Cheese intake boosts immunity among the elderly

Saturday, May 15, 2010

LONDON - Cheese can help preserve and boost the immune system of the elderly by acting as a carrier for probiotic bacteria, researchers have found discovered.

The research reveals that daily consumption of probiotic cheese helps to tackle age-related deterioration in the immune system.

“The increase in the proportion of aged individuals in modern society makes finding innovative ways to thwart the deterioration of the immune system a priority,” said Fandi Ibrahim from the University of Turku in Finland, who led the study.

“The intake of probiotic bacteria has been reported to enhance the immune response through other products and now we have discovered that cheese can be a carrier of the same bacteria,” he added.

Ibrahim’s team believe that the daily intake of probiotic cheese can tackle the age-related deterioration of the immune system known as immunosenescene.

This deterioration means the body is unable to kill tumour cells and reduces the immune response to vaccinations and infections. Infectious diseases, chronic inflammation disorders and cancer are hallmarks of immunosenescene.

To tackle immunosenescene the team targeted the gastrointestinal tract, which is the main entry for bacteria cells into the body through food and drink and is also the site where 70 percent of vital immunoglobulin (antibody) cells are created.

The team asked volunteers aged between 72 and 103, all of which lived in the same care home, to eat one slice of either placebo or probiotic Gouda cheese with their breakfast for four weeks.

Blood tests were then carried out to discover the effect of probiotic bacteria contained within the cheese on the immune system.

The results revealed a clear enhancement of natural and acquired immunity through the activation of natural killer blood cells and an increase in activity of phagocytes - white blood cells that protect the body by engulfing and digesting debris and invading microorganisms, said a University of Turku release.

These findings were published in FEMS Immunology & Medical Microbiology

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