Milk and other dairy products like cheese and yogurt have been a key component of the human diet around the globe for thousands of years and have become a main recommended dietary category by many governmental agencies worldwide. It is clear that the benefits of consuming dairy are strong, tested by time, and backed by research.
Dairy products contain a wide range of macro and micro nutrients which are often difficult to obtain on diets that restrict or eliminate dairy products. Dairy is known for being rich in calcium, but it is also a major source of protein, potassium, and Vitamins A and D, among others. In fact, dairy products are the single largest source of calcium for up to two-thirds of the population in Western countries. Milk and other dairy products contain a high percentage of these nutrients, meaning people need to consume less of them to reach the recommended daily minimum nutritional values.
The nutrients found in dairy products, most importantly calcium and Vitamin D, play a vital role in maintaining health and lowering the risk for certain conditions. According to the USDA guidelines, dairy intake has been linked to better bone health, which can decrease the risk for osteoporosis, a condition where bone density goes down and bones are more likely to break. Dairy intake is particularly important for children and adolescents as their bones are developing at a faster rate than adults. Women in menopause should also monitor their calcium intake as menopause is known to affect bone density levels.
Recent research has revealed new benefits to dairy products, however. A study conducted at the University of Kansas found that adults who regularly consumed milk had higher levels of glutathione in their brains. Glutathione is an antioxidant and its levels are negatively affected by the oxidative stress that results from aging or neurodegenerative disorders. Thus, the study linked older adults who consumed milk to better overall brain health. The researchers suggested that this link may be due to the nutritional makeup of milk, providing the building blocks for the creation of glutathione in the brain.
Ultimately, it is clear that dairy has a wide range of benefits. From simply providing an easy way to reach the daily recommended value of vitamins, nutrients, and minerals to potentially working against aging in the brain, there is a lot of research that supports the consumption of dairy products for people of all ages.