High blood pressure? Eat Norwegian cheese, says study

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

Gamalost cheese blood pressure hypertension Norway

Related tags Blood pressure Hypertension

Consumption of Gamalost, a traditional Norwegian cheese, may reduce blood pressure, researchers claim.

Previous studies have shown the angiotensin-converting enzyme-inhibiting peptides derived from dairy products may decrease blood pressure (ACE inhibitors block the production of angiotensin II, a hormone which constricts blood vessels).

Gamalost is particularly rich in these peptides.  

Cheese consumption

In a study published in the Journal of Dairy Science, 168 male and female participants from one town were questioned about their dietary habits and other health related factors, and their blood pressure was taken.

Intake of Gamalost was inversely associated with systolic blood pressure, and an increase in frequency unit of Gamalost intake corresponded to a reduction of systolic blood pressure of 0.72mmHg (after controlling for sex, age, smoking, and other factors).

The main strength of the study is that a cheese shown to have a high ACE-inhibitory activity was asked about specifically in a food frequency questionnaire, not just as part of a question about total cheese or total dairy,​” Rita Nilsen, one of the researchers, said.

Results from this study indicate consumption of Gamalost - or other foods rich in ACE-inhibiting peptides - may reduce blood pressure.​”

Other factors

Cheese is not generally recommended for people with high blood pressure. The researchers warn their findings cannot be translated to other cheeses because of factors such as fat and salt content.

As well as being high in the peptides, Gamalost is low in fat and salt.  

Diets aimed at reducing hypertension often emphasize a high intake of low-fat dairy products. Gamalost contains only negligible amounts of fat (<1 g/100 g), making it suitable in these diets,​” Nilsen said.

The role of salt in the development of hypertension is much debated, but it is generally accepted that limiting salt intake is favorable in preventing hypertension. Salt is usually an important ingredient in the cheese-making process, contributing both to a desirable flavor and texture profile of the cheese and to microbial safety.

This, together with the high fat content of most cheeses, is the reason why cheese is generally not recommended in heart-healthy diets. Gamalost, however, is made without the addition of salt.

It could be argued that the concomitant reduction in fat and salt intake is the cause of the reduction in blood pressure. However, it seems that the most frequent consumers of Gamalost also have the highest intakes of all cheese and regular cheese.​”

More research in progress

Other nutrients in cheese, such as calcium and potassium, could also have an effect on the blood pressure, the study acknowledges.

To clarify whether the intake of Gamalost does prevent hypertension, results from a large randomized intervention study are needed, researchers say.

The design cannot provide any evidence for a true cause-and-effect association, but the results may serve to suggest a direction for future research,​” Nilsen said.

An intervention trial comparing a possible BP-reducing influence of Gamalost with other types of cheese is currently in progress.​”

Raised blood pressure is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease and strokes. Worldwide, raised blood pressure is estimated to cause 12.8% of all deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).  

Source: Journal of Dairy Science

March 2014

“Is consumption of a cheese rich in angiotensin-converting enzyme-inhibiting peptides, such as the Norwegian cheese Gamalost, associated with reduced blood pressure?”

R.Nilsen, A. Pripp, A. Høstmark, A. Haug, S. Skeie.

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