Drinking just one glass of milk a day could boost your brain power, say scientists.
A study found that milk drinkers were five times more likely to succeed in tasks testing memory and brain function compared to non-milk drinkers.
It is now thought that, in addition to the many established health benefits of dairy, such as building stronger bones, the potential to stave off mental decline may benefit an ageing population.
Scientists from University of Maine in the U.S. say that although more research is needed, people should be encouraged to increase their milk intake.
Lead researcher Merrill Elias said: ‘The reality is that dairy has many benefits in those who are not restricted from consumption for health reasons.
‘We have learned in recent years that components of dairy – calcium, whey protein, vitamin D and magnesium – may play a role in reducing levels of obesity, diabetes and hypertension.
‘Now we know that eating dairy also is positively associated with cognitive functioning.’
Milk contains significant amounts of saturated fat, protein and calcium as well as vitamin C.and lower-fat varieties are recommended as healthier alternatives.
During the study, more than 900 men and women aged between 23 and 98 were put through a series of tasks, testing visual-spatial, verbal and working memory while their milk consumption was tracked.
It is one of the few investigations to focus on dairy food and cognitive function as previous studies have looked at milk products in relation to body weight and cardiovascular health.
Researchers found, regardless of age, those who drank at least one glass of milk each day were more successful at the tasks and scored higher marks.
The benefits persisted even after other factors that can affect brain health, including cardiovascular health and other lifestyle and diet factors had been taken into account.
The highest scores for all eight outcomes were observed for those with the highest intakes of milk and diary products compared to those with low and infrequent milk intakes.
Nearly a third of the participants said they drank at least two and a half cups (600ml) of milk daily, mostly skim or reduced-fat.
Milk drinkers were also found to have healthier diets overall, but there was something about milk intake specifically that offered the brain health advantage, according to the researchers.
The study, published in the International Diary Journal, suggests simple ways of introducing diary on a daily basis.
‘New and emerging brain health benefits are just one more reason to start each day with low fat or fat free milk.
‘Whether in a latte, in a smoothie, on cereal, or straight from the glass, milk can be a key part of a healthy diet.’
It also highlights that milk consumption has decreased in recent years and in the U.S., this trend has coincided with a dramatic increase in soft drink consumption.