The healthy taste of cheese
Let me first define what Pecorino is. It is a type of cheese created in Italy from fresh sheep’s milk that is obtained from farms in Sardinia, Lazio, and a small portion of Tuscany. It is a crucial component of the Mediterranean diet, and it is particularly good for cooking since it makes food tastier. It is also very well-liked all over the world, from where it is primarily imported.
Unfortunately, however, everyone knows the correlation between cheeses and the risk related to cardiovascular diseases. It has in fact always been indicated by doctors as one of the major causes of the increase in blood cholesterol since it has a significant protein and fat content.
We can define pecorino-cheese also as all gourmet’s friends’ and hypercholesteremic’s enemy, right because lovers of tasty food, with hypercholesterolemia problems, limit themselves to eating it precisely in order not to increase the level of cholesterol in the blood.
However now, a new pecorino cheese has now been developed thanks to the research led by the University of Pisa and Cagliari and involving numerous other Italian universities. This cheese not only does not encourage an increase in cholesterol but can really lower it by 7% (Ansa, 2022). Naturally if included within a balanced diet.
The key is in the sheep’s diet, which relies on giving them high-quality grains, particularly linseed.
In this essay I would like to talk about an innovative product that comes from Italy, that makes pecorino-cheese a valuable food that can apport benefits to our health.
What and why?
Cardiovascular diseases have been and still are a major cause of death and morbidity worldwide and the diet plays a crucial role in the disease prevention and pathology.
This has been for sure the constant thought the researchers had in mind when they planned to make the pecorino more cholesterol friendly and they did it: the first anti-cholesterol pecorino was discovered on a farm in Grosseto, Tuscany, through the University of Pisa’s research. The same manufacturing processes used for the traditional product are used to create the “new” cheese. The only distinction is how the flocks are fed. The researchers fed fifty sheep a mixture of corn, barley, and different cereals composed primarily of flax seeds. This increased the amount of conjugated linoleic acid (also known as CLA) in the sheep’s milk, which in turn increased the amount of CLA in the cheese. CLA has been shown in the experiments to be particularly useful and effective against LDL cholesterol. In fact, CLA is an entirely natural substance that has a lot of health-promoting qualities for the body. It works as an antioxidant and inhibits the effects of free radicals. “The composition of dairy fat is strongly influenced by the ruminant’s diet.” (Pintus at al) so all cheese produced in this manner has a higher CLA content than that. After the production, the researchers conducted human testing to see if this pecorino, which as I already said typically has a significant impact on the dose of cholesterol in humans, may function in the opposite direction, so reducing it.
Given the quality and authenticity of the product, the experiment was not difficult for the group of volunteers who in 2011 agreed to eat an excellent cheese every day.
The group consisted of 40 people with high cholesterol values and overweight. They had 90 grams of CLA pecorino cheese daily for twenty-one days without changing their diet or way of living. (Pintus, S.) The only requirement was to use pecorino in place of the standard cheese. The outcomes surprised everyone and supported the researchers’ theories. People’s cholesterol levels have even decreased by 7% while their LDL cholesterol levels have not increased. Moreover, in addition to the benefits established for humans, the diet based on flaxseed has also had effects on milk production itself, since proteins and fat, useful for cheese production, increased by 4%.
The outcomes were so positive that other universities started doing their own studies on the matter and Sardinia did it too, because of the importance of pecorino for the region. More than that, researchers are considering expanding the study to include not just sheep milk but also other types of milk in the future. It will be interesting to see if there will be the same results, both in terms of production and in terms of food welfare for the consumer. The cheese producers themselves are nonetheless committed to increasing the scientific scope of the research and the statistical sample in future surveys.
Of course, this form of cereal-based feed obviously affects the last price of the product acquired significantly in terms of financial inputs; it is undoubtedly not like letting sheep graze on the pastures. As a result, a kilogram of “anti-cholesterol” pecorino can cost ten euros more than the conventional one, but the advantages of this cheese help to make up for the price difference.
The correlation between cheeses and the risk related to cardiovascular diseases has been confirmed for a long time and it cannot be denied.
Thanks to research innovation though, now market in the future can have an anti-cholesterol pecorino that Italy had found possible. Moreover, the study in question demonstrates that the way the sheep have been fed significantly affects the nutritional profile (not only of pecorino but of all foods of animal origin). This lets us understand better how important it is to protect animals’ wellbeing because it affects ourr too in the end. The only drawback of this innovative product is the management costs, which are noticeably higher and determine, for the final consumer, a noticeably higher price than traditional productions where the sheep can graze freely.
Ansa, 2022, https://www.ansa.it/terraegusto/notizie/rubriche/salute/2013/01/03/Salute-arriva-formaggio-pecorino-anti-colesterolo_8021808.html Read 25.11.2022
Bieler, H. 2020, https://eatsmarter.com/ingredients/dairy-products/pecorino Read 29.11.22
Garuti, M., 2018, https://www.ilgiornaledelcibo.it/pecorino-cla-intervista-spisni/ Read 30.11.2022
Lordan R. et al., 2018, Dairy Fats and Cardiovascular Disease: Do We Really Need to Be Concerned https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5867544/
Pintus, S., Murru E., et al., 2012, Sheep cheese naturally enriched in α-linolenic, conjugated linoleic and vaccenic acids improves the lipid profile and reduces anandamide in the plasma of hypercholesterolaemic subjects, Cambridge University Press
Zonza Ed., 2004, Il formaggio della Sardegna.