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All cheeses are not equal

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND. Swiss researchers report that cheese made from the milk of cows grazing freely in high alpine regions (alpine cheese) has a significantly better fatty acid profile than do other cheeses. The researchers analyzed the fatty acid content of 40 cheeses - 12 alpine cheeses, 7 industrial type Emmentals, 7 commercially available English cheddar cheeses, 6 cheeses from cows fed with linseed (flaxseed) supplements, and 8 alpine cheeses where the cows had received some stored fodder (silage).

They found that the pure alpine cheese contained 4 times more alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) than did the cheddar cheese and 60% more ALA than the Emmental cheese. ALA has been found to be beneficial in the primary and secondary prevention of fatal cardiovascular events. The Nurses' Health Study found that the daily consumption of just 1.36 grams of ALA reduced the risk of sudden cardiac death by 45%. Fresh alpine grass contains high amounts of ALA and the Swiss researchers believe that this is what causes the alpine cheese to have an exceptionally high ALA content.

The alpine cheeses also contained 3 times more conjugated linoleic acid than did cheddar cheeses and had a favourable 1.1:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. The alpine cheeses provided an average of 39 mg/100 grams cheese of beneficial eicosapentaenoic acid (also found in oily fish) and contained substantially less of the saturated fatty acid, palmitic acid. Somewhat surprisingly, the alpine cheeses also proved to be superior to cheeses made from the milk of cows whose fodder had been fortified with flaxseed. The researchers conclude that cheese made from cows grazing on alpine pastures have a favourable fatty acid profile and contains significant amounts of cardioprotective fatty acids.
Hauswirth, CB, et al. High omega-3 fatty acid content in alpine cheese. Circulation, Vol. 109, January 6/13, 2004, pp. 103-07

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