Roquefort cheese is the secret to why the French people enjoy good health. Roquefort cheese guards against heart disease despite its high fat and salt content, say researchers.
They found that the French cheese, known for its mould and green veins, has specific anti-inflammatory properties.
The findings could provide clues to the "French paradox" and explain why people who live in the country enjoy good health despite favouring a diet high in saturated fat.
Using new technology, the researchers found the properties worked their best when the cheese, one of the world's oldest, ripened.
The properties of the blue cheese, which is aged in caves in the south of France, near Toulouse, were found to work best in acidic environments of the body, such as the lining of the stomach or the skin surface.
Acidification is also a common process accompanying inflammation such as in joints affected by arthritis or special plaque on an artery wall.
French women enjoy the joint-longest life expectancy in Europe, at 85.3 years, against 82.3 years for British women.
The group of doctors at a Cambridge-based biotech company developed the technology, which helps to identify the new anti-inflammatory factors.
The team from Lycotec, led by Dr Ivan Petyaev and Dr Yuriy Bashmakov, suggested the new properties could be extracted to help the fight against cardiovascular disease or in anti-ageing creams.
"The anti-inflammatory factors found in these cheeses could be extracted and used independently or as a part of today's pharmaceutical or beauty products," the paper quoted them as writing.
Roquefort cheese, which is thought to have been first eaten in about 79AD, is noted for its sharp, tangy, salty flavour and its rich, creamy texture.
The researchers' findings have been published in the Medical Hypotheses journal.