After getting some extremely bad press for the last half a century, saturated fat is slowly regaining some of its lost pride. We are cautiously stepping towards the idea that some saturated fat in our diet is essential – particularly when it comes to the health of the brain. Fermented, dairy products are also being increasingly shown to have amazing health benefits because of the beneficial bacteria they contain. If we bring the two together, we get fermented, saturated, dairy fat. Bacteria break down fats to form new products. Some of the new products may have some striking beneficial effects on the brain. One recent study on mice suggests that when a bacterial strain found in Camembert cheese breaks down a particular fat, it creates a product that has a powerful anti-inflammatory effect on the brain.
What is Camembert?
Camembert cheese originates from a place called Camembert in the Normandy region of France. It is traditionally made from unpasteurized cow’s milk and is aged for over three weeks. It is covered by a hard white rind and is soft and creamy on the inside. The white rind is where the fermenting bacteria are located.
Why could Camembert help the brain?
Many varieties of Camembert contain a bacterial species called Penicillium candidum. This bacteria converts a particular type of fat called oleic acid into the product oleamide. Oleamide has a very powerful anti-inflammatory effect on the body and in particular, on the brain. In Alzheimer’s disease, we see ‘plaques’ (known as ‘amyloid plaques’) accumulate within the brain which then trigger inflammation resulting in the downward spiral typical of the disease. Oleamide both reduces the plaques and pacifies the inflammation they trigger.
What the study shows
Feeding Camembert cheese to mice with Alzheimer’s disease, reduces inflammation within the ‘hippocampal’ region of the brain. This region is vital for memory and learning and is also a ‘hotspot’ for the birth of new brain cells. When new brain cells are born, we see lots of brain ‘growth agents’ circulating around. Feeding the mice Camembert also increases levels of brain growth agents within this hippocampal region.
....but it's a 'mouse' study?
Although these observations come from a study on mice, they corroborate previous observations on the positive relationship between the intake of fermented dairy products and brain health. The Mediterranean diet is reputed to be very good at preventing Alzheimer’s disease and it contains a good portion of fermented dairy products.
What this means for you
If you don’t suffer from a condition that prevents you from being able to eat cheese (such as an allergy or intolerance) then adding some unprocessed and aged cheese varieties to your diet may be beneficial for your brain. According to the results of this latest study, unprocessed, aged Camembert may be your best choice. The Camembert you are eating today may protect you from Alzheimer’s disease for years to come.....
Soft cheeses should be avoided during pregnancy or if you are an immuno-compromised state. This site is for discussion only and should not be used as a source of medical information. Please consult your medical doctor before making any changes to your diet, lifestyle or medications.
Ano Y, Ozawa M, Kutsukake T, Sugiyama S, Uchida K, Yoshida A, Nakayama H. Preventive effects of a fermented dairy product against Alzheimer's disease and identification of a novel oleamide with enhanced microglial phagocytosis and
anti-inflammatory activity. PLoS One. 2015 Mar 11;10(3):e0118512.