An article by Agroscope

Traditional Foods as Alternatives to Synthetic Compounds

A strong immune system is important for health. Foods that are rich in propionic acid, such as Emmental cheese, have a supportive effect, and are a possible alternative to compounds with synthetically produced propionic acid.

One of the most important human organs, the gut plays a major role in the functioning of the immune system, which is affected by the composition of its microbial community. A diet rich in fibre and the consumption of foods with short-chain fatty acids can help strengthen the immune system.

New findings from medical research

Human beings live in balance with approx. 100 trillions (1012) microorganisms, the so-called microbiota. Scientific studies suggest that increasing levels of short-chain fatty acids such as acetic, propionic or butyric acid is a highly promising prophylactic dietary approach to making this balance (immune homeostasis) more resilient. Among other things, these short-chain fatty acids can reduce the risk of over-reaction or erroneous response of the immune system: if too few are present in the gut, the number of regulatory T-lymphocytes may also be too low. In normal circumstances, and in a healthy body, these cells prevent the occurrence of autoimmune diseases, i.e. diseases in which the immune system responds too strongly or wrongly, and attacks the body itself.  These diseases cause inflammatory responses in the body, which damage tissue. An adequate supply of short-chain fatty acids acts as an ‘inflammation brake’ and helps the body stay healthy respectively prevents it from harming itself.

Prevention through a balanced diet

Short-chain fatty acids are a natural by-product of dietary-fibre fermentation in the large intestine. The modern Western diet, however, often consists of low-fibre foods. This can lead to insufficient production of short-chain fatty acids. This is turn causes changes in both the microbiota and the gut cells, and the immune system is thrown out of balance. That’s why short-chain fatty acids are also increasingly administered therapeutically by the oral route as synthetic compounds. Fermented foods, which naturally contain short-chain fatty acids, represent an alternative to this approach. Full-fat large-holed cheeses such as Emmentaler Switzerland AOP are the only foods that naturally contain significant amounts of all three of the relevant short-chain fatty acids – acetic, propionic and butyric acid.

Potential effects of propionic acid and Propionibacterium freudenreichii on human health.


• Short-chain fatty acids, in particular propionic acid, have many positive effects on our immune system and on the regulation of sugar and fat metabolism.

• Short-chain fatty acids occur naturally when dietary fibre ferments in the large intestine.

• In a Western low-fibre diet, the consumption of natural propionic acid-fermented foods such as Emmentaler Switzerland AOP can contribute significantly to covering our daily propionic acid requirement.

• Propionic acid bacteria are capable of producing numerous biologically active compounds, such as e.g. the B-group vitamins (especially B12, folic acid and B2).

• Emmentaler Switzerland AOP is a raw-milk cheese. A diet containing raw-milk products favours a varied gut microbiome and offers protection from allergies, and hence promotes good health.

Scientific article

Traditional Foods as Alternatives to Synthetic Compounds

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