Eating Jarlsberg cheese daily may reduce bone thinning problem

Credit: CC0 Public Domain.

Scientists from Skjetten Medical Center in Norway found that a small (57 g) daily portion of Jarlsberg cheese may help to stave off bone thinning (osteopenia/osteoporosis) without boosting harmful low-density cholesterol.

The research is published in BMJ Nutrition Prevention & Health and was conducted by Helge Einar Lundberg et al.

Jarlsberg is a mild and semi-soft, nutty-flavored cheese made from cow’s milk, with regular holes. It originates from Jarlsberg in eastern Norway.

Previous research shows that it may help boost levels of osteocalcin, a hormone that is associated with strong bones and teeth, but it’s not clear if this effect is specific to Jarlsberg or any type of cheese.

In the study, the team tested 66 healthy women who were asked to add either a daily 57 g portion of Jarlsberg (41) or 50 g of Camembert cheese (25) to their diet for 6 weeks.

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

Jarlsberg and Camembert have similar fat and protein contents, but unlike Camembert, Jarlsberg is rich in vitamin K2, also known as menaquinone (MK), of which there are several varieties.

The short-chained MK-4 is found in animal products such as the liver.

The long-chained MK-7, MK-8, MK-9, and MK-9(4H) originate from bacteria and occur in certain fermented foods, such as cheese. Jarlsberg is particularly rich in both MK-9 and MK-9(4H).

The team found that the key biochemical markers of bone turnover, including osteocalcin, and vitamin K2 increased strongly after 6 weeks in the Jarlsberg group.

Among people in the Camembert group, levels of PINP remained unchanged while those of the other biochemical markers fell slightly. But they increased strongly after switching to Jarlsberg. PINP levels also increased.

The team also found blood fats increased slightly in both groups after 6 weeks. But levels of total cholesterol and LDL (harmful) cholesterol fell strongly in the Camembert group after they switched to Jarlsberg.

Glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c)—-the amount of glucose stuck in red blood cells—fell significantly (by 3%) in the Jarlsberg group, while it rose sharply (by 2%) in those eating Camembert.

But after switching to Jarlsberg HbA1c fell strongly in this group too.

The team also found calcium and magnesium fell strongly in the Jarlsberg group but remained unchanged in the Camembert group.

After switching cheese, calcium levels dropped in this group too, possibly reflecting increased uptake of these key minerals in bone formation.

The team says daily Jarlsberg cheese consumption has a positive effect on osteocalcin, other [markers of bone turnover], glycated hemoglobin, and lipids, concluding that the effects are specific to this cheese.

They go on to suggest that Jarlsberg cheese might therefore help to prevent osteopenia—the stage before osteoporosis—as well as metabolic diseases, such as diabetes, although further research would be needed to confirm this.

If you care about bone health, please read studies about how to protect your bones with exercise, and eating prunes may help prevent bone loss in older women.

For more information about bone health, please see recent studies about how often women should have bone tests, and results showing doctors often ignore this bone disease in men.

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