A study conducted by the University Hospital of Besançon and the French National Institute for Agricultural Research, INRA, has demonstrated for the first time a link between the consumption of cheese at a young age and a lower probability of developing food or dermatological allergies later in life. This is regardless of other types of food consumed, including fruits or vegetables, bread, cereals, meats, yogurt, etc. This study also demonstrated a link between this and living conditions in a farm environment (presence and diversity of farm animals). The results were published in the journal Allergy.

The considerable increase in allergic diseases and asthma in developed countries over the past 40 years is due in part to an improvement in hygiene standards and, consequently, less contact with infectious diseases and microbes at a young age.

Since 2002, the PASTURE study, coordinated in France by Professor Dalphin, department head of the respiratory disease unit at the University Hospital of Besançon, has been observing a group of children living in rural environments in five European countries: Germany, Switzerland, Austria, France and Finland). This work has already confirmed, through nearly 60 scientific publications, that there is less risk in agricultural (or farming) environments of developing allergies, as well as the protective role of early diversity in diets.

Part IV of the PASTURE study, conducted in collaboration with INRA, focuses specifically on the consumption of cheese, a food group that, by its nature, is rich in microbial diversity.

Data on environmental factors, allergic diseases, and food behaviors were collected through questionnaires of the 931 children included in the study group from birth up to age six. Consuming cheese at 18 months was quantified in terms of frequency and diversity (six types of cheese were consumed: hard-pressed cheese, semi-pressed, soft, blue, fresh, and cheese from the farm).

In the study, any cheese consumption from the age of 12 to 18 months was associated with a significant reduction in risk of atypical dermatitis (eczema) and food allergies at age six, but also with a reduced risk of allergic rhinitis, asthma, and sensitivity to both food and airborne allergens.

The lower levels of eczema and food allergies is also found equally in children having had a greater diversity and frequency of cheese consumption. Complementary study will help to more precisely determine if the lower risk of allergies is linked to the diversity or the frequency of cheese consumption. At the same time, analyses of the intestinal microbiota of cheese consumers could help in understanding the mechanisms involved. The goal is to put in place long-term preventive strategies for reducing the risk of developing asthma and allergic diseases.