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For older adults, cognitive decline and the shadow of dementia and Alzheimer’s can loom large.
Luckily, there are ways to lower your risk of falling under that shadow. These include exercise and nutrition.
Now, a new study has shown how adding a common, everyday beverage to your daily diet can keep your brain strong and resistant to cognitive decline.
How free radicals destroy your brain
Free radicals are highly reactive molecules that come from exposure to toxins in the environment, such as cigarette smoking and industrial chemicals.
But free radicals also occur naturally, as by-products of normal metabolic processes.
Either way, they cause mutations to your DNA that make you vulnerable to all sorts of diseases, including cancer and heart disease.
Free radicals live in the brain, too. As the brain converts nutrients to energy, free radicals are produced that, over time, cause the oxidative stress responsible for dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Antioxidants to the rescue
Antioxidants are molecules that fight free radicals in your body.
And the “mother of all antioxidants” is glutathione.
Levels of naturally produced glutathione (GSH for short) tend to fall off as we age, especially in the brain.
Fruits and vegetables such as spinach, avocados, asparagus, and peppers are rich sources of glutathione that can make up for this loss.
But a recent study has discovered another food that can replace glutathione in the brain and help ward off cognitive decline.
Drinking more milk
In 2015, two doctors at the University of Kansas Medical Center published an observational study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The study found that milk was highly correlated with concentrations of GSH in the brain of older adults.
As a follow-up, Dr. Debra Sullivan and Dr. In-Young Choi designed the current study to see what would happen to someone’s brain if they increased their milk consumption.
The subjects were 73 adults ages 60 to 89 who typically consumed less than 1.5 servings of dairy per week. After baseline scans of brain antioxidants were conducted, the intervention group increased their intake to three cups of milk per day. The control group made no changes to their diet.
Those who had increased their milk intake saw an increase in brain glutathione of nearly five percent. In the parietal region of the brain, responsible for reading, math, coordination of movement and attention, the increase was well over seven percent.
Don’t wait — start drinking more milk now
Drs. Sullivan and Choi still need to find out the specific reason that milk increases levels of GSH in the brain.
But they have some clues.
The GSH molecule is made of three amino acids: glycine, glutamate, and cysteine.
Milk has all three of these.
They’re also planning future studies that will use cognitive tests to determine whether milk is leading to actual, measurable changes in brain function.
But in the meantime, says Dr. Sullivan, there’s no reason to wait before you start getting your three cups of milk a day. You’ll be improving your brain health, as well as your bone and muscle health.
It’s a win all around.
Editor’s note: While you’re doing all the right things to protect your brain as you age, make sure you don’t make the mistake 38 million Americans do every day — by taking a drug that robs them of an essential brain nutrient! Click here to discover the truth about the Cholesterol Super-Brain!
Drinking more dairy milk may improve brain health in older adults, KU Medical Center researchers find — University of Kansas Medical Center