Milk: A Prevention Against Dementia?

February 23, 2010 at 3:27 pm Leave a comment

Milk: It Does A Brain Good  (Image by Anadin on Stock.Xchng) We know milk is important for bone strength, and growing children, but could it also help protect the brain as we age?  According to researchers at the University of Oxford,  milk’s high levels of B12 may make it an easy way to help keep the brain healthy.

Why B12?

Patients with B12 deficiencies suffer more from brain atrophy (where the brain actually shrinks) than those with normal or above levels of the vitamin.  And brain atrophy is associated with dementia’s of various types, including Alzheimer’s.

Even what we currently consider a normal  intake of the vitamin may not be enough to protect elderly patients’ brains. In one study, patients whose B12 levels fell in the lower range of normal had significantly more risk of atrophy than those who consumed higher levels of the vitamin.

How does B12 protect the brain?

Nerve cells (including those in the brain) are wrapped in an insulating sheath called myelin.  When the sheath is damaged, the cells malfunction and eventually die –  creating the brain loss typically seen in dementia.

And B12 appears to be crucial in maintaining the protective myelin sheath.

Why Milk?

Milk contains high levels of  B12 in a form that’s easily metabolized.  Meat and fish technically contain even higher levels of the vitamin, but in a form tightly bound with the proteins, requiring higher levels of stomach acid to digest and release it.   Since older people have lower levels of stomach acid, getting enough of the vitamin from meats can be difficult.

Milk is a much more easily digestible form, and contains enough B12 that the researchers believe that only 2 glasses a day could protect against low levels of the vitamin that contribute to dementia.

More Study Is Needed, As  Always…

And there’s a lot more research to be done before milk or B12 supplements can be officially hailed as powerful tools against dementia.  We don’t yet know if B12 from milk can help repair existing damage, how well it works as a supplement, and just how many cases of dementia it might reduce or prevent.

But since even skim milk contains the crucial levels of B12, and it’s a healthy food with no significant drawbacks, it seems an easy, healthy addition to the diet that might just come with big benefits for senior brain fitness.   Another brain benefit? Most milk is also fortified with Vitamin D, also known to be important to brain health in seniors.

So go on…  have another glass of milk.
It does a brain good.

Entry filed under: Nutrition & Diet. Tags: , , , .

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About This Blog

A healthy mind and brain is key to a healthy, active life. Come along for the ride as we explore the basics of brain health, with topics including:
  • Physical Exercise
  • Cognitive Training
  • Stress Management
  • Social Interaction
  • Sleep
  • Nutrition
  • A Sense of Purpose & Connection
Authored by Tori Deaux
Sponsored by Dakim Brain Fitness



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