Eating a certain Italian variety might protect your heart, new research from the Journal of the American Society of Hypertension suggests.
Your cheese habit might have a surprising benefit: Eating a certain Italian variety might protect your heart, new research from the Journal of the American Society of Hypertension suggests.
In the study, people with high blood pressure who ate one ounce of Grana Padano—a semi-fat hard cheese similar to Parmigiano Reggiano—daily for two months improved their systolic blood pressure (the top number) by 7 to 8 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and their diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) by 5 to 7 mm Hg.
In comparison, those who ate an imitation, fake-dairy version of the cheese saw no improvement in their blood pressure readings.
Grana Padano contains two compounds called isoleucine-proline-proline (IPP) and valine-proline-proline (VPP), which can relax your blood vessels to lower your BP, says lead study author Giuseppe Crippa, M.D., director of the hypertension unit at Italy’s Guglielmo Saliceto Hospital.
They act similar to blood pressure meds called ACE-inhibitors—like Lotensin and Capoten—by stopping the body’s production of angiotensin II, an active hormone that constricts blood vessels to increase blood pressure.
The study’s finding is good news for your heart, but it’s not an excuse to go cheese-crazy, says Dr. Crippa.
All cheese contains fat and salt—and the calories can add up quickly—so make sure you don’t overdo it in your diet. Dr. Crippa recommends subbing in one ounce of Grana Padano—roughly the size of two dice—for a serving of dairy you’re already eating each day.
More research needs to be done to determine whether similar cheese, like Parmigiano, has the same benefit, he says.
You should be able to find it in the gourmet cheese section at your local grocery store.