PARMIGIANO REGGIANO CHEESE, RECENT DISCOVERIES: HEALTHY FOOD FOR CHILDREN AND TEEN-AGERS

Rich in bioavailable calcium, completely lactose-free, with oligosaccharides having a prebiotic effect

Reggio Emilia, Italy, March 8, 2007 - Medical doctors, biochemists and microbiologists have opened new frontiers in Parmigiano Reggiano consumption. This cheese has always been known as suitable for people of all ages, specifically recommended for elderly and sport people, for women and even for astronauts. Today, new properties of this cheese have been proven, which are particularly in tune with a consumer group that can be considered as one of the least focused on healthy eating: children and teenagers.

This indication was given at the meeting publishing new evidence of Parmigiano Reggiano nutritional value, which was held in Reggio Emilia on March 8, 2007. The meeting was opened by Professor Sergio Bernasconi, MD of the University of Parma, who stated that this cheese is an extraordinary source of highly bioavailable (therefore assimilable) calcium, which is recommended for children and teenagers ("who eat too much and unhealthy food", said the physician) whose diet is unbalanced, as proven by European and US statistics: "The peak calcium accumulation in the human body development  - said Bernasconi - occurs between 17 and 19 years of age, and it is the best prevention of conditions (such as osteoporosis) that have their onset in adult age but can be fought starting from pediatric age": later they cannot be prevented, but simply controlled and treated.

Therefore, this Protected Designation of Origin cheese, which is probably the oldest in the world, has proven to be particularly suitable for young consumers.

Moreover, the studies carried out by Professor Giovanni Valentino Coppa of the Università Politecnica delle Marche (a University focusing on applied sciences) and by Professor Lorenzo Morelli of the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, showed new, extraordinarily interesting discoveries.

First of all, evidence was given that this cheese can be classified as "lactose free", that is, without lactose, to which a growing number of people is intolerant, also severely intolerant.

Even though the legislation is currently changing, the tests made by Professor Coppa on several samples of Parmigiano Reggiano - which was analyzed at different maturation ages, namely from 1 to 36 months - showed that its lactose content is from one hundred to one thousand times lower than the maximum level provided for by the EU in order for artificial milk to be defined as "lactose free".

The analysis of the carbohydrates contained in Parmigiano Reggiano has shown the presence of  oligosaccharides that are similar to those - which human milk is rich of - that promote the growth, in babies' intestine, of friendly Bifidobacteria species, since they can oppose the growth of pathogens; this is the main reason why breast-fed babies are healthier than bottle-fed ones.

Finally, the "functional" value of Parmigiano Reggiano was dealt with: not only can this cheese cover requirements, but it can also provide many compounds having different functions - antihypertensive, immunomodulatory, antimicrobial, antithrombotic, calcium-absorption enhancement- and resulting from the long maturation; in short, they have positive and important effects on the wellbeing and health of our body.

"Important and in many ways amazing updates - said Marco Nocetti, the Head of the Consortium Technical Service - which are very interesting and very satisfying to us, especially because the detected benefits are the result of totally natural and additive-free production processes, rather than of "harsh" industrial technologies.

The data presented will be further investigated from a chemical and clinical point of view within the Consortium's future research activities.