Jarlsberg Cheese Offers Significant Bone & Heart-Health Benefits Thanks To Vitamin K2, Says Study
Cheese lovers, unite! If you’ve been hoping for a reason to feed (pun intended) your cheese obsession, a new study just revealed that your favorite dairy product may offer some significant benefits to your bone health. Jarlsberg Cheese Offers Significant Bone & Heart-Health Benefits Thanks To Vitamin K2, Says Study
Now, this isn’t every type of cheese but Jarlsberg in particular, especially due to the presence of vitamin K2. Additionally, this Scandinavian cheese may also benefit your cardiometabolic health. Here’s what that means for you.
What The Study Found
In new research published in BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health, the Norwegian researchers discovered that daily consumption of Jarlsberg cheese (a Norwegian cheese variety known to contain vitamin K2 in its menaquinone-7, MK-7, form) has the capacity to positively support key bone biomarkers beneficial for bone density in the long run.
During the study, which was set up in a crossover design, 66 healthy female participants were included, with one group consuming around 2 ounces (57 grams) of Jarlsberg cheese daily for six weeks, and the others consuming Camembert cheese.
For context, one serving of cheese is about 1.5 ounces, so this amount of Jarlsberg consumption was normal (not crazy high).
After the first six weeks, the participants switched and tested the other cheese. This is a relevant comparator since Camembert is not a good source of vitamin K2.
After a six-week period, researchers found that women consuming Jarlsberg cheese daily experienced a significant increase in vitamin K2 and key bone biomarkers related to bone building (i.e., mineralization and growth), while total and LDL cholesterol, as well as glycated hemoglobin (aka HbA1c) decreased.
Meanwhile, these same markers remained unchanged or slightly decreased (i.e., bone biomarkers) in those who consumed Camembert cheese.
TL;DR: Jarlsberg cheese is a (delicious) functional food that, when regularly consumed, might have a positive impact on bone density and longevity, as well as benefit heart health. And it’s all thanks to vitamin K2.
Other Ways To Get Vitamin K2
If you’re not a big Jarlsberg cheese person or dairy generally doesn’t sit well with you (or even if you love dairy foods), there are also other ways to get your daily vitamin K2 and support bone and cardiometabolic health. Take, for instance, mbg’s ultimate multivitamin+.
The Database: Search For The Vitamin K2 Contents of Foods
Here’s the icing on the cake. We scoured the literature for data on the K2 contents of foods and found many publications that haven’t been included in databases elsewhere.
There are almost 200 foods included. You can search by keyword, or you can submit a blank search to browse through everything.
You can pick a food category and search it by keyword or submit a blank search to browse through just the foods in that category.
Every food entry gives you the opportunity to click for more details, including a breakdown of its different vitamin K forms and the reference from which the data comes. Have fun searching!
9 Signs You May Have Vitamin K2 Deficiency
You may have a vitamin K2 deficiency. Sadly, few people have even heard about this vitamin. In this article, I share the nine signs of vitamin K2 deficiency and what you can do now to reverse a vitamin K2 deficiency.
What Is Vitamin K1?
Most people have heard of vitamin K. This is vitamin K1. Vitamin K1 is important for blood clotting. Vitamin K1 comes primarily from green leafy vegetables.
How Much Vitamin K1 Do You Need?
Many experts feel that the current recommended dose of vitamin K1 is too low to prevent disease. The current government recommendations are for just 90 mcg of vitamin K per day. To put this in perspective, you can easily get 10 times the amount of vitamin K the government recommends from just one cup of cooked kale or spinach.
What Is Vitamin K2?
Vitamin K2 is different than K1. The main role of vitamin K2 is to put calcium where it belongs in the body, like your teeth and bones, and keep it out of your brain, heart, and other places where it can cause premature aging and an early death.
Do You Need To Worry About Getting Enough Vitamin K2?
Historically, it was felt that you did not need to worry about a vitamin K2 deficiency. The reasoning was that your body would make all the vitamin K2 it needed from vitamin K1.
New research suggests this may not be the case. Most people eating a Western diet are deficient not only in vitamin K1 but K2 as well.
Unfortunately, there not a good test to see if your have a vitamin K2 deficiency. There are also no government recommendations on how much vitamin K2 you need. To help assess for a possible vitamin K2 deficiency, below are nine signs that you may have a vitamin K2 deficiency.
9 Signs You May Have Vitamin K2 Deficiency
1. You Bruise Or Bleed Easily.
Vitamin K was named “K” after the German word “Koagulation” or clotting. If you are deficient in vitamin K1, you will bruise or bleed easily.
As much of the vitamin K2 in your body comes from the body’s conversion of vitamin K1 to K2, if you have a vitamin K1 deficiency you will also have a vitamin K2 deficiency. To ensure enough vitamin K2 for your body, make sure you eat a large serving of green leafy vegetables every day. Kale, spinach, or broccoli are all excellent choices.
2. You Have Osteoporosis Or Broken Bones.
Many studies have linked low K vitamins to a higher risk of low bone mass, osteoporosis, or fractures. Vitamin K2 is especially important for normal osteocalcin function. Osteocalcin is a protein critical for healthy bones.
As vitamin K2 is critical for good bone health, this could explain why the Japanese and Chinese have much lower rates of osteoporosis or fractures even though few eat calcium-rich dairy. Indeed, the Japanese and Chinese both eat diets very high in green leafy vegetables and fermented soy, such as natto, which has the highest known levels of vitamin K2 of any food.
3. Your Mouth Is Full Of Cavities.
Vitamin K2, through its effects on osteocalcin, not only strengthens your bones but your teeth as well. In our research of Chinese centenarians, one study of rural Chinese centenarians showed that centenarians eating a diet high in the K vitamins, without any processed carbohydrates, were able to keep all of their teeth at age 100 despite never brushing.
4. You Have Heart Disease.
Vitamin K2 may be one of the most overlooked strategies to decrease your risk of heart disease. Based on the Rotterdam Study of 4,807 people, those with the highest dietary intake of vitamin K2 had a 57% lower risk of heart disease.
5. You Have Diabetes Or Pre-Diabetes.
Through complex mechanisms, vitamin K plays an important role in regulating glucose. Indeed, getting enough of the K vitamins can cut your diabetes risk by 51%.
6. You Have An Autoimmune Disease.
The K vitamins may also play a role in autoimmune diseases. One study showed that vitamin K2 may not only prevent osteoporosis in people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, but that it may also help to put rheumatoid arthritis into remission.
7. You Are Becoming Forgetful.
A low vitamin K diet is linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. This may be due to calcium plaque build up in the brain from a vitamin K2 deficiency.
8. You Have Taken A Lot Of Antibiotics.
Antibiotics not only kill the bad bacteria but your healthy gut bacteria as well. If you have recently been on antibiotics, probiotics and fermented foods may help you to restore the beneficial vitamin K producing gut bacteria.
9. You Take Coumadin (Warfarin)
While Coumadin (warfarin) is very effective at preventing blood clots, it can also cause a vitamin K2 deficiency. This medicine works by blocking vitamin K.
If your doctor has prescribed this medication, it is still important to eat green leafy vegetables for optimal health. In order to do so, you will have to work very closely with your healthcare provider. If you eat the exact same amount of vitamin K in your diet each day, then your health care provider can dose your Coumadin (warfarin) appropriately.
How Do You Get Enough Vitamin K2?
The very best way to prevent a vitamin K2 deficiency, is to eat a large serving of green leafy vegetables every day. Green leafy vegetables are sky high in vitamin K1. Your body will then convert vitamin K1 to vitamin K2.
Fermented foods, like fermented soybeans, sauerkraut, and some cheeses, such as brie or gouda, can all be good sources of vitamin K2. Even though yogurt and kefir are also fermented foods, the grocery store variety contains the wrong bacteria for vitamin K2.
Other good sources of vitamin K2 include liver and grass fed chicken eggs. Of all these sources, nothing even comes close to the amount of vitamin K2 found in natto or fermented soybeans.
Indeed, one serving of natto has enough vitamin K2 for an entire week. Not only is natto loaded with vitamin K2, but this fermented food may also help your gut flora.
Natto is a delicacy in Japan. Unfortunately, most Westerners cannot tolerate the taste.
While natto certainly isn’t my favorite food, I have learned to tolerate it. I have eaten a spoonful of fresh natto everyday for the last few years. You can find fresh natto at your local Asian food store.
Can You Get Too Much Vitamin K?
Fortunately, I could find no reported cases of vitamin K toxicity from eating too many green leafy vegetables. Unlike other fat soluble vitamins, very little vitamin K is stored. Thus, vitamin K toxicity from food isn’t known to develop. On the other hand, it is always possible to overdose on vitamin K from supplements.
Ongoing Vitamin K2 Studies
I have recently learned of a study being done in the Netherlands to test the effect of vitamin K2 in reversing heart disease. This study will be the first high quality study to be done on this important vitamin.
Hopefully, vitamin K2 will be shown to reverse coronary calcification or plaque build up in the arteries of the heart. Any reversal of heart disease will be measured very accurately by CT scans.
This study is expected to be completed by the end of 2018. Until that time, I will continue to “enjoy” my spoonful of fresh natto each morning.
The key message of this article is that vitamin K1 and vitamin K2 deficiency is common in the Western world. This is a very preventable condition.
To prevent or reverse a vitamin K2 deficiency, make sure you have a heaping serving of green leafy vegetables every day. Also, some fermented foods and grass fed dairy may also help you to get enough vitamin K2 in your diet.
Whatever you can do to keep your bones and heart healthy and strong will benefit your body in the long run, and now, that also includes eating cheese. So the next time you’re pulling together a cheese board, it may be worth adding Jarlsberg to the mix, thanks to that bone- and heart-loving vitamin K2.
Jarlsberg: a Tasty and Nutritious Norwegian Cheese
Jarlsberg is a famous semi-hard cheese made with cow’s milk from Norway.
It is one of the most popular cheeses, and it resembles Swiss cheese in appearance, with characteristic large holes throughout and a smooth, butter-like pale yellow color.
This article provides a guide to Jarlsberg and its characteristics, nutritional values, and ways to use it.
What Is Jarlsberg?
Jarlsberg is a versatile cheese that can be used in various ways, and it has a mild flavor reminiscent of, but slightly different to, Swiss cheese.
The flavor is slightly sweet and buttery, and even a little nutty, and the cheese has a smooth and soft mouthfeel. For those who have tried it, it tastes similar (ish) to Gruyere cheese.
According to ‘The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Cheeses of the World,’ the origins of Jarlsberg may go back to the mid 19th century in a region of Norway called Jarlsberg. At this time, a local cheesemaker called Anders Larsen Bakke started producing a Swiss-style cheese that gained popularity and was first referenced in 1855 (1).
However, the cheese failed to make a lasting impact and disappeared before resurfacing in the mid 20th century.
In 1956, Professor Ystgaard of the Agricultural University of Norway started a cheesemaking project that lasted for around ten years and resulted in the modern version of Jarlsberg that the world knows today (2).
The name ‘Jarlsberg’ was registered with the Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture—alongside the official definition of the cheese—in 1957 (2).
Interestingly, the official production process of Jarlsberg is a protected secret, and only a handful of people are thought to know how to make the cheese.
People may perhaps exaggerate the extent of this secretiveness. Still, The Guardian notes that the manufacturing process is “known only to a handful of Norwegians, who, like the royal family, are never allowed to travel together” (3).
That said, the production of Jarlsberg is thought to share similarities with that of Swiss cheese, and the cheese is aged for at least three months. It is also possible to find older varieties of Jarlsberg with an aging process of 12 months or more.
It is also known that the fermentation process of Jarlsberg uses a species of propionibacteria. The metabolism of this bacteria is responsible for the large holes in Jarlsberg that contribute to the cheese’s iconic look (2, 4).
In the present time, Jarlsberg enjoys popularity around the world.
Key Point: Jarlsberg is a popular Norwegian cheese that was introduced, in its current form, in the 1950’s.
Types of Jarlsberg
There Are Four Main Official Varieties Of Jarlsberg, And These Include (5, 6):
Jarlsberg Special Reserve
The original variety of this cheese is the same version that most people around the world know as ‘Jarlsberg.’
It Has A Fat Content Of 27% And Contains The Following Ingredients (7):
Pasteurized Cow’s Milk
The only difference between the ‘original’ and ‘lite’ varieties of Jarlsberg is the lower fat content.
Jarlsberg Lite Has A Fat Content Of 16% And Contains The Following Ingredients (8):
Pasteurized Cow’s Milk
The ‘Reserve’ (premium) variety of Jarlsberg has a longer aging time and is guaranteed to be a minimum of 12 months old.
Jarlsberg Reserve Has A Stronger And More Tangy Flavor Than The Original Variety, But It Contains The Same Ingredients (9):
Pasteurized Cow’s Milk
There is also a hickory-smoked version of Jarlsberg that offers the same mild and tasty cheese with an added smoky flavor.
Key Point: It is possible to find four official varieties of Jarlsberg: Original, Lite, Reserve, and Smoked.
Here are the basic nutritional values for the three main varieties of Jarlsberg per 100 grams. The data source is the official Jarlsberg website (5).
Nutritional Values For Jarlsberg Cheese (Per 100 Grams)
As shown in the above nutritional values, Jarlsberg is an excellent source of calcium.
However, like other cheese varieties, Jarlsberg will also provide a range of essential nutrients in high amounts, such as the various B vitamins.
The official Jarlsberg website does not publish full nutritional values for the different varieties of Jarlsberg. However, the Norwegian food composition tables provide more details on the vitamin and mineral content of each variety.
Gouda cheese is another tasty cheese that is relatively similar on a nutritional basis to Jarlsberg.
As the nutritional values show, Jarlsberg is an excellent source of protein, and it provides a good amount of the mineral calcium.
However, it is also one of the richest dietary sources of vitamin K2.
Jarlsberg Contains Significant Amounts of Vitamin K2
Vitamin K2, otherwise known as menaquinone, is a form of vitamin K that we can find in tissues and certain foods that undergo bacterial fermentation processes (10).
As a result, animal foods and some types of fermented food contain high amounts of the nutrient. Cheese is one of the best sources (11, 12).
Notably, tests on the vitamin K2 content of various types of cheese have demonstrated that Jarlsberg contains the highest amount of the nutrient among all cheese varieties (10, 13).
The researchers noted that this high vitamin K2 content was likely due to the propionibacteria used to produce the cheese (13).
Vitamin K2 is a relatively under-researched nutrient that is still the subject of numerous new studies. However, based on the existing research, it is thought to play a protective role in bone and cardiovascular health (14, 15, 16).
Key Point: Jarlsberg provides a broad range of nutrients, and it is one of the best dietary sources of vitamin K2.
How To Use Jarlsberg
Since Jarlsberg is a mild but tasty cheese, it can work well in a wide range of recipes without overpowering other ingredients.
Here are some of the most common ways to use Jarlsberg.
As A Snack
Jarlsberg is mild enough to enjoy by itself as a snack at any time of the day.
In fact, for those who prefer ready-made portion sizes, ‘Jarlsberg Cheese Snacks’ are a thing. This dairy product offers bars of Jarlsberg in portable single-serving sizes.
Jarlsberg is often used for making cheese-based dips and fondues, and there are many different recipes available online to try out.
For a simple but tasty example, this recipe combines Jarlsberg with butter, sweet onions, mayonnaise, and paprika for a mild and sweet dip.
With its mild, slightly sweet, and nutty flavor, Jarlsberg is a perfect choice for making quiche and similar dishes.