Jarlsberg cheese may help stave off osteoporosis, small study suggests

A selection of cheeses on a cheeseboard. Photograph: Getty Images

Osteoporosis

Jarlsberg is rich in vitamin K2, which has previously been found to improve bone health

Sascha Pare

Eating Jarlsberg cheese may help to prevent bone thinning and stave off osteoporosis, research suggests.

Jarlsberg is a mild cheese made from cow’s milk, with regular holes that mean it is classified as a Swiss-type cheese, although it originates from Norway. It is rich in vitamin K2, which has previously been found to improve bone health.

The results of a study published in the journal BMJ Nutrition Prevention & Health suggest a daily portion could be beneficial to bone growth and regeneration.

Participants in the study were given a daily portion of either Jarlsberg or camembert, which is poor in vitamin K2. Signs of bone growth increased with Jarlsberg consumption and fell slightly in the camembert group, the authors said.

“This study shows that while calcium and vitamin D are known to be extremely important for bone health, there are other key factors at play, such as vitamin K2, which is perhaps not as well known,” said Prof Sumantra Ray, from the NNEdPro Global Centre for Nutrition and Health in Cambridge.

However, experts raised doubts about the findings. The study involved just 66 healthy, pre-menopausal women; their diets were not monitored during the study, meaning other potential dietary influences could not be accounted for; and it was part-funded by Jarlsberg’s manufacturer, Tine.

“The reported effects are unlikely to be specific to Jarlsberg cheese and may be similar in other hard, long-fermented cheeses,” said Tom Sanders, a professor emeritus of nutrition and dietetics at King’s College London.

Dr Simon Steenson, a nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation, said: “Recommending Jarlsberg cheese as a beneficial food for bone health would need to be balanced against existing dietary recommendations.”

More than 2 million women in England and Wales are believed to have osteoporosis, also known as brittle bone disease. It is linked to about 180,000 bone breaks a year.

Experts say bone health depends on adequate consumption of calcium and vitamin D as well as vitamin K, which is also found in dark green vegetables such as kale.

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