A 2011 collaborative study between researchers in Australia and the United States found an interesting connection between dairy products and brain health. After reviewing the diets of over 1,000 adults, the researchers found that people who regularly consume milk, cheese, and yogurt score higher on tests of mental alertness and memory skills. The physical impact of this dairy-rich diet also showed up in scans of the patients’ brains, which showed less shrinkage in those participants who had a higher level of “good fat” in their blood, and that dairy products are a good source of this “good fat.”
The reason behind this result, and the link between the mental and physical effects on the brain, is explained by looking at the composition of the brain itself. Over half of your brain is made up of fat cells, and in particular the myelin sheaths that connect the brain cells and protect them. These myelin sheaths are also crucial components in the way the brain cells communicate, so any damage will impact your ability to learn and remember.
The effect of dairy-based diets in the study group can also be highlighted by looking at the test scores that were “significantly higher” in those people who ate more dairy products. They scored better in both memory and skills tests, and the combination of better brain-cell communication and less brain shrinkage indicates that a diet including dairy will also help prevent age-related memory loss.
So pour a glass of milk, slice a wedge of Cheddar, or add yogurt to your morning granola, and you’ll give your brain a boost it will benefit from for days and years to come.