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Research Author: Staff Editor Last Updated: Jul 7, 2016 - 5:36:25 PM

The Brain-Boosting Power of Milk

By Staff Editor
Apr 27, 2015 - 3:05:11 PM

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( - It is common knowledge that milk helps build strong bones and healthy muscles, and now research suggests that it has brain-boosting benefits too. Changes in brain structure and function are normal consequences of the aging process, so it is important to make positive, proactive choices such as eating brain-healthy foods to promote optimal wellbeing and longevity.

Researchers from Kansas University Medical Center, including In-Young Choi, Ph.D., an Associate Professor of Neurology, and Debra Sullivan, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of Dietetics and Nutrition, recently led a study analyzing the diets of 60 participants. The researchers in the study administered brain scans to measure the participants' levels of glutathione, a powerful antioxidant with the potential to prevent cognitive decline.

Participants provided detailed records of everything they consumed during the length of the study. Researchers found that participants who drank milk had higher levels of glutathione in their brains as compared to those who did not drink milk; the amount of milk the participants consumed directly correlated with the levels of glutathione in the brain. This outcome was true regardless of the age of the participants.

Glutathione helps prevent cell damage and is thought to have a protective effect on the brain by warding off oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is considered a contributing factor in a number of diseases, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. Although the liver naturally produces glutathione, increasing the amount of the antioxidant throughout the body could amplify its positive effects. By reducing oxidative stress within the brain researchers hope to reduce the risk of diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Dr. Choi and Dr. Sullivan believe this study has provided substantial evidence for the brain-protective benefits of milk and hope to conduct additional randomized, controlled studies to further examine the effects of milk on the brain. Similarly, a 2012 study found a correlation between dairy consumption and increased cognitive performance. Researchers at the University of Maine administered memory tests to over 900 adults aged 23 to 98. They found that people who consumed more milk performed better on the brain-assessment tests, regardless of their age, just like this most recent study.

Further research will continue to examine the brain health benefits of milk, but for now, we know that milk has an assortment of positive benefits on our bone health, muscle tissue and overall wellbeing. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends three servings of dairy daily, so find a way to ensure you are hitting this amount in your daily diet!

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