A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows a correlation between milk consumption and the levels of a naturally occurring antioxidant called glutathione in the brain in older, healthy adults.
"We have long thought of milk as being very important for your bones and very important for your muscles," said Debra Sullivan, co-author of the study and professor and chair of dietetics and nutrition at the University of Kansas Medical Center. "This study suggests that it could be important for your brain as well."
The researchers asked the 60 participants in the study about their diets in the days leading up to brain scans, which they used to monitor levels of the antioxidant glutathione in the brain. The researchers found that participants who had indicated they had drunk milk recently had higher levels of glutathione in their brains. This is important, the researchers said, because glutathione could help stave off oxidative stress and the resulting damage caused by reactive chemical compounds produced during the normal metabolic process in the brain. Oxidative stress is known to be associated with a number of different diseases and conditions, including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and many other conditions.
Few Americans reach the recommended daily intake of three dairy servings per day, said Sullivan. The new study showed that the closer older adults came to those servings, the higher their levels of glutathione were. A randomized, controlled trial that seeks to determine the precise effect of milk consumption on the brain is still needed and is a logical next step to this study, the researchers concluded.