Could the 'world's smelliest cheese' be good for your gut health?

The cheese, dubbed The Minger, smells 'meaty, unctuous, cabbagey', according to Rory Stone of Highland Fine Cheeses. (Michael Lee Fine Cheeses)
The cheese, dubbed The Minger, smells 'meaty, unctuous, cabbagey', according to Rory Stone of Highland Fine Cheeses. (Michael Lee Fine Cheeses)

Britain is a nation of cheese-lovers, with more than a third (35%) eating cheese two to three times a week on average. But a new cheese with a fearsome reputation for its smell has hit the shelves in Asda, and might prove too funky for even the most ardent cheese fan.

The cheese, produced by family firm Highland Fine Cheeses, is a soft, washed rind cheese. Rory Stone, who runs the firm, described it as having a “meaty, unctuous, cabbagey” aroma and has aptly named the cheese 'The Minger'.

“There’s nothing subtle here and no nice way to describe the smell - it’s simply bad,” he said. “But it’s all aroma; the flavour is a very different experience. At best, it’s moreish, melts on the tongue with a full, rounded umami taste.”

Rory Stone, who runs Highland Fine Cheeses. (Asda)
Rory Stone, who runs Highland Fine Cheeses. (Asda)

Despite its pungent profile, could The Minger have a positive impact on your gut health? Cheeses are fermented dairy product, and in recent years, there has been plenty of talk about fermented foods promoting good gut health.

Is cheese good for gut health?

Dr James East, gastroenterologist at Mayo Clinic Healthcare in London, tells Yahoo UK that while he can’t comment on The Minger specifically, but cheese, in general, could have some benefits for gut health because some of them contain probiotic bacteria.

“There is some research suggesting that probiotics may help maintain a favourable bacterial balance in the intestinal tract. This can help with digestion and may help with symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel diseases, but more research is needed,” he cautions.

“If cheese doesn’t trigger unfavourable symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhoea or other signs of food intolerance, it can be part of a healthy diet. Cheese contains calcium, protein and vitamins, all important to health.

“Some cheeses can be high in fat and salt, so consider eating cheese in moderation and/or choosing low-fat cheeses. UK dietary guidelines recommend including cheese as part of a healthy diet, and also lists groups who should avoid certain cheeses.”

Käseplatte mit rustikalem Roggenbrot, irischem Cheddar, Franz. Weichkäse, Chaumes, Heublumenrebell, Maasdamer, Parmigiano Reggiano, Schnittkäse, franz. Weichkäse aus den Pyréneés, Scamorza - ital. geräucherter Pasta-Filata Käse, Harzinger, Walnußkäse, Feta und Blauschimmelkäse
Not all cheeses contain probiotics that could promote good gut health, but the ones that do can be part of a healthy diet when eaten in moderation. (Getty Images)

The guidelines state that pregnant women should avoid eating cheeses containing unpasteurised milk, like Parmesan or Comté, due to the risk of foodborne illness.

What are probiotics?

According to the NHS, probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are thought to help restore the natural balance of bacteria in the gut. This balance can be disrupted by an illness or treatment.

Doctors at Harvard Medical School say that probiotics can typically be found in cheeses that “have been aged but not heated afterwards”, and can be both soft and hard cheeses.

“Your gut contains some 100 trillion bacteria, but in some cases, the balance between the helpful and harmful bacteria falls out of balance,” the Harvard Medical School website says. “When this occurs, experts believe it may be linked to a host of conditions, such as allergies, mood disorders, and arthritis.

“Eating foods that contain probiotics, such as cheese, can help restore this natural balance. The only caution when it comes to cheese is to not overdo it. Cheese tends to be high in calories, saturated fat, and sodium.”

Which cheeses contain probiotics?

Cheeses that have gone through the ageing process but have not been heated - which can kill off probiotic bacteria - include:

  • Swiss

  • Provolone

  • Aged cheddar

  • Gouda

  • Edam

  • Gruyere

  • Parmesan

  • Cottage cheese (as long as it says “live cultures” on the label)

  • Blue cheeses, like Stilton

Watch: Having a Healthy Gut May Be the Key to Healthy Aging, a Gastroenterologist Says

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