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One small study says this cheese could help prevent osteoporosis

But, before you start snacking, scientists say more research is needed.
Credit: Paul - stock.adobe.com
A wedge of Jarlsberg cheese with crackers and cherry tomatoes on a cheeseboard

Amazing news for my fellow cheese-lovers — everyone's favorite mild, semi-soft cheese with holes could actually have some health benefits.

At least according to one small Norwegian study.

Published on Aug. 2 in the BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health journal, the study found that a small daily portion of Jarlsberg cheese may help prevent bone thinning, or osteoporosis.

The trial

For the trial, 66 "healthy" women, with an average age of 33, ate either a two-ounce portion of Jarlsberg or a similar portion of Camembert cheese every day for six weeks. After the six weeks, the Camembert group switched to Jarlsberg for another six weeks.

These two cheeses were chosen as they have similar fat and protein contents, according to the report. 

Researchers found that blood samples revealed that key markers of bone turnover, called osteocalcin and vitamin K2, increased "significantly" after six weeks for the Jarlsberg group. 

For the Camambert group, those levels reportedly fell slightly while other key markers remained unchanged — until they switched to Jarlsberg. Then, those markers increased.

Blood fats did increase slightly for both groups. But, scientists said levels of total cholesterol and LDL (harmful) cholesterol fell significantly in the Camembert group after they switched to Jarlsberg.

Why Jarlsberg?

The Norwegian cow's milk cheese is unique in its nutty flavor and, apparently, in its vitamin content.

Unlike Camembert or other similar cheese, researchers say Jarlsberg is rich in vitamin K2, also known as menaquinone. And not just any menaquinone —a specific one called MK-9(4H).

The bacteria that produces this specific vitamin also creates an enzyme called DHNA that can combat bone thinning and increase bone tissue formation, according to the study.

"The effects seem to be specific to this type of cheese," the study reads.

Before you load your shopping cart up with cheese

While the study does suggest that Jarlsberg might "help to prevent osteopenia— the stage before osteoporosis—as well as metabolic diseases, such as diabetes," scientists say a lot more research is needed.

"It shouldn’t be taken as a recommendation to eat a particular type of cheese," Professor Sumantra Ray, executive director of NNEdPro Global Centre for Nutrition and Health, said.

And, researchers say, Jarlsberg definitely shouldn't replace any osteoporosis drugs you may be taking.

One professor from the University of Oxford told the Science Media Centre that the biochemical markers measured in this trial actually "correlate quite poorly" to bone density.

Samantha Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist at NYU Langone Health, agreed while speaking to Community Healthcare System.

"We don’t need an excuse to eat more cheese — if anything, we would all likely benefit from eating less," she told the hospital group.

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