One of FHI’s main goals is to identify ‘bioactive’ components from milk. Most of the workpackages within FHI do this by using enzymes and other ways, to ‘release’ the bioactive components from milk. Cheese – a natural source of Bioactives Cheese is unique, since we can think of it as a natural source of many bioactive components. This is because as cheeses go through the normal processes of ripening and aging, the proteins are broken down by the naturally-occuring enzymes and bacteria present.
This natural proteolysis that occurs releases flavour compounds, but also can release bioactive compounds as well. Two very well-known tripeptides are VPP and IPP, present in many different cheeses, which can sometimes help to lower blood pressure.
Different cheeses contain different starting materials, different enzymes and different bacteria. As a result, a range of different bioactives can be produced, and in FHI we have researchers who look at the difference components, the different health benefits that these can have, and how they change over time as cheeses age. We look at cheddar cheeses, soft cheeses, and mould-ripened cheeses, including blue cheeses.
Cheese and Nutrition
We also have researchers who examine cheese from a nutritional perpective. These researchers have taken data from Ireland’s National Adult Nutrition Survey, and examined the importance of dairy foods, and cheese in particular, to nutrient intakes in Ireland. You might be surprised to know that cheese provides many important nutrients in our diet!
You can read about some of this research in more detail here: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/div-classtitlean-overview-of-the-contribution-of-dairy-and-cheese-intakes-to-nutrient-intakes-in-the-irish-diet-results-from-the-national-adult-nutrition-surveydiv/8626D6694F3E83DE2CAA213F73DB792C
Cheese and Heart Health
We are also interested in the effect of cheese intake on health, and particularly on heart health. Sometimes people with cholesterol concerns are advised to avoid cheese in their diet. However, the most recent research – from scientists across Europe, America and Australia – actually shows that the saturated fat in cheese does not have the effects we once thought on LDL-cholesterol levels. This appears to be due to the other compounds, such as calcium and minerals present in cheese, and how they are packaged with the fat in the cheese ‘matrix’.
In fact, cheese has many heart-healthy compounds, and we are investigating this further in FHI, in the FHI Cheese Study.