Probiotics have been getting a lot of attention for their health benefits, but a new study shows another dairy product may work just as well: cheese.
The new study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, found that eating cheese could actually be healthier than many people think. Eating cheese increased beneficial microflora in the gut and reduced levels of chemical markers for cholesterol, the study concluded.
Researchers divided 15 healthy young men into three groups. One group ate a diet rich in milk, one group ate 1.7 grams of cheese per day, and the third group ate a control diet.
Intestinal microflora, also known as microbiota, are the bacteria and microorganisms in the gut that help break down food. Recent research has shown that healthy bacteria could foster a strong immune system, and scientists are beginning to explore the links between particular bacteria and different diseases.
Following the milk-heavy and cheese-heavy diets actually caused a change in the microbiota of some participants. Their levels of TMAO, a compound that has been linked to high cholesterol and heart disease, were also lower than the control group.
Researchers hypothesized that this is due to the change in gut bacteria, but admitted they were unsure exactly what prompted the reaction.
“I’m not completely sure why, but it seems like the cheese and also milk, but mainly cheese, affects the microbiota after eating cheese and that might affect the composition of the lipids in the blood,” Clausen told Time.
This study is great news for fromage lovers—and there are a lot of us. The average American eats nearly 34 pounds of cheese each year. The French eat the most cheese in the world—a whopping 57 pounds per year.
Of course, cheese is off the menu for vegans or anyone with lactose intolerance. If you can't have cheese and still want to boost your gut microflora, try a dairy-free probiotic.
Photo credit: Chiot's Run via Flickr