New research conducted at the University of Kansas Medical Center has found a correlation between milk consumption and the levels of a naturally-occurring antioxidant called glutathione in the brain in older, healthy adults.
Choi's team 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 glutathione - a powerful antioxidant - 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, said Dr. Choi.
"You can basically think of this damage like the buildup of rust on your car," Sullivan said. "If left alone for a long time, the buildup increases and it can cause damaging effects."
Few Americans reach the recommended daily intake of three dairy servings per day, Sullivan said. The new study showed that the closer older adults came to those servings, the higher their levels of glutathione were.
"If we can find a way to fight this by instituting lifestyle changes including diet and exercise, it could have major implications for brain health," Choi said.