Chances are, you've never heard of nisin. It sounds eerily like ricin, a poison used in a number of terrorist attacks. But that's where the similarities stop. In fact, while ricin will kill you, nisin might actually save your life -- and best of all, you get it by eating cheese.
Researchers from the University of Michigan have found that nisin, a naturally occurring food preservative that grows on dairy products, can combat both cancerous tumors and antibiotic-resistant bacteria. In case you're not a scientist: that's a big deal. In the study, researchers fed "rats a 'nisin milkshake'" which "killed 70-80 percent of head and neck tumor cells after nine weeks and extended survival," according to a release by the university.
Nisin most often is found in dairy products, like cheese, but in small amounts, or about 25 to 37.5 mg per kilo. Combatting cancer requires a much greater amount of nisin, about 800 mg/kg. So no, you can't just eat a wedge-load of cheese after a bad diagnosis. But the findings mean there is hope, and it's all thanks to your melty, gooey, dairy favorites.
Additionally, nisin was found to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria, including MRSA, which otherwise can be deadly. In fact, "To date, nobody had found bacteria from humans or living animals that is resistant to nisin," Dr. Yvonne Kapila, a professor at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, said.
Along with cheese, processed meats, and canned foods often use nisin as a preservative. So the next time someone offers you a cheese board, of course, you should say, "yes." Because cheese is delicious. But it also might help find the cure for cancer.
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Ryan Craggs is Thrillist's Senior News Editor. He's always suspected the real elixir of life might be blue cheese. Follow him @ryanrcraggs.