We are privileged to have Sabrina within our Cheese-Making team. Sabrina starts her PhD at the start of October 2022 and will be sharing the findings that she believes will be of interest to you here in this blog.
We hope you enjoy. Now over to Sabrina...
“Life is great. Cheese makes it better.” - Avery Aames
We know from the discovery of fragments of clay cheese moulds that cheese has been made since 5,500BC, and potentially many years beforehand (1) . It was primarily a way of preserving the precious resource of milk, and forms a food product that contains all major food groups, apart from fibre, and is very calorie and nutrient dense; when food was scarce, cheese was one of the most valuable foods around. Now, cheese is more than just a sensible way of preserving nutrients for survival, it is a delicacy, an art, and part of the history of humanity.
In Britain, we are experiencing a surge in the production of artisan cheese – we now make more varieties of cheese than the French (2)! And the variety of cheese we produce is huge, every single one is different which suits the diverse range of tastes of the people. I personally have made cheese for 4 years now, and in this time I have come to admire the way cheese brings people together.
I joined Nettlebed Creamery in 2018 as a cheesemaker having finished my Biomedical Sciences BSc at Durham University, at the time just looking for work while I figured out my long-term plan. I quickly fell in love with the art of cheesemaking and particularly the huge role of science in creating
good cheese; throughout the cheesemaking and ageing process we monitor the pH and temperature of the cheese and the humidity and temperature of the environment to ensure the best conditions possible for paste formation, rind development, and others, but most importantly for microbe growth. These microbes include bacteria and fungi which we add to the cheesemaking progress in specific proportions to influence the characteristics of the cheese we produce. While cheese isn’t generally considered a fermented product, like kombucha and kefir is, the role of microbes in preserving the milk to make cheese, as well as in producing the rinds and flavours that we associate with various cheeses, does make it such (3) .
In 2020, I went to the University of Bath and completed an MSc in Molecular Microbiology during which I took a particular interest into the role of the gut microbiome, with my final project focused on the role of probiotics in health. Having returned to Nettlebed Creamery, I have been considering the role of cheese, as well as that of kefir (another fermented product – a yogurt-like drink that we also produce at Nettlebed Creamery) in the gut microbiome and how this might influence health.
Over the last 20 years, the gut microbiome has been found to have a profound role in the health of the individual, with links to metabolic conditions such as diabetes, gut diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, and even brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s and depression (4–8) . Probiotics, which
are bacteria thought to be beneficial for gut health and include the bacteria present in live yogurt, are increasingly being considered for the treatment of such disease, but so far research is limited (9) .
I have been wondering about the role of cheese microbes as probiotics, can we further establish a role of probiotics in health using cheese? Can the microbial profile of cheese at the end of its ageing process (the cheese microbiome) be elucidated and can it effect the human gut microbiome when eaten? Can we expand on limited evidence that kefir provides health benefits, as it has long been thought to? Can we find new probiotics in raw milk that might positively influence the flavour of cheese as well as improve health?
At the start of this month, I will begin to undertake a PhD during which I hope to answer some of these questions, and potentially others. I will be doing this whilst continuing to work part-time as a cheesemaker, and will take all of you readers on this journey during monthly blog posts where I hope to expand on various topics I have mentioned here and what current and previous research
has been discovering, as well as discussing what I myself have been looking into during my studies. I hope you find it interesting and informative; I am very excited to start!
See you in November!
1. Subbaraman N. Art of cheese-making is 7,500 years old. Nature. 2012 Dec 12;
2. Sorry France, but Britain is better at food than you are [Internet]. [cited 2022 Sep 19]. Available from: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2022/05/10/sorry-france-britain-better-food/
3. Microbes in cheese: the bacteria bringing out the best flavours | BBC Science Focus Magazine [Internet]. [cited 2022 Sep 19]. Available from: https://www.sciencefocus.com/nature/the-microbes-that-maketh-the-cheese/
4. Gomaa EZ. Human gut microbiota/microbiome in health and diseases: a review. Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek [Internet]. 2020 Dec 1 [cited 2022 Sep 19];113(12):2019–40. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33136284/
5. Lau WL, Tran T, Rhee CM, Kalantar-Zadeh K, Vaziri ND. Diabetes and the Gut Microbiome. Semin Nephrol [Internet]. 2021 Mar 1 [cited 2022 Sep 19];41(2):104–13. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34140089/
6. Glassner KL, Abraham BP, Quigley EMM. The microbiome and inflammatory bowel disease. J Allergy Clin Immunol [Internet]. 2020 Jan 1 [cited 2021 Mar 26];145(1):16–27. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaci.2019.11.003
7. Sochocka M, Donskow-Łysoniewska K, Diniz BS, Kurpas D, Brzozowska E, Leszek J. The Gut Microbiome Alterations and Inflammation-Driven Pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s Disease-a Critical Review. Mol Neurobiol [Internet]. 2019 Mar 1 [cited 2022 Sep 19];56(3):1841–51. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29936690/
8. Peirce JM, Alviña K. The role of inflammation and the gut microbiome in depression and anxiety. J Neurosci Res [Internet]. 2019 Oct 1 [cited 2022 Sep 19];97(10):1223–41. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31144383/
9. Kim SK, Guevarra RB, Kim YT, Kwon J, Kim H, Cho JH, et al. Role of Probiotics in Human Gut Microbiome-Associated Diseases. J Microbiol Biotechnol [Internet]. 2019 Sep 28 [cited 2022 Sep 19];29(9):1335–40. Available from: https://www.jmb.or.kr/journal/view.html?doi=10.4014/jmb.1906.06064