Consuming cheese may prevent high blood pressure, say scientists who have found that eating sodium in the form of a dairy product may protect against its harmful effects on the cardiovascular system.
According to researchers, the protection comes from antioxidant properties of dairy proteins in cheese. The results suggest that when sodium is consumed in cheese it does not have the negative vascular effects that researchers observed with sodium from non-dairy sources.
"We found that when participants ate a lot of sodium in cheese, they had better blood vessel function — more blood flow — compared to when they ate an equal amount of sodium from non-dairy sources — in this case, pretzels and soy cheese," said Anna Stanhewicz, post-doctoral fellow at the Pennsylvania State University.
"This is a novel finding that may have implications for dietary recommendations. Newer dietary recommendations suggest limiting sodium, but our data suggests that eating sodium in the form of a dairy product, such as cheese, may be protective," said Lacy Alexander, associate professor at Pennsylvania State University in the US. "We are already aware that at the population level, people who eat more dairy typically have lower blood pressure," Alexander said.
For the study, the researchers fed participants dairy cheese, pretzels or soy cheese on five separate occasions, three days apart. They then compared the effects of each food on the cardiovascular system using a laser-Doppler, which shines a weak laser light onto the skin.
The laser light reflects off red blood cells that flow through the vessels just under the skin, allowing researchers to measure how much the blood vessels dilate in response to skin warming and how much of that dilation is due to the production of nitric oxide, a gas thats naturally produced in the body to deliver messages between cells.
The goal was to compare the effect of short-term dairy cheese consumption to sodium consumption from non-dairy sources. The study appears in the British Journal of Nutrition.