Scientists in Finland have highlighted the potential of probiotic cheese to protect and enhance the immune system of elderly people.
The immune health benefits of probiotic bacteria in yoghurt and milk are well documented but comparatively little research has been carried out on the role of cheese as a carrier.
Writing in FEMS Immunology & Medical Microbiology, Finnish scientists therefore sought to determine whether specific probiotic bacteria - Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 and Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM - would have similar immune enhancing effects in cheese as has been documented in other products.
The researchers, lead by Dr Fandi Ibrahim of the University of Turku, invited a group of elderly people aged between 72 and 103, all of whom lived in the same care home, to eat one slice of either placebo or probiotic Gouda cheese with their breakfast for four weeks.
Blood tests where then carried out to determine how the probiotic bacteria in the cheese affected the immune system of the volunteers.
Evaluating parameters of innate immunity in the group, the scientists said the results revealed “a clear enhancement of natural and acquired immunity” through the activation of NK blood cells and an increase in phagocytic activity.
“We have demonstrated that the regular intake of probiotic cheese can help to boost the immune system and that including it in a regular diet may help to improve an elderly person’s immune response to external challenges,” concluded Ibrahim.
However, the lead author of the paper called for more research to discover whether this improvement translates into significant health benefits for the elderly population.
Source: FEMS Immunology & Medical Microbiology
Probiotics and immunosenescence: cheese as a carrier
Authors: F. Ibrahim, S. Ruvio, L. Granlund, S. Salminen, M. Viitanen, and A.C. Ouwehand