Cheese, Please: Could a Little Grana Padano Drop Your BP? (What could Pasta do?)
By Lisa Nainggolan, from MEDSCAPE
May 4, 2012 (London, United Kingdom) — Integrating a particular type of Italian cheese, Grana Padano, into the usual diet of mildly hypertensive patients not taking any ACE inhibitors or angiotensin-receptor blockers (ARBs) resulted in a significant drop in mean blood pressure of 7 to 8 mm Hg compared with control patients, preliminary research shows.
This type of antihypertensive effect is similar to that seen in trials of blood-pressure–lowering drugs, Dr Giuseppe Crippa (Guglielmo da Saliceto Hospital, Piacenza, Italy) told heartwire.
“GRANA” (GRAINY) TYPE ITALIAN CHEESE
Crippa reported his findings in a poster here at the recent European Meeting on Hypertension 2012: “Grana Padano is a semihard fat cheese that has a high concentration of two particular tripeptides–produced during the fermentation process by proteinases from Lactobacillus helveticus–which have an ACE-inhibitor effect that has been demonstrated both in humans and in animals,” he said.
He suggests that people with slightly elevated blood pressure could substitute this cheese in preference to other cheeses or other products in their diet for an antihypertensive effect. But in people already taking ACE inhibitors or ARBs, the cheese likely wouldn’t have much additional BP-lowering effect, he noted.
Nine- to 12-Month-Old Cheese Has Greatest ACE-Inhibitor Activity
Crippa explained that the name Grana Padano comes from the noun grana (grain), which refers to the distinctly grainy texture of this cheese, and the adjective Padano, which refers to the valley Pianura Padana where it is produced. It was created almost 1000 years ago by Cistercian monks, who used ripened cheese as a way of preserving surplus milk.
Grana Padano can last a long time without spoiling, sometimes aging up to three years, but Crippa noted that the tripeptide concentration of the cheese is at its highest when the cheese is moderately ripe (nine to 12 months old).
In their open-label, controlled study, he and his colleagues took 29 antihypertensive patients not using ACE inhibitors or ARBs and integrated 30 g of Grana Padano cheese into their diet for two months, without materially altering their overall nutrient intake. There were 16 other patients acting as controls. They monitored BP before and after the intervention using office BP, automated office BP, and ambulatory (24-hour) blood pressure (ABP).
There were no changes in body-mass index, total and HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, blood glucose, serum sodium and potassium levels, or urinary sodium excretion after the integration of the cheese into the diet, Crippa pointed out.
“At the end of the study, patients who had the cheese had a mean difference of -8 mm Hg for systolic BP (p=0.012) and -7 mm Hg for diastolic [p=0.021], compared with controls, irrespective of the type of BP measurement used,” he observed.
Effects of Grana Padano Cheese on Different Indices of BP
|Group||Office BP (mm Hg)||Automated office BP, (mm Hg)||Daytime ABP, (mm Hg)||Nighttime ABP, (mm Hg)|
|BP before, mm Hg||145/90||136/96||135/86||119/72|
|BP end, mm Hg||135/82||124/78||127/74||114/66|
|BP before, mm Hg||147/91||136/87||137/85||117/74|
|BP end, mm Hg||146/90||135/86||136/84||116/75|
As well as this BP-lowering effect being comparable to that seen in pharmacological intervention studies, it exceeds that observed in trials evaluating the effects of dietary sodium restriction, he noted.
And although people may think that cheese is high in fat and sodium content, this particular cheese has a much lower salt content than many commonly eaten foods, he noted. A 30-g serving of Grana Padano contains 128 to 189 mg of sodium and 6 g of fat (4 g saturated, 2 g unsaturated).
Crippa says there are other foods that contain the specific tripeptides that have this antihypertensive effect, including yogurtlike products from Sweden and Holland–although he says the concentration of the tripeptides is much lower in these than in the Grana Padano.
Reviewing the study for heartwire, European Society of Cardiology spokesperson Dr Adrian Brady (University of Glasgow, Scotland) said: “His study is very appealing, although strictly speaking the study should have been a crossover double-blind trial. It would be very interesting to know if a second exposure to this mountain cheese would lower BP again.”
He adds that alpine cheeses–notably from around Gstaad in Switzerland, the Aosta valley in Italy, and from Slovakia–are all very high in omega-3 alpha-linoleic acid, “which may protect against CV disease.”
Dr. Pinna says:
You will notice that the writer of the article for Medscape was not Italian. But the two doctors who did the study were definitely Italian.
Do they have friends who make this particular cheese? Who cares? This cheese is very tasty. If it doesn’t lower your blood pressure it will make you sleep better.
The next thing out of Italy will be a pasta that makes you lose weight. It will be made with a fungus from a Sicilian cave and sell for double the cost of ordinary pasta.
Together, cheese for your pressure and pasta for your weight, and you will be able to run a marathon when you are ninety-five. That is, if you’re not having a glass of wine…