Dairy intake and cognitive health in middle-aged South Australians

Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2010;19(2):161-71.


Background: Consumption of low fat dairy foods may decrease the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and all cardiovascular risk factors linked with increased probability of cognitive impairment.

Aim: To examine associations between dairy intake and self-reported cognitive function and psychological well-being, and to test the novel hypothesis that dairy consumption may benefit cognitive health via its positive effects on cardiometabolic health.

Methods: Retrospective cross-sectional analyses were undertaken on data from food frequency questionnaires and self-reported health of 432 men and 751 women, aged 39 to 65 years. Health measures included cardiometabolic health indicators, cognitive and memory functioning, mental health, anxiety, stress, depression and self-esteem; assessed by standardised questionnaires.

Results: Regression analyses, adjusted for total energy intake and other health confounders, showed that consumption of low fat yogurt was associated with increased quality of memory recall (p=0.029) and greater social functioning (p=0.045) in men. Consumption of low fat cheese was associated with greater social functioning (p=0.021) and decreased stress (p=0.042) in women. Intakes of whole fat dairy products, including ice-cream and cream, were associated with increased depression, anxiety, stress, cognitive failures, poorer memory functioning and general health (all p<0.05). There was no association between cardiometabolic health indicators and dairy consumption.

Conclusions: Low fat dairy may have beneficial effects on social functioning, stress and memory, while whole fat dairy may be associated with poorer psychological well-being. Dietary intervention trials are needed to establish whether there is a direct effect of dairy consumption on cognitive and psychological health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety / prevention & control
  • Cheese
  • Cognition
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology
  • Cognition Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dairy Products*
  • Depression / prevention & control
  • Diet, Fat-Restricted
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory
  • Middle Aged
  • Mood Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mood Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sex Characteristics
  • South Australia / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Yogurt