Study finds dairy products in adult diets improve cognitive function

September 27, 2011, University of Maine

Adults who consume dairy products at least once daily have higher cognitive function than those who rarely or never drink milk or eat dairy foods, according to a new study by researchers from the University of South Australia and University of Maine.

Those who consumed the most dairy products had the highest scores in an extensive battery that included multiple measures of visual-spatial ability, , , reasoning ability and executive functioning (the ability to plan, organize and integrate cognitive functions).

Those who seldom or never consumed dairy performed lower than average for this study population.

The research was led by doctoral student in nutrition and psychology Georgina Crichton of the University of South Australia, in collaboration with UMaine psychologist/ Merrill “Pete” Elias, and psychologists Michael Robbins and Gregory Dore. It involved 972 adults free from stroke, dementia and kidney disease who participated in the community-based Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study at the University of Maine.

The 35-year Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study, initiated by Elias in 1975, is one of the longest-running NIH-funded scientific investigations relating aging, arterial blood pressure and cardiovascular disease risk factors to comprehensive measures of neuropsychological test performance. The longitudinal study focuses on relations among risk factors for cardiovascular disease and cognitive performance across the adult life span.

Beginning in 2001, data collected on participants in the Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study also included responses to the 41-question Nutrition and Health Questionnaire, which focuses on dietary intake and lifestyle.

More than a third of the 972 participants in the study of the relationship between dairy food intake and cognitive function reported eating milk products daily, and more than half reported consuming dairy between two and six times weekly.

Cheese was the most popular dairy product, most often eaten two to four times a week. Nearly a third of the participants said they drank at least two and a half cups (600 ml) of milk daily, mostly skim or reduced-fat.

This cross-sectional study is one of the few to investigate whether dairy food intake is associated with levels of cognitive function while controlling for multiple confounding variables, including cardiovascular disease risk factors such as blood pressure, obesity, cholesterol and other lipids. Previous investigations have focused on the benefits of milk products in relation to body weight and cardiovascular health and dementia.

The researchers point out that milk consumption has decreased worldwide in recent years. In the United States, the trend has coincided with a dramatic increase in soft drink consumption.

Diet modification to include more is one lifestyle change that could slow or prevent age-related cognitive impairment and decline, according to the researchers, who reported their findings in the International Dairy Journal.

“The reality is that dairy has many benefits in those who are not restricted from consumption for health reasons,” Elias says. “We have learned in recent years that components of dairy — calcium, whey protein, vitamin D and magnesium — may play a role in reducing levels of obesity, diabetes and hypertension. Now we know that eating dairy also is positively associated with .”

Explore further: Dairy consumption does not elevate heart-attack risk, study suggests

Related Stories

Dairy consumption does not elevate heart-attack risk, study suggests

May 18, 2011
Dairy products can be high in harmful saturated fat but not necessarily in risk to the heart. A newly published analysis of thousands of adults in Costa Rica found that their levels of dairy consumption had nothing to do ...

Recommended for you

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Sep 27, 2011
If the non-dairy consuming subjects eat and drink junks (the study didn't point out that's not the case) then the comparative study is worthless, and read like a promo for dairy products.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.