Could cheese be the missing piece in the French paradox puzzle?

Med Hypotheses. 2012 Dec;79(6):746-9. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2012.08.018. Epub 2012 Sep 13.


The low rates of cardiovascular mortality which have existed in France for decades despite high saturated fat consumption constitute an epidemiological phenomenon called the "French paradox". This phenomenon was originally attributed to consumption of red wine and its major constituent resveratrol. However, recent studies have revealed the limitations of this link outside France. These 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. We hypothesize that cheese consumption, especially of molded varieties, may contribute to the occurrence of the "French paradox". This assumption is well supported by newly discovered facts revealing the positive effect of cheese ingestion on lipoprotein turnover and plasma lipid profile, haemorheological parameters and inflammatory status. Recent advances in cheese proteomics have allowed the identification and isolation of novel peptides capable of inhibiting the angiotensin-converting enzyme which controls systemic blood pressure. A complex time-dependent enzymatic transformation of the cheese core controlled by probiota, temperature and humidity during the ripening process has been shown to result in the formation of substances reducing major pro-inflammatory markers and cytokines (C-reactive protein, interleukin 6, tumor necrosis factor alpha). Molded cheeses, including Roquefort, may be even more favorable to cardiovascular health due to the presence of secondary metabolites produced by Penicillium roqueforti and other fungi. Among them are andrastins A-D and roquefortine, whose ability to inhibit cholesterol biosynthesis and bacterial growth may be a key mechanism in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality*
  • Cheese*
  • Diet*
  • Fermentation
  • France / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical*