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Roquefort cheese is good for you (yes, really)

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Vacherin was crowned king of French fromages in our recent Cheese World Cup - but perhaps it should have been Roquefort, as new research shows it could help guard against cardiovascular diseases.

A study by Cambridge-based firm Lycotec found anti-inflammatory properties in the potent and luxurious blue cheese from south-west France.

Clinical trials indicated these factors occurred during the ripening stage of the cheese and were particularly effective in acidic environments of the body such as the lining of the stomach or the skin surface.

Inflammation has been linked to cardiovascular diseases and ageing processes such as the loss of skeletal muscle. Acidification often accompanies inflammation in conditions such as arthritis, making the anti-inflammatory agents of Roquefort in acidic environments even more relevant.

Researchers said the findings could indicate why the French enjoy good health and high life expectancy, despite a diet that is traditionally high in saturated fat.

In a paper titled Could cheese be the missing piece in the French paradox puzzle?, the team concluded that regular consumption of Roquefort and other moulded, fermented cheese such as Camembert could explain why France has the lowest rate of cardiovascular mortality in the developed world - despite the fact those cheeses contain lots of fat and salt.

"Observations indicate that consumption of red wine alone cannot explain the paradox and perhaps some other constituents of the typical French diet could be responsible for reduced cardiovascular mortality," said the researchers, in the study published in Medical Hypotheses journal.

They said the anti-inflammatory factors found in Roquefort and similar cheeses could be extracted for use in pharmaceutical or beauty products (without the mould smell).

While further research needs to be done, this study is still music to the ears of those of us who plan on indulging in a cheese fest over Christmas - as if we needed an excuse.

Pictures: Rex Features

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