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Got Milk? KU Researchers Say Dairy Milk Can Improve Brain Health in Older Adults

By J. Schafer

 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KPR) — Drinking three cups of dairy milk a day boosts an antioxidant that helps protect the brain from damage caused by aging. That’s according to research published by the University of Kansas Medical Center faculty in the international journal Frontiers in Nutrition(link is external).

According to researchers, just like an old car that rusts, the human brain becomes corroded over time by free radicals and other oxidants that are released as the brain converts nutrients into energy. This oxidative stress, as it’s called, is thought to be a major mechanism of brain aging. Drinking dairy milk may fight that rust.

The study, which asked one group of older adults to drink three cups of 1% milk a day and a control group not to change their consumption habits, found that drinking that much milk boosted the intervention group’s level of glutathione (GSH), a powerful antioxidant that helps protect the brain from some of the damage that accompanies aging and aging-related diseases.

“It’s exciting that something as simple as drinking milk can increase GSH because it’s not a drug, it’s just a simple food,” said Debra Sullivan, Ph.D., RD, professor and chair of the Department of Dietetics and Nutrition in the KU School of Health Professions at KU Medical Center and an author on the study. “And the three cups a day is actually what is recommended by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines.”

The research was funded in part by grants from the National Dairy Council and the National Institutes of Health. However, Sullivan says the funders had no input on the design of the study, the data collected or the interpretation of the data.

Researchers now plan to conduct a larger study. They also want to determine if there is an optimal dose of milk and if the amount of milk fat matters.

In the meantime, Sullivan sees no reason to wait to make sure you’re getting your three cups of milk each day. “It’s important for your brain health, your bone health, your muscle health, all of those things,” she said. “That’s the takeaway.”

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