By Carl Hanson

Get ready to cheer again, cheese lovers! We only just learned that full-fat cheese may be just as healthy as low-fat cheese. And now, we discover there's a compound in aged cheese that may protect the heart and have anti-aging properties.

Southern Pimento Cheese | Photo by Holiday Baker

Spermidine is the compound in question. A naturally occurring "longevity agent," spermidine plays a vital role in cellular health; it seems to work by destroying damaged and dysfunctional cells.

As part of a larger study, researchers surveyed the diets of 800 Italians. They discovered that participants who ate more foods containing spermidine (also found in mushrooms and whole grains) had a 40-percent lower risk of heart failure -- along with lower blood pressure and an overall reduced risk of heart disease. However, the study's authors cautioned that more studies were needed before real conclusions could be drawn.

In the meantime, CHEESE!

The Cheese Fountain of Youth?

The main focus of the study was on mice, with encouraging results. Researchers found that spermidine extended the lifespans of mice and also led to better heart function. The results of the study were published in the journal Natural Medicine.

What Are Aged Cheeses?

Spermidine is found, specifically, in "aged cheese," which means cheese that was cured in a controlled environment for more than 6 months. Aged cheeses will typically have a hard texture and a sharp taste with concentrated flavors. Cheddar, Gouda, Gruyere, Manchego, Parmesan, and Blue Cheese -- these are aged cheeses. Softer cheeses like cottage, ricotta, and mild-flavored mozzarella are fresh cheeses. The trade-off is that harder cheeses often have more fat and saturated fat, which also means more calories. For example, Cheddar has about 9.5 grams of total fat with 6 grams saturated, compared to Mozzarella with 6 total fat grams, of which 4 are saturated. As with all things, the best advice is to remember moderation. The standard recommended serving size for hard cheese is just 1.5 ounces -- about the size of 6 dice.

Want recipes for foods featuring spermidine? Check out our collections of Cheese Recipes, Mushroom Recipes, and Whole Grain Recipes.

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