Cheese is the target of a new Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine billboard series.
Cheese is the target of a new Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine billboard series.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) is targeting dairy with a series of billboards in the Albany, N.Y., area. One billboard, at the intersection of Route 9 and Route 20, depicts someone’s overweight thighs with the caption "Your Thighs on Cheese.” Another billboard shows a man's obese belly and says "Your Abs on Cheese."

The group warns that eating cheese contributes to high obesity rates and poses health risks.

According to a PCRM news release, the group isn’t stopping there. PCRM President Neal Barnard has written to the Albany school board asking the city to cut down on dairy products served in schools to help students reduce the risk of childhood obesity.

“Typical cheeses are 70 percent fat,” Dr. Barnard said in the news release. “And the type of fat they hold is mainly saturated fat — the kind that increases your risk of heart disease and diabetes. Cheese is also loaded with cholesterol and sodium. Americans eat more than 33 pounds of cheese per person per year—three times more than they did in 1970 — and our country is more obese than ever.”

The New York Farm Bureau (NYFB) was quick to respond, pointing out PCRM's ties to an extreme animal-rights agenda.

Dean Norton, president of NYFB, also pointed out that respected medical groups, such as the American Medical Association and the National Osteoporosis Organization, have denounced PCRM.

“Dr. Neal Barnard who heads up this group is in fact a psychiatrist, and not a dietitian,” Norton said in a news release.

The NYFB noted that cheese has many health benefits, including contributing 21 percent of the calcium, 9 percent of the vitamin A and 9 percent of the protein in the U.S. food supply. Calcium has been identified in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans as a “nutrient of concern,” meaning that intake of this nutrient is low enough to create a public health problem.

There are many low- and reduced-fat cheese options available for those who are concerned about fat content.

“As a dairy farmer, I know how important cheese is to our economy and also how vital it is to a healthy balanced diet for our children," said Norton. “At the end of the day, there are many factors that can contribute to an unhealthy diet, but cheese is just is not one of them. It’s sad that an extremist group is garnering so much attention, with such ridiculous claims.”