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Cheese From Ewe’s Milk
Reduces Heart Disease Risk

Consuming cheese from ewe’s milk, rich in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), may reduce markers linked to heart disease, suggest results from a small Italian study.

Researchers from the University of Florence report that ewe’s milk rich in cis-9, trans-11 CLA produced favourable changes in inflammatory cytokines and platelet aggregation, both of which are associated with atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries due to the build-up of fatty deposits on artery walls.

Atherosclerosis is the primary cause of coronary heart disease (CHD), which costs the British public health system more than €5bn per year.

“These observations, although preliminary and obtained in a limited study group, seem to be of relevance for the practical implications in terms of nutrition and health of the general population,” wrote the researchers in Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases.

“If the effects of dairy products naturally enriched for their contents of cis-9, trans-11 CLA are confirmed by further examinations, this will likely have important implications for human nutrition and food industry.”

The CLA market is expanding, according to a 2007 Frost & Sullivan report, which said the global market is forecast to reach revenues of US$109.9 million in 2013. Key players in the market include Lipid Nutrition with its Clarinol ingredient and Cognis with its Tonalin ingredient.

Cheese – ewe decide

Researchers, led by Francesco Sofi, recruited 10 subjects with an average age of 51.5 and randomly assigned them to consume a diet containing 200 grams per week of cheese from ewe’s milk (pecorino cheese), naturally rich in CLA, or cheese from cow’s milk (placebo), for 10 weeks.

Sofi and his co-workers report that consumption of the CLA-rich ewe’s cheese produced significant reductions in inflammatory markers, including a 43 per cent reduction in interleukin-6 (IL-6), a 36 per cent reduction in IL-8, and a 40 per cent reduction in tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha). No significant changes were observed following 10 weeks of placebo, they added.

Furthermore, a 10 per cent reduction in the extent of platelet aggregation, induced by arachidonic acid, was observed for the CLA-cheese group, compared to placebo.

“CLAs have been previously reported to attenuate inflammatory cytokine expression in animals and humans, and it has been recently reported that they are able to inhibit the expression of cytokine-induced adhesion molecules on endothelial and smooth muscle cells,” wrote the researchers.

“Thus, it is conceivable to hypothesise that CLAs are able to attenuate the atherosclerotic process through inhibition of the initiating inflammatory cytokines, such as those measured in our study, as well as through inhibition of the stress signalling cascades these cytokines elicit,” they added.

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