- Jarlsberg cheese has a significant stimulatory effect on serum osteocalcin.
- After 6 weeks, participants assigned to Jarlsberg cheese had a significant reduction in HbA1c, while those assigned to Camembert cheese had a significant increase.
- Eating 57 g of Jarlsberg cheese every day could benefit patients’ bone health, according to researchers.
A small Norwegian study published in BMJ Nutrition Prevention and Health revealed that the semi-soft, “nutty-flavored cheese” might help prevent bone thinning like osteoporosis without adversely effecting cholesterol.
Vitamin K is critical for bone health, the researchers wrote, and supplementation with calcium, vitamin D and vitamin K2 — also known as menaquinone (MK) — is a recommended osteoporosis treatment. Previous research has suggested that Jarlsberg might boost osteocalcin, which is a hormone associated with strong bones and teeth, but it was unclear if the effects were extended to all cheese types, according to a press release that accompanied the study.
Now, researchers have found that, unlike other cheeses, daily intake of Jarlsberg increases s-osteocalcin levels. It contains DHNA and vitamin K2, which increase R0, cOC, tOC, a peptide involved in bone turnover called PINP, and decrease HbA1c, Ca++ and Mg++.
“These effects reflect increased bone anabolism and a possible reduced risk of adverse metabolic outcomes,” study author Helge Einar Lundberg, MD, of the Skjetten Medical Center in Skjetten, Norway, and colleagues wrote.
The researchers recruited 66 healthy female volunteers for the study. For 6 weeks, 41 participants were randomly assigned to consume 57 g of Jarlsberg every day and 25 were assigned to consume 50 g of Camembert cheese and then switch to Jarlsberg for an additional 6 weeks. At regular intervals, the researchers took blood samples from all participants to check for osteocalcin, proteins, PINP, vitamin K2 levels and blood fat levels.
Cheese in general has been associated with vitamin K2-related benefits, according to the press release, though the most important K2 vitamer in the dairy product is MK-9, and the “amount varies considerably” depending on the type of cheese.
Jarlsberg cheese specifically is a “good candidate” for the study because of its high vitamin K2 content, Lundberg and colleagues wrote. The cheese is especially rich in both K2 and MK-9, as well as MK-9(4H), they found. Camembert has similar fat and protein contents, but less of the key components.
For those who ate Jarlsberg, Lundberg and colleagues reported that PINP, tOC, cOC, R0 and vitamin K2 increased significantly after 6 weeks. For the Camembert consumers, PINP remained unchanged. The other variables decreased initially, but then jumped after the switch to Jarlsberg.
“This study shows that, while calcium and vitamin D are known to be extremely important for bone health, there are other key factors at play, such as vitamin K2, which is perhaps not as well known,” Sumantra Ray, MD, PGCME, MPhil, the executive director of NNEdPro Global Centre for Nutrition and Health, said in the release.
After the Jarlsberg group’s initial 6 weeks, the researchers found that vitamin K2 vitamers increased significantly, from 0.38 ng/mL (95% CI; 0.30-0.45) to 0.72 ng/mL (95% CI; 0.64-0.81). In the Camembert group, “a significant reduction … was detected,” the researchers wrote.
After the participants in the Camembert group switched to Jarlsberg, amount of vitamin K2 increased significantly, from 0.41 ng/mL (95% CI; 0.34-0.48) to 0.65 ng/mL (95% CI; 0.53-0.79).
The different cheeses also had markedly different effects on HbA1c. After 6 weeks, participants in the Jarlsberg group had significantly decreased levels, but the levels in the Camembert group were significantly increased, according to the researchers. Once again, after the switch, there was a significant decrease in mean HbA1c.
“Switching from Camembert cheese to Jarlsberg led to a significant increase in tOC and cOC. This supports that Jarlsberg has a significant stimulatory effect on serum osteocalcin,” the researchers wrote.
However, Ray said this study should not “be taken as a recommendation to eat a particular type of cheese.”
“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,” he said.