A natural preservative found in cheese may help fight tumor growth, says new study

By Macaela Mackenzie
January 20, 2016

We're allll for any excuse to eat more cheese in the name of health, which is why we're particularly excited about the possible implications of a new study published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.

Researchers from the University of Michigan found that nisin, a preservative that naturally grows in dairy products, has some serious power when it comes to killing cancer cells and some types of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. (Check out the pros and cons of dairy.)

The study specifically looked at how nisin affected tumor cells in rats. The rats were given a "nisin milkshake," which had a far more concentrated dose than you'd naturally get from food, over the course of nine weeks. The results are pretty crazy: nisin appeared to kill 70 to 80 percent of tumor cells in rats receiving the milkshake and extended their overall survival time.

The authors looked at the potential effects of nisin on 30 different types of cancer as well as infections of the skin and abdomen. "To date, nobody has found bacteria from humans or living animals that is resistant to nisin," Yvonne Kapila, M.D., professor at the University of Michigan and lead author of the study, said in a press release.

According to the researchers, the super-fighter works against lethal cells in two ways: First, by binding to the bacteria before it can morph into a superbug that's hard to treat. And second, by attacking colonies of bacteria that usually create a sort of antibiotic-resistant fortress.

But although the results may be super promising, the study is too small (and too limited to rodents) to say for sure whether we'll see the same effects in humans. The next step is to test these cancer and bacteria-fighting properties in a clinical setting.

Until then, scarfing down an entire cheese plate probably isn't going to do you much good. These findings will likely lead to the development of super drugs before they lead to the development of super cheese. But we can still dream-while enjoying these 12 lightened-up mac 'n' cheese recipes.

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