Milk, yogurt and cheese intake is positively associated with cognitive executive functions in older adults of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging
Background: Dairy products provide essential nutrients such as calcium, vitamins B12 and D, and include bioactive peptides and fermented products, which may be beneficial for cognition, especially in older adults. Yet, few studies of large contemporary cohorts have investigated this relationship using sensitive domain-specific cognitive tests.
Methods: In community-dwelling older adults of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (2011-2015), we examined cross-sectional associations between total and specific dairy product intake and performance in three cognitive domains (executive functions, memory, psychomotor speed). Cheese, milk, yogurt, regular-fat, low-fat and fermented dairy product intake frequencies were estimated using a food frequency questionnaire; participants were classified into quartiles. MANCOVA models were applied to estimate differences.
Results: In 7,945 participants (65-86 y, 49% women, 97% Caucasian), the mean dairy product intake was 1.9 (1.1) times/d. Total dairy product, cheese and low-fat dairy product intake were positively associated with the executive function domain and yogurt intake with the memory domain (all p<0.05), independently of important covariates including age, gender, education and diet quality. Intakes of total dairy product, cheese and low-fat dairy were associated with verbal fluency specifically (all p<0.05). Participants with a dairy product intake > 2.5 times/d had a higher score compared to those consuming less. No associations were found with psychomotor speed.
Conclusions: This large cohort study suggests a specific role for dairy components in executive function phonemic verbal fluency and memory. Dairy product intake, a modifiable factor, may be targeted in cognitive health-promoting interventions.