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Swiss Cheeses Are an Important Dietary Source of Vitamin K2

Vitamin K2 plays a key role in blood clotting as well as having a positive influence on bone and cardiovascular health. Cheese is an important dietary source of this microbially produced vitamin.

Vitamin K was discovered in connection with its key role in blood clotting. Today, its contribution to other spheres such as bone and cardiovascular health or anti-inflammatory response is recognised and increasingly researched.
The microbial origin of vitamin K2 highlights fermented foods as a source of nutrients, including cheese – a food known from the literature for relevant amounts of this vitamin. 

High amounts in Raclette, Vacherin Fribourgeois and Emmentaler

To date, an overview of the vitamin K2 content of different varieties of Swiss cheese that would allow us to rank their contribution to the diet of the Swiss population has been lacking.
A total of 121 samples were collected, which were then condensed into ten groups.
The fat and water content as well as the amounts of the different types of vitamin K2 – the so-called menaquinones (MK-4 to MK-10) – were determined for all the samples. Where possible, details of the cheese cultures used were also collected. The analyses were conducted at the stage of maturity at which the given cheese variety was typically consumed.
The highest average vitamin K2 content was found in Raclette (465 µg/kg), Vacherin Fribourgeois (456 µg/kg) and Emmentaler (280 µg/kg). Gruyère and alpine cheese supplied the lowest levels.

Average content of the various menaquinones (MK-n) in Swiss cheese varieties.

Factors influencing vitamin K2 formation in cheese

The main factors influencing vitamin K2 formation are the bacterial strains used and the scalding temperature, which has a direct influence on the bacterial species. Mesophilic lactic acid bacteria such as Lactococcus and Leuconostoc species are known for their menaquinone formation potential. Thermophilic bacterial strains as well as high scalding temperatures lead to reduced amounts of menaquinones. In Emmentaler, ‘eye’-forming propionic acid bacteria are responsible for the formation of MK-9(H4), which is typical of this variety.

Contribution to daily requirement

With the Swiss population’s average cheese consumption of 40g per day, men can consume 14–17% and women 13–14% of the recommended daily requirement for vitamin K2. Traditional cheese dishes such as raclette and fondue supply large quantities of vitamin K2 per meal, even in excess of the daily requirement.

Conclusions

  • Vitamin K plays a key role in blood clotting and in bone and cardiovascular health.
  • Cheese, and semi-hard cheese in particular, is an important source of this microbially synthesised vitamin.
  • The highest levels of vitamin K2 are found in Raclette, Vacherin Fribourgeois and Emmentaler.
  • The consumption of Swiss cheese can cover an average 13–17% of the daily vitamin K requirement. Traditional cheese dishes such as raclette and fondue actually provide amounts in excess of the daily requirement.

Scientific article

Swiss Cheeses Are an Important Dietary Source of Vitamin K2

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