Best cheese to lower cholesterol, according to study

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Whether you enjoy yours as a part of a cheeseboard or melted in a baking dish, cheese is undoubtedly a Christmas favourite. With supermarket shelves brimming with various festive takes on classics like Camembert and Wensleydale, fridges across the country will be stocked with these holiday staples.

However, the naughty treat doesn’t represent a smart choice for those with high cholesterol levels. Apart from its delicious taste, cheese is also a source of saturated fat, which raises the fatty substance and puts you at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. 

Furthermore, those with diabetes are already at a higher risk of heart problems so cheese isn’t the best option for them either. However, one type seems to be an exception to this cholesterol rule, according to surprising research.

A study, published in the British Medical Journal Nutrition Prevention & Health, found that certain cheese with regular holes doesn’t act like other similar dairy products. Characterised by its nutty flavour, Jarlsberg is a mild and semi-soft cheese made from cow’s milk that originates from Jarlsberg in Eastern Norway.

The researchers originally set out to observe the effects of this cheese on bone thinning, but the team also noticed unexpected effects on cholesterol.

They looked at 66 healthy women, with an average age of 33 and average body mass index of 24, which is considered “normal”.

These participants got to enjoy a daily 57-gram portion of Jarlsberg or 50 grams of Camembert for six weeks. 

At the end of this period, the Camembert group was switched to Jarlsberg for another six weeks.

Every six weeks, the researchers took blood samples from all the participants to check for key proteins, vitamin K, osteocalcin, and a peptide (PINP) involved in bone turnover. 

The research team chose Jarlsberg and Camembert because they have similar fat and protein contents, but the Norwegian cheese is also rich in vitamin K2, also known as menaquinone (MK).

The findings showed that levels of total cholesterol and “bad” cholesterol fell “significantly” in the Camembert group after they switched to Jarlsberg. 

And the Jarlsberg group also saw their levels of glycated haemoglobin – something that’s made when the sugar in your body sticks to your red blood cells – fall “significantly”.

However, the Camembert group didn’t see the same benefit until they switched to Jarlsberg. 

The researchers penned: “Daily Jarlsberg cheese consumption has a positive effect on osteocalcin, other [markers of bone turnover], glycated haemoglobin and lipids.”

They even go on to suggest that Jarlsberg cheese might therefore help to prevent metabolic diseases, such as diabetes; however, further research is needed to confirm this.

Other experts still urge caution over Jarlsberg as it’s just cheese after all.

Professor Sumantra Ray, Executive Director, NNEdPro Global Centre for Nutrition and Health, said: “As this is a small study in young and healthy people designed to explore novel pathways linking diet and bone health, the results need to be interpreted with great caution as the study participants will not necessarily be representative of other groups. And it shouldn’t be taken as a recommendation to eat a particular type of cheese.” 

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