How cheese can influence our gut microbes

By The Gut Health Doctor Team

Dr Megan Rossi in a lab looking through a microscope

Did you know bacteria in cheese can influence our human gut microbiota (aka GM, the trillions of microbes living in our gut)?

Bacteria are everywhere – in the environment, in our bodies and in our food – and even cheese has its very own microbiota. It turns out bacteria can also use cheese as a vehicle to colonize in our guts!

A new pilot study on 20 Parmesan cheese-lovers found that beneficial bacteria can travel across the Parmesan cheese production chain and seen in the human gut. That includes some specific Bifidobacteria strains that are thought to be good for our health.

The researchers also found eating Parmesan cheese weekly was probably needed to keep up this bacteria in the gut. Just another reason why you DON’T need to cut out dairy (particularly fermented dairy) for good gut health!

Does all cheese do the same thing?

Not all cheeses are the same, as they’re processed in different ways. Most of your ‘standard’ supermarket-bought cheese (like single wrap slices) don’t go through the ageing process that ‘quality’ cheeses do, and instead are ‘cut’ with a range of different additives to add flavour and extend the shelf life.

These cheeses are typically heated again at high temperatures before they make it onto the shelf to purposely kill of any microbes (literally the opposite process to quality cheese, where they celebrate and harbour the growth of specific microbes).

Just think about these microbes’ journey… from the outside world to the cow, into the cow’s milk, turned into cheese and finally meeting our GM… If only they could talk!  These bacteria also impact the flavour and texture of cheese too.

Plenty of Parmesan shavings on my creamy pistachio and spinach pesto pasta which take only 10minutes to make! (recipe in Eat Yourself Healthy & Love Your Gut)

And before critics ask, the authors had no conflicts of interest to declare and the study was primarily funded by the European Union Joint Programming Initiative.

Milani et al, Nature, 2019.


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