In a finding likely to get cheese lovers talking, researchers in Nepal and Canada report that yak cheese contains higher levels of heart-healthy fats than cheese from dairy cattle, and may be healthier. Their study is scheduled for the March 12 issue of ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Producers make the cheese from the milk of yaks. Those long-haired humped animals are fixtures in Tibet and throughout the Himalayan region of south central Asia, Mongolia, and a few other countries. Yak cheese has only recently become available in the United States and is available in select gourmet food stores.
Studies by others have shown that certain types of dairy-derived fatty acids, particularly conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), may help fight heart disease, cancer and even diabetes. However, little was know about the fatty acid composition of yak cheese.
In the new study, Brian W. McBride and colleagues compared the fatty acid composition of yak cheese from Nepal with that of cheddar cheese obtained from Canada. They found that levels of CLAs were four times higher in the yak cheese than the dairy cow cheese. Levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are healthy for the heart, were also significantly higher in the yak cheese, the researchers say.