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June 30, 1975

By the Sweat of Thy Brow

JAMA. 1975;232(13):1360. doi:10.1001/jama.1975.03250130044022

Bold, aggressive, self-assertive—how else can one describe a nutrient that inspires its votaries to ecstatic poetry ("Ode on Cheese," by James McIntyre) and equates its name with power ("the big cheese")—cheese must often assume a defensive posture when medicine, not gourmandise, is the judge.

For instance, cheese has to be on the defensive when charged with causing indigestion ("an elf that digests everything but itself"). But then, it is so easy to shift the blame onto the "indiscretions" of a consumer who is either too gluttonous or too bibulous. The apple pie that often accompanies the cheese and the wine that washes it down, serve as useful scapegoats.

It is also easy to pass on the blame for the occasional outbreak of brucellosis1 or gastroenteritis of which cheese has been accused. After all, it is not cheese that caused the infection, but the Brucella melitensis, the Escherichia coli, 2