A new study has found that eating small amounts of a particular Norwegian cheese can actually help stop bone loss without raising cholesterol.
Researchers from Norway have found that eating a daily portion of Jarlsberg (about 57g) can help prevent bone loss without increasing harmful low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, and the health benefits of this cheese are unique.
Jarlsberg is a soft and semi-soft nutty cheese made from cow’s milk with regular holes. The cheese comes from the town of the same name in eastern Norway.
The Norwegian team hopes that cheese can help stop osteoporosis and even prevent diabetes, but further research is needed.
Previous studies have shown that it can help increase levels of osteocalcin, a hormone associated with strong bones and teeth, but it was not clear whether this effect is specific to Jarlsberg or any other type of cheese.
Jarlsberg vs Camembert
To find out, researchers studied 66 healthy women who ate Jarlsberg or 50g of Camembert cheese every day for six weeks.
Both cheeses have similar fat and protein content, but Jarlsberg, unlike Camembert, is high in vitamin K2, also known as menaquinone.
One form of menaquinone is found in animal products such as liver, while others are derived from bacteria and fermented foods such as cheese.
At the end of the six-week period, the group consuming Camembert was allowed to eat Jarlsberg for another six weeks.
All participants were healthy women with an average age of 33 years and an average weight.
Every six weeks, blood samples were taken from all participants to check for the presence of an important protein, osteocalcin and peptide (PINP), which helps bones to regenerate and stay young.
The samples showed major increases in bone turnover and vitamin K2 levels after six weeks in people who ate a serving of Jarlsberg cheese daily, while those who ate Camembert had the same levels of PINP and a slight decrease in other measures of bone health.
However, levels of both PINP and chemical and biological indicators increased significantly after these participants switched to Jarlsberg.
Blood fat increased slightly in both groups, but people’s cholesterol decreased significantly when they went from Camembert to Jarlsberg.
Glucose levels in red blood cells decreased by three percent in people who ate Jarlsberg, but increased by two percent in people who ate Camembert. When the Camembert group switched to Jarlsberg, the glucose level decreased again.
Calcium and magnesium levels decreased in the group that ate Jarlsberg, but did not change in the group that ate Camembert.
Changing to cheese also reduced calcium levels in this group, possibly reflecting increased absorption of these essential minerals for bone formation, the researchers said.
The bacteria in cheese also produce a substance called DNHA, which previous research suggests can reduce bone loss and increase bone formation.
This may explain the increase in osteocalcin, the researchers say.
The positive effects of superfood Jarlsberg
“Daily consumption of Jarlsberg cheese has positive effects on osteocalcin, other markers of bone turnover, glycated hemoglobin and lipids,” reads the report, which concludes that the effect is indeed unique to the cheese.
The findings also suggest that Jarlsberg cheese may help prevent osteopenia, the stage before osteoporosis, and metabolic diseases such as diabetes, although further research is needed to confirm this.
“This study shows that while calcium and vitamin D are known to be extremely important for bone health, there are other important factors such as vitamin K2 that may not be as well known,” said Professor Sumantra Ray, Executive Director. NNEdPro Global Center for Nutrition and Health, which co-owns the journal BMJ Nutrition Prevention & Health, which published the study.
“Different preparation methods mean that differences in the nutritional composition of cheese, which until now has often been considered a homogeneous food in dietary studies, represent substantial differences. This needs to be addressed in future studies.”
“As this is a small study of young and healthy people to explore new ways of linking diet and bone health, the results should be interpreted with great caution, as the study participants will not necessarily be representative of other groups. And this should not be considered a recommendation to eat a certain type of cheese Ray warned.