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Roquefort may contribute to French heart disease ‘paradox’

By Mark Astley, 17-Dec-2012

Related topics: R&D, Cheese

The consumption of moulded cheese, including Roquefort, may contribute to the occurrence of the ‘French paradox’ – the term used to explain France’s “illogically” low cardiovascular mortality rate.

The ‘French Paradox’ was introduced by scientist Serge Renaud during research into France’s low rate of cardiovascular mortality. Despite high consumption of saturated fat, France has one of the lowest rates of cardiovascular mortality in the world.

The ‘paradox’ has long been attributed to red wine, and a major constituent of red wine – resveratrol.

But according to research from Cambridge, UK-based Lycotec, recent studies have revealed the limitation of the red wine link outside France.

In their study, Could cheese be the missing piece in the French paradox puzzle?, Lycotec’s Ivan Petyaev and Yuriy Bashmakov suggest that Roquefort and other moulded cheeses could be behind the ‘paradox’.

Reduced cardiovascular mortality

“This phenomenon was originally attributed to consumption of red wine and its major constituent resveratrol. However, recent studies have revealed the limitation of this link outside France,” said the study.

According to the study, France continues to show “remarkably low levels of cardiovascular mortality” despite a nationwide decline in red wine consumption.

It adds that in Eastern Europe, where red wine consumption is on the rise, “alarmingly high rates of cardiovascular disease” persist.

“These observations indicate that consumption of red wine alone cannot explain the paradox and perhaps some other constituents of the typical French diet could be responsible for reduced cardiovascular mortality. We hypothesize that cheese consumption, especially of moulded varieties, may contribute to the occurrence of the ‘French paradox’.”

Control blood pressure

According to the paper, recent advances in cheese proteomics – the study of proteins – have led to the identification and isolation of peptides capable of inhibiting the angiotensin-converting enzyme. This enzyme controls systemic blood pressure.

It added that moulded cheeses, including Roquefort, may be favourable to cardiovascular health due to the presence of secondary metacolites produced by Penicillium roqueforti and other fungi.

“This assumption is well supported by newly discovered facts revealing the positive effect of cheese ingestion on lipoprotein turnover and plasma lipid profile, haemorheological parameters, and inflammatory status," said the study.

This statement is “well supported” by the lower incidence of cardiovascular disease and mortality in European countries with high cheese consumption levels such as Greece and Switzerland, the study added.