Eating small amounts of Norwegian cheese can help prevent bone loss without increasing cholesterol, a new study has found.
Norwegian researchers have found that eating a daily serving (about 57g) of Jarlsberg can help prevent osteoporosis without increasing low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and the health benefits are unique to this cheese.
Jarlsberg is a soft and semi-soft cow’s milk cheese with regular holes and a nutty flavor. The cheese comes from a similar town in eastern Norway.
The Norwegian team hopes that the cheese can help stop osteoporosis and even prevent diabetes, but further research is needed.
Previous research suggests it may help raise levels of osteocalcin, a hormone associated with strong bones and teeth, but it’s unclear whether this effect is specific to Jarlsberg or any other type of cheese.
Jarlsberg vs Camembert
Academics studied 66 healthy women who consumed 50g of Jarlsberg or Camembert cheese daily for six weeks.
Both cheeses have similar levels of fat and protein, but unlike Camembert, Jarlsberg is rich in vitamin K2, called menaquinone.
One type of menacinone comes from animal sources, such as liver, while others come from bacteria and fermented foods, such as cheese.
At the end of the six-week period, the Camembert-eating group was allowed to eat another six weeks in Jarlsberg.
All participants were healthy women with an average age of 33 and average weight.
Every six weeks, blood samples were taken from all the participants and tested for the presence of important proteins, osteocalcin and peptides that help bones to regenerate and stay young (PINP).
The samples showed key signs of bone regeneration and vitamin K2 increased among people who ate a serving of Jarlsberg cheese every day after six weeks, while PINP levels remained the same for those who ate Camembert, while other measures of bone health decreased slightly.
However, levels of PINP and chemical and biological parameters increased significantly after these participants transferred to Jarlsberg.
Blood fats increased slightly in both groups, but cholesterol levels dropped significantly after people switched from Camembert to Jarlsberg.
People who ate Jarlsberg had a three percent decrease in red blood cell glucose, but two percent increased in those who ate Camembert. After the Camembert group switched to the Jarlsberg, glucose levels dropped again.
Calcium and magnesium levels decreased to Jarlsberg but did not change to Camembert.
After the cheese switch, the researchers said, calcium levels decreased in this group, reflecting an increase in this key mineral in bone formation.
The bacteria in the cheese also produce a substance called DNA, which previous studies have suggested may reduce bone loss and increase bone formation.
This may explain the increase in osteocalcin, the researchers said.
The positive effects of Jarlsberg superfood
“Daily consumption of Jarlsberg cheese has positive effects on osteocalcin, other markers of bone turnover, glycated hemoglobin and lipids,” the report said, concluding that the results were indeed specific to the cheese.
Research further suggests that Jarlsberg cheese may help prevent osteopenia – the pre-osteoporosis stage – and metabolic diseases such as diabetes, although further research is needed to confirm this.
“While calcium and vitamin D are known to be crucial for bone health, this study shows that there are other key factors, such as vitamin K2, that are less well known,” said Professor Sumantra Ray, Executive Director. The NNEdPro Center for Global Nutrition and Health, which owns the journal BMJ Nutrition Prevention & Health, published the study.
“Different preparation methods mean that there are major differences in the nutritional content of cheese, which has often been treated as a homogeneous food in dietary research. This should be addressed in future studies.”
“This is a small study of young and healthy people, designed to explore new pathways linking diet and bone health, so the results should be interpreted with caution because the study participants may not necessarily be representative of other groups. It shouldn’t be. It should be taken as a suggestion to eat one type,” Ray warned.