Forget yoghurt for probiotics – choose cheese instead

June 2, 2010


We know we need to have healthy flora in our intestine to keep our immune system working at its best and for optimum health. The modern solution is to take either a probiotic supplement or one of the many yoghurt or milk-based products you will find in the supermarket that have been enhanced with beneficial flora. These have their place, but food is known to have a buffering effect as both probiotic and lactic acid bacteria travel through the gastric juices in the stomach so real food gives a much higher survivability rate than supplements. Now however there is a new, natural and very tasty solution to getting the right amount of beneficial flora — particularly as we get older.

Scientists in Finland have discovered that aged cheese can help preserve and enhance the immune system of the elderly by acting as a carrier for probiotic bacteria. All you need to do is eat a daily helping of a probiotic cheese to help tackle the normal, age-related, changes in the immune system.

Dr Fandi Ibrahim from the University of Turku in Finland describes this age-related deterioration of the immune system as immunosenescene which means that the body is unable to kill tumour cells and reduces the immune response to vaccinations and infections.

Immunosenescene is also indicative of infectious diseases, chronic inflammation disorders and cancer and Dr Ibrahim’s team targeted the gastrointestinal tract, which is the main entry for bacteria cells into the body through food and drink and is also the site where 70% of vital immunoglobulin cells are created.

The volunteers all lived in the same care home and were aged between 72 and 103, which must say a lot for the standard of Finland’s care homes! All the participants were asked to eat one slice of either placebo or probiotic Gouda cheese with their breakfast for four weeks – which is not an uncommon breakfast food in that part of the world – and blood tests where then carried out.

They wanted to discover the effect of probiotic bacteria contained within the cheese on the immune system and the results revealed a clear enhancement of natural and acquired immunity. Or in other words, a much improved immune system and if you were wondering what makes a probiotic cheese it is simply one that is aged and made from raw milk or buy a fermentation process.

The longer cheese is aged for, the more probiotics and metabiotics (beneficial byproducts released as the probiotics digest their food) it will contain These cheeses will contain more of the lactic acid producing bacteria that the human body is designed to eat, but that doesn’t include mozzarella and ricotta as they do not normally contain probiotics due to being made by different methods or anything labelled “cheese spread” or “cheese product”. These have been heated to a temperature that kills the good bacteria so that all the good qualities of cheese are destroyed but the fat remains!

So stock up your cheese board with Cheddar, Emmental, naturally aged Gouda and any of the Swedish and Norwegian hard cheeses that you can find in your supermarket chiller cabinet. The tasty solution, and a healthy one, to keep your immune system strong and healthy.


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