Milk is a staple of my diet – I’ve included it in my coffee, oatmeal and cereal, so it’s almost impossible to imagine a day without milk. But if you’re like me, you might want to reconsider the type of milk you’re drinking, as research warns that certain types of milk can negatively affect your brain health over time. Specifically, a new study has revealed a possible link between drinking whole milk and an increased risk of cognitive decline.
Dive into research
A research paper published in the journal Molecular nutrition food research whether dairy consumption can induce cognitive changes. This study was conducted in Spain with the participation of 4,668 obese people (48% were women) with an average age of 65 years.
Participants completed a food frequency questionnaire, which asked about their consumption of dairy products including milk, yogurt, and cheese. Dairy products are divided into four sub-categories: low-fat, full-fat, fermented and non-fermented milk.
The researchers also conducted various cognitive performance tests, both at the start of the study and during the two-year follow-up period. These tests measured each participant’s memory, attention span, speaking ability, and executive function.
Multivariable linear regression models allowed the researchers to see changes in cognitive function over a two-year period based on dairy consumption.
The results did not show any negative effects on cognitive performance after consuming low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese or regular fermented milk.
However, higher milk intake – especially whole milk – was associated with higher rates of cognitive decline over a two-year period.
Why? The authors referenced a 2008 study published in International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry revealed that an abundance of saturated fat (a type of dietary fat) from dairy products during middle age eventually leads to mild cognitive decline later in life.
Health professionals at MedlinePlus.gov warns that consuming too much saturated fat causes cholesterol to build up in your arteries, increasing your risk of heart disease and negative effects brain health.
Follow USDA, one cup of whole milk contains nearly 5 grams of total saturated fat. This is a significant amount of saturated fat for just one drink, because American Heart AssociationThe (AHA) recommendation is 13 grams per day for a 2,000-calorie diet.
What does this mean for you?
The good news is that you don’t have to give up dairy altogether. Here are two simple ways to enjoy a drink without feeling guilty:
- Choose lower-fat dairy products. The AHA encourages adults to aim for 2 to 3 servings of fat-free or low-fat dairy products per day instead of the full-fat variety. Be sure to look out for options like fat-free, fat-free, fat-free, or fat-free in the dairy aisle.
- Consider non-dairy alternatives. Today, there are many healthy non-dairy alternatives to consider. Try more sesame, flaxor chia milk into your diet, as they all contain lower levels of saturated fat than many full-fat varieties.
In addition to making dietary adjustments, talk to your doctor about avoiding health troubles that can lead to cognitive decline. Working to protect your brain now can give you a sense of relief and may even help you avoid dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.