September 30, 2022

Chats du Monde

World of Health & Pet

Types, benefits, risks, and more

5 min read

Blue cheese is a fermented cheese renowned for its strong flavor and blue marbled coloring. Cheesemakers create blue cheese using Penicillium roqueforti mold cultures. These cultures are nontoxic and safe for human consumption.

Blue cheese is a nutrient-dense food containing various vitamins, minerals, and natural compounds that are beneficial to health. However, people should consume this cheese in moderation due to its high fat, calorie, and sodium content.

This article discusses the different types of blue cheese, its nutrient content, and potential health benefits and risks.

Cheesemakers produce blue cheese using a type of mold called Penicillium roqueforti. They mix the mold spores with milk to begin the fermentation process.

After the cheese forms into a solid shape, the cheesemaker pierces it with stainless steel needles to create pathways for air to flow. These pathways are where the distinctive blue, blue-gray, or blue-green colored veins of mold will later develop.

Although blue cheese contains mold, the mold is nontoxic and safe for human consumption.

There are several types of blue cheese. The most popular include:

  • French Roquefort
  • English Stilton
  • Spanish Cabrales
  • Danish Danablue
  • Italian Gorgonzola

All types of blue cheese are the product of mixing Penicillium roqueforti mold spores with milk. The different varieties are due to variations in the following factors:

  • salt content
  • moisture
  • temperature
  • time aged

Some possible health benefits of blue cheese are as follows.

Bone health

Blue cheese is high in calcium, containing 150 mg per oz.

Calcium is essential for healthy bones and plays an important role in muscle contraction and nerve impulse transmission.

The 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans provide the following recommendations for daily calcium intake according to age and sex:

  • Children aged 2–3 years: 700 mg per day
  • Children aged 4–8 years: 1,000 mg per day
  • Children aged 9–18 years: 1,300 mg per day
  • Adults aged 19–50 years, and males aged 51 years and over: 1,000 mg per day
  • Females aged 51 years and over: 1,200 mg per day

Dental health

Calcium is also vital to forming tooth enamel, which is the hard outer surface of the teeth. Enamel helps to protect the more vulnerable parts of the teeth and insulates them from very hot or cold temperatures.

Compared with other cheeses, blue cheese is particularly high in calcium.

Immune functioning

Blue cheese is rich in vitamins and minerals that help maintain proper immune system functioning. For example, 1 oz of blue cheese contains the following:

Heart health

Blue cheese contains a substance called spermidine. A 2016 study found that feeding mice and rats spermidine was associated with improved heart health and increased longevity. The same study found that humans who reported consuming a high level of dietary spermidine also had reduced blood pressure and a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease.

The authors concluded that spermidine may decrease age-related arterial stiffness and reverse changes in the heart, though further studies are necessary to support these findings.

Cardiovascular health

Atherosclerosis is the medical term for the thickening and hardening of the arteries. The condition occurs due to an accumulation of fatty waste deposits called plaques within the blood vessels. Inflammation associated with atherosclerosis can trigger disease complications, such as heart attack and stroke.

In an older study from 2013, feeding mice 10 mg of blue cheese once per day for two days was associated with an immediate reduction in inflammation and an increase in cellular regeneration.

The researchers speculated that consuming blue cheese may help reduce inflammation associated with atherosclerosis. They added that the findings may help explain why French people have low rates of cardiovascular death despite consuming higher quantities of cheese.

Cognition and memory

A 2018 review notes that fermented dairy products contain lactic acid bacteria, fatty acids, and peptides that may help boost cognitive function and protect against age-related memory decline and dementia. Further studies are necessary to determine the mechanism of action behind this process.

Some people may be concerned about the potential risks of consuming blue cheese, as follows:

Saturated fats

Overconsumption of blue cheese can add excess calories and saturated fat to the diet.

1 oz of blue cheese contains 8.14 g of fat, of which 5.3 g is saturated fat. This type of fat can raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease.

The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fats so that they comprise only 5–6% of a person’s total daily calorie intake. This means that if a person consumes 2,000 calories per day, no more than 120 of these calories should derive from saturated fats.

Anyone following a low calorie or low fat diet should limit their consumption of blue cheese or consider reduced-fat varieties.

Sodium

Blue cheese is high in sodium, with 326 mg per oz.

Excess sodium in the diet can cause multiple health problems, including:

According to the 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, people over 14 years should consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day.

Lactose intolerance

Dairy products contain a natural sugar called lactose. Some people are lactose intolerant, meaning they are unable to digest lactose properly. This can lead to uncomfortable symptoms such as stomach cramps, flatulence, and diarrhea.

However, some people with lactose intolerance can tolerate small amounts of lactose. This means that some cheeses low in lactose, such as brie, may be suitable options.

Allergies

People with allergies to penicillin or mold may have concerns about the safety of consuming blue cheese.

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, the Penicillium cultures that create blue cheese do not produce penicillin. Therefore, it is generally safe for people with penicillin allergies to eat blue cheese, as long as the cheese has not spoiled.

Individuals with mold allergies may also safely eat blue cheese, as the digestive process destroys any active mold spores. Moreover, mold allergies typically flare as a result of mold inhalation as opposed to mold ingestion.

Mycotoxins

Blue cheese can spoil if a person leaves the cheese unrefrigerated for too long or if they refrigerate it but do not eat it within several weeks. In either case, the mold present in the cheese can produce toxic compounds called mycotoxins. These can cause short- and long-term health effects.

Mycotoxin illness can mimic food poisoning, with symptoms including:

Long-term exposure to mycotoxins can lead to chronic illnesses, such as:

A person can store unopened blue cheese in the refrigerator for up to 3 months. Once opened, a person should rewrap the cheese tightly and store it for up to 3 weeks. Freezing cheese will store it indefinitely.

Blue cheese is a flavorsome fermented cheese featuring characteristic blue veins or marbling. The process of creating blue cheese involves mixing Penicillium roqueforti mold cultures with milk to begin the fermentation process.

Blue cheese is rich in calcium, which is essential for healthy teeth and bones. The cheese also contains other nutrients that may help promote immune, cardiovascular, and cognitive functioning. However, people should consume blue cheese in moderation due to its high levels of saturated fat, calories, and sodium.

Spoiled blue cheese can produce substances called mycotoxins that are harmful to health. As such, it is important that people store the cheese safely and avoid consuming cheese that has spoiled.

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