Fermented dairy products can be a tasty way to prevent cognitive decline

PHOTO: Freepik

As we age, maintaining cognitive health becomes a significant concern. Recent studies suggest that what we eat might play a crucial role in keeping our minds sharp. Among the various foods studied, fermented dairy products, such as cheeses, have shown promising results in preventing cognitive issues related to ageing.

The link between diet and brain health

The world’s population is ageing, with a significant increase in age-related health issues, including neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Scientists have been exploring various ways to prevent these conditions, and diet has emerged as a key factor.

The gut-brain axis, which involves interactions between our digestive system and brain, plays a crucial role in neuroinflammation, a common feature in neurodegenerative diseases. Therefore, a diet that promotes gut health can potentially mitigate brain inflammation and, consequently, cognitive decline.

Cheese and cognition: What the studies say

A comprehensive review of scientific literature has highlighted the benefits of fermented dairy products, particularly cheese, in maintaining cognitive function. Researchers analysed data from multiple observational and intervention studies to understand the impact of dairy on cognitive health.

Photo by Alexander Maasch on Unsplash

Observational studies: Observational studies have provided substantial evidence linking moderate consumption of fermented dairy products to better cognitive outcomes. For instance, a study conducted in South Korea found that individuals who consumed dairy regularly had a significantly lower risk of developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

Similarly, research in Taiwan and China indicated that dairy intake was associated with better cognitive performance in older adults.

Interestingly, the relationship between dairy consumption and cognitive health appears to follow an inverse U-shape. This means that moderate consumption (1-2 servings per day) is most beneficial, while both low and high intakes might not offer the same protective effects.

Fermented dairy products stand out: Among various dairy products, fermented ones like cheese showed the most promise. Fermented dairy products are rich in bioactive peptides, which are produced during the fermentation process and have been linked to improved brain health.

How does cheese help?

The fermentation process enhances the nutritional profile of dairy products, adding probiotics and bioactive compounds that benefit brain health. These compounds can reduce inflammation, support gut health, and improve the overall function of the brain.

  • Probiotics and brain health: Fermented dairy products are a source of probiotics, beneficial bacteria that support gut health. The gut microbiome, a community of microorganisms living in our digestive tract, has a direct impact on brain function. A healthy gut microbiome can reduce systemic inflammation, including neuroinflammation, which is linked to cognitive decline.
  • Bioactive peptides: The fermentation process also produces bioactive peptides, which have neuroprotective properties. These peptides can cross the blood-brain barrier and directly influence brain function, improving memory and cognitive performance.

Practical tips for including fermented dairy in your diet

Incorporating fermented dairy products into your diet is simple and delicious. Here are some practical tips to get you started:

Photo by Julian Hochgesang on Unsplash
  • Cheese variety: Include a variety of cheeses in your meals. Hard cheeses like cheddar and Parmesan, as well as soft cheeses like Brie and camembert, offer different probiotic strains and bioactive peptides.
  • Yoghurt: Opt for natural, unsweetened yoghurt. Greek yoghurt, in particular, is high in protein and probiotics.
  • Kefir: This fermented milk drink is rich in probiotics and can be used in smoothies or consumed on its own.
  • Fermented milk: Look for products like buttermilk and cultured milk, which are also beneficial for gut and brain health.

The evidence supporting the benefits of fermented dairy products, particularly cheese, in preventing cognitive decline is compelling. Regular, moderate consumption of these products can be a tasty and effective way to maintain brain health as we age.

While more research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms behind these benefits, including fermented dairy in your diet, is a practical and enjoyable step toward protecting your cognitive function. So, next time you enjoy a slice of cheese or a bowl of yoghurt, remember that you’re not just indulging in a delicious treat – you’re also supporting your brain health for years to come.


Dr. Nikhil Prasad

Dr. Nikhil Prasad is an independent researcher, medical, pharma and health PR consultant, herbalists and phytochemical specialists and a medical and health writer for numerous international publications and sites including his own sites such as Thailand Medical News. He is based either at Sydney, New York, Shanghai, Mumbai or Bangkok.

Related Articles