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Is there something special about Jarlsberg Cheese?

Maybe, or maybe not. Vitamin K2 is key to healthy bones. Many cheeses are good sources of K2 but they vary in the amount and form. Jarlsberg Cheese, a mild semi-soft cheese made from cow’s milk from Jarlsberg in eastern Norway, is particularly rich in the MK-9 form of vitamin K2.

In a small, somewhat limited, Norwegian study published in BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health, the authors indicated that a protective effect of cheese on bone thinning may be an exclusive benefit of Jarlsberg and that 2 ounces per day seems to be adequate to protect bone health. The authors did note that this requires further research and a larger more long-term study is needed.

The researchers randomly assigned 66 young women to eat either 2 ounces of Jarlsberg or a serving of Camembert (which varied in size from half to close to 2 ounces) each day for six weeks. I'm not clear as to why they varied the size of the Camembert cheese serving instead of making it equal to the Jarlsberg. After the first six weeks, the participants switched cheeses for another six weeks. Jarlsberg and Camembert contain about the same amount of fat and protein, but Jarlsberg was indicated to be richer in vitamin K2.

One of the study authors explains that "What differentiates Jarlsberg from the others is a special type of vitamin K2 [MK-9/4H], which is produced by a type of bacteria that is used in the production of Jarlsberg. In this process, the only enzyme [DHNA] that has so far been shown to increase a central protein in the body's bone formation is also produced," "This protein is called osteocalcin. With the help of vitamin K2, osteocalcin is activated. This activation process seems to go much faster than previously thought and means that calcium and magnesium from the blood are transported into the bone."

Blood samples showed that markers of bone turnover, including osteocalcin and vitamin K2, increased after six weeks among those eating Jarlsberg. These levels among those eating Camembert remained unchanged, but increased after switching to Jarlsberg.

Although blood fats increased slightly in both groups, the levels of total cholesterol and LDL ("bad") cholesterol dropped with Jarlsberg. Also, blood sugar levels dropped 3% among those eating Jarlsberg, but it rose 2% among those eating Camembert.

Once again this is a very limited study, but is intriguing. So, when you do eat cheese, Jarlsberg might be a good choice. Just remember moderation is key. Hopefully more research will be done on this interesting topic.


posted on 2/10/2023