No more sacrifices for those with a craving for cheese. From ‘forbidden food’ to ‘legitimate passion’ thanks to a patent created by a doctor from the Polyclinic of Milan with a dairy product entrepreneur. Their invention? The ‘FriP’ cheese, a new production method that finally makes these foods accessible even to people with kidney failure or on dialysis. People who “have to follow a diet with many deprivations – explains Gianluigi Ardissino, specialist in nephrology, dialysis and pediatric transplantation at the IRCCS in via Sforza, and inventor of the FriP method with Antonio Groppelli – because their kidneys are no longer able to function properly, for example, you have to be careful with certain vegetables so as not to accumulate too much potassium, and cheeses must be avoided so as not to take too many phosphates, which if they accumulate in the blood lead to atherosclerosis premature”.
FriP technology, underlines the expert, “on the contrary makes it possible to produce cheeses whose phosphates are not absorbed by the intestine, and is even capable of avoiding the absorption of those contained in other foods: thus the patient can resume eating dairy products and have better control over their health without taking additional medication. The patent, filed by the Polyclinic itself, was granted free of charge to certain dairy companies to promote its distribution throughout the territory: the objective is to improve the quality of life of people with kidney disease and in especially dialysis patients, to whom cheese is almost forbidden for health reasons. But the next step, explains Marco Giachetti, president of the hospital, “will be to use the milk from the hospital farms to start an autonomous production of FriP under the Ca’ Granda brand, with an organic, short and guaranteed, further increasing our support for kidney patients in the Milan and Lombardy region”.
The intuition behind FriP technology comes to Ardissino for memory-based mental connection. Newborn babies only drink milk, which is naturally rich in phosphates; and if they have a kidney problem at birth, they can feed with special milks, formulated with a reduced content of phosphates. But in the 90s, all this was not yet available: for this reason, doctors added calcium carbonate to milk. It is a natural dietary supplement (for example, it is essential for forming eggshells) capable of “capturing” phosphates, neutralizing them. This process is technically called chelation and leads to the elimination of phosphates by the intestine, thus avoiding overloading the kidneys.
The cheese produced with the FriP method works in the same way: it is enriched with calcium carbonate so as to block the phosphates in the food already during production and to chelate (i.e. eliminate) those possibly contained in other foods, if taken a short distance from the FriP cheese. A “gift” for patients forced to make many sacrifices, made possible by a very strong link that exists between the hospital and the “countryside”. After all, the Polyclinic of Milan is the largest landowner in Italy, with its 85 million square meters of rural heritage, the result of centuries of donations to the hospital.
And alongside the “mission of experimenting and finding new methods of treatment, new devices and inventions to improve the quality of life of our patients”, explains Giachetti, there is also that of “producing, thanks to the exploitation of our land, quality foods such as milk, rice and yoghurt from safe, short and sustainable channels, certified by our doctors”. In this case, continues Giachetti, “we have the possibility of producing functional, that is to say capable of helping those who suffer from certain pathologies to have a balanced diet or to improve certain pathological situations”.
“The FriP technology could have a significant impact on the quality of life of patients with kidney failure – comments Ezio Belleri, general manager of the Policlinico di Milano – a dialysis patient is on average 60-75 years old, and when he returns at home in the evening perhaps exhausted from heavy dialysis must also follow a diet in which many things are forbidden. In the midst of so much deprivation, being able to offer healthy food instead of an extra pill gives true meaning our job: to do research, find new solutions to health problems and make them immediately available to people”. Currently, some cheeses produced with FriP technology are available on an experimental basis, thanks to the interest patient associations The objective, after this test phase, is to make FriP products available on a larger scale, to improve the quality of life of patients suffering from diseases kidneys.