’s educational billboard campaigns might have some shock value, it is not exactly accurate to suggest that a person cannot be thin if they eat cheese, and the ads definitely oversimplify the many complex issues concerning obesity. If the campaign exaggerates the dietary problems of cheese too much, it could call the PCRM’s reputation as a responsible organization providing accurate information on health into question. In the meantime, it might be a good idea to at least cut back on your cheese consumption.