No doubt, high-quality cheese provides many health benefits. This study shows potential, not conclusion.
Researchers: Crippa G, Zabzuni D, Bravi E, Cicognini FM, Bighi E, Rossi F
Publication: Journal of the American Society of Hypertension
Date: April 2016
Location: Guglielmo da Saliceto Hospital and Catholic University of Piacenza, Italy
Duration: 2 months
Subjects: 30 adults with mild-to-moderate hypertension. Average age =54
Researchers wanted to know if Grano Padano Italian cheese, similar to Parmesan, would have an effect on blood pressure. The selected cheese was known to contain specific peptides that relax blood vessels, much like popular ACE-inhibiting blood pressure medications.
Note: “Fermentation of cow’s milk-proteins by cheese-making bacteria produces bioactive oligopeptides that have been shown to have ACE inhibition activity in vitro.” (In vitro means test-tube or in glass) (1)
In this randomized study…
Group 1 consumed 30 grams (1 ounce) of Grano Padano cheese daily.
Group 2 consumed a placebo of shredded bread scented to mimic the cheese and with the same fat, calcium, and sodium, daily.
Blood pressure was monitored throughout the study in both groups.
Results: Although the cheese group’s systolic pressure (the top number) reduced 7 to 8 mm, and the diastolic (bottom number) pressure dropped 5 to 7 mm, it’s too early to draw conclusions. The amount of subjects of 30 is too few, the two month duration of the study is too short, and there may be other biological factors that inhibit ACE activity that need to be identified. Further studies are needed.
This is what bothers me the most: Group 2 received the “placebo” treatment which was made of shredded bread scented to mimic real cheese. Now think about this…Italians eat a lot of aged cheese and I doubt that the “placebo” group were confused about what they were given. Shredded bread?
Public health problem: The idea that daily consumption of a small amount of cheese of any type may play a role in reducing blood pressure is exciting, considering that 1 out of 3 American adults—about 75 million people—have high blood pressure. Surprisingly, only 54% of them have their numbers under control (CDC). With so many conflicting news stories about nutrition flashing across screens 24/7, it’s no wonder why we are in a constant state of confusion. Until solid, large-scale research proves that Grana Padano cheese is unhealthy, I’ll continue to enjoy it daily.
1) Aged Cheese Lowers Blood Pressure. Small randomized trial suggests effect of Grana Padano on par with antihypertensives. MedPage Today, May 15, 2016 https://www.medpagetoday.com/meetingcoverage/ash/57924
2) Crippa G, et al “Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over study on the antihypertensive effect of dietary integration with Grana Padano DOCG cheese” ASH 2016; Abstract FP-1.