Eating cheese may be key to keeping your bones healthy in old age, research suggests.
But the benefits don’t come from eating cheddar, mozzarella, or even camembert.
Instead, the secrets seem to stem from Jarlsberg – a mild, nutty-flavored cheese native to Norway.
Academics found that eating the equivalent of just two slices a day could be enough to ward off osteoporosis.
The condition gradually weakens bones, making them more fragile and likely to break in old age.
Eating Jarlsberg cheese (pictured) may be key to keeping your bones healthy in old age, study suggests
WHAT TREATMENTS ARE THERE FOR OSTEOPOROSIS?
A number of different drugs are used to treat osteoporosis.
Bisphosphonates slow the rate at which bone is broken down. This maintains bone density and reduces the risk of a bone fracture.
There are a number of different bisphosphonates, including:
- alendronic acid
- ibandronic acid
- risedronic acid
- zoledronic acid
They are administered as a tablet or injection.
Osteoporosis is a disease in which bone density is lost, leaving patients prone to fractures. Usually, old bone tissue is broken down and replaced by new tissue.
Osteoporosis occurs when bone breakdown exceeds replacement.
Bisphosphonates are clinically proven to reduce the risk of fractures by increasing bone mass and mineral density and filling pits created by overactive bone cells.
The drugs bind to the surface of bones and block bone removal.
Because long-term treatment can sometimes have side effects, the doctor may suggest interrupting the treatment after three to five years.
Sixty-six women, who were in their thirties on average, took part in the study, which lasted 12 weeks.
They were asked to add either 57 g of Jarlsberg a day – the equivalent of about two sandwiches – to their usual diet, or 50 g of Camembert for six weeks.
The cheeses were compared because they have similar fat and protein content. Jarlsberg, however, is rich in vitamin K2.
Blood samples were taken before and after the experiment, published in the Nutrition Prevention and Health from the British Medical Journal.
Volunteers in the Camembert group were also switched to Jarlsberg after the first six weeks to see how changing which cheese they ate affected their bodies.
Levels of osteocalcin, the hormone responsible for binding calcium to bones, giving them their strength, were higher in the Jarlsberg group.
They also had significantly more vitamin K2, which experts say is “important for bone health.”
No such effects were seen in the Camembert group.
However, the group saw levels of both spikes when they switched to eating Jarlsberg.
Surprisingly, calcium and magnesium levels — both known to be beneficial for bone health — dropped for those who ate Jarlsberg.
But academics at Skjetten Medical Center in Norway argued that the drop was merely a reflection of increased absorption of the minerals by participants who ate Jarlsberg.
They said that “daily consumption of Jarlsberg cheese has a positive effect on osteocalcin” and other markers of bone formation.
The results suggest the effects are specific to Jarlsberg, researchers said.
They claimed the findings indicated the cheese could help prevent osteopenia, the pre-osteoporosis stage.
But they stressed that further research is needed to confirm this.
Researchers also haven’t measured changes in bone density or strength, meaning the increase in vitamin K2 may not actually cause a decreased risk of osteoporosis.
Other experts cautioned that the study — co-funded by Jarlsberg manufacturer TINE SA — should not be taken as a recommendation to eat a particular type of cheese.
Professor Sumantra Ray, a nutritionist at the University of Cambridge who co-owns the journal, said: “This study shows that while calcium and vitamin D are known to be extremely important for bone health, there are other key factors in are the game, such as vitamin K2, which may not be as well known.
‘Due to different preparation methods, there are important differences in the nutrient composition of cheese, which until now has often been regarded as a homogeneous food in nutritional research. This should be addressed in future studies.
“Since this is a small study in young and healthy people designed to explore new avenues linking diet and bone health, the results should be interpreted with great caution, as the study participants are not necessarily representative of other groups.” .
“And it shouldn’t be taken as a recommendation to eat a particular type of cheese.”
dr. Duane Mellor, a registered dietitian at Aston University, said: “[The study] does not provide any evidence of actual change in bone density or strength as it would take much longer than six weeks for these to be visible.
‘The association with changes in vitamin K is interesting, as the Jarlsberg contained this nutrient and the control Cambert did not.
‘However, there are several other sources of this vitamin in our diet, including dark green vegetables, including kale.
“Because the researchers only asked participants to stick to their usual diet — which varies naturally — and didn’t try to control it, this could mean that their intake of vitamin K could have been reduced both at the start and during the study.” to vary.’
Osteoporosis is most common in postmenopausal women, affecting 3 million in the UK and 10 million in the US.
Most people are not diagnosed and given bone-strengthening tablets until after they have broken a bone.