London - When you settle down to the cheese board this Christmas, try not to feel too guilty. It turns out some of the wedges we’ll be spreading over the crackers could actually be good for us.

Scientists have found the blue cheese Roquefort – known for its mould and blue-green veins – has anti-inflammatory properties which could help guard against cardiovascular disease.

The cheese, which is aged in caves in the South of France, could be among the reasons why the French enjoy good health despite a diet high in saturated fat – a situation dubbed The French Paradox.

A process that occurs as the cheese ripens is good for a healthy gut, helps slow arthritis, and can slow the signs of ageing, such as cellulite, according to Cambridge-based biotech company Lycotec.

Researchers found that the properties of the blue cheese worked best in acidic environments, such as the lining of the stomach.

The research, entitled ‘Could cheese be the missing piece in the French paradox puzzle?’, was led by Dr Ivan Petyaev and Dr Yuriy Bashmakov. It suggested regular consumption by the French of Roquefort, Camembert and other moulded fermented cheeses could be one of the reasons the nation has the lowest rate of cardiovascular mortality in the developed world. The experts said Roquefort’s properties could be extracted and used in pharmaceutical and anti-ageing products.

The report stated: “Observations indicate that consumption of red wine alone cannot explain the paradox and perhaps some other constituents of the typical French diet could be responsible for reduced cardiovascular mortality.

“We hypothesise that cheese consumption, especially of moulded varieties, may contribute to the occurrence of the ‘French paradox’.”

Leading nutritionist Zoe Harcombe, however, was sceptical about the findings.

“We should not automatically think of inflammation as a bad thing,” she said.

Inflammation is the sign that the body is healing something (we sprain our ankle, it inflames – that is the body sending fluids, blood and lipoproteins to the area to repair the damage). - Daily Mail