Invited review: Bioactive compounds produced during cheese ripening and health effects associated with aged cheese consumption

J Dairy Sci. 2018 May;101(5):3742-3757. doi: 10.3168/jds.2017-13465. Epub 2018 Feb 21.


Traditionally, cheese is manufactured by converting fluid milk to a semisolid mass through the use of a coagulating agent, such as rennet, acid, heat plus acid, or a combination thereof. Cheese can vary widely in its characteristics, including color, aroma, texture, flavor, and firmness, which can generally be attributed to the production technology, source of the milk, moisture content, and length of aging, in addition to the presence of specific molds, yeast, and bacteria. Among the most important bacteria, lactic acid bacteria (LAB) play a critical role during the cheese-making process. In general, LAB contain cell-envelope proteinases that contribute to the proteolysis of cheese proteins, breaking them down into oligopeptides that can be subsequently taken up by cells via specific peptide transport systems or further degraded into shorter peptides and amino acids through the collaborative action of various intracellular peptidases. Such peptides, amino acids, and their derivatives contribute to the development of texture and flavor in the final cheese. In vitro and in vivo assays have demonstrated that specific sequences of released peptides exhibit biological properties including antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, and analgesic/opioid activity, in addition to angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibition and antiproliferative activity. Some LAB also produce functional lipids (e.g., conjugated linoleic acid) with anti-inflammatory and anticarcinogenic activity, synthesize vitamins and antimicrobial peptides (bacteriocins), or release γ-aminobutyric acid, a nonprotein amino acid that participates in physiological functions, such as neurotransmission and hypotension induction, with diuretic effects. This review provides an overview of the main bioactive components present or released during the ripening process of different types of cheese.

Keywords: bioactive compound; cheese; health effect; multifunctional activities.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / analysis
  • Amino Acids / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Cheese / analysis*
  • Food Handling* / methods
  • Humans
  • Linoleic Acids, Conjugated / analysis
  • Linoleic Acids, Conjugated / metabolism
  • Milk / chemistry*
  • Taste


  • Amino Acids
  • Linoleic Acids, Conjugated